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Parliament dragging its feet in amending Electoral Act, says Maimane

FILE – One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has cast doubt on Parliament’s ability to meet the Constitutional Court’s deadline to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to become MPs. In this photo Maimane during the SONA debate in Parliament in 2016. 16.02.16. File photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

FILE – One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has cast doubt on Parliament’s ability to meet the Constitutional Court’s deadline to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to become MPs. In this photo Maimane during the SONA debate in Parliament in 2016. 16.02.16. File photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 16, 2022

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Johannesburg – One South Africa Movement leader Mmusi Maimane has cast doubt on Parliament’s ability to meet the Constitutional Court’s deadline to amend the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to become MPs.

In June 2020, the Constitutional Court handed down a ruling and ordered Parliament to amend the Electoral Act, which currently allows only political parties to contest parliamentary seats.

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The Concourt gave parliament a period of two years, which ends this coming June, to effect the amendments to allow independent candidates to contest seats in Parliament and provincial legislatures.

Yesterday Maimane expressed concern that the Department of Home Affairs had made a presentation on two electoral options to Parliament last year, despite the Concourt having given it ample time to address the matter.

Maimane said his movement had submitted a private member’s bill, which included the proposed amended Electoral Act, through Cope leader Mosioua Lekota in July 2020 for Parliament’s consideration, but it had done nothing about it.

He said the draft bill was in accordance with the Concourt’s ruling, but instead the executive had set up a ministerial advisory committee that had given Parliament two models to consider.

Maimane said he had made a submission to the committee, but was concerned Parliament would not be able to meet the Concourt deadline.

“It is the worst form of dereliction of duty by Parliament. They had a bill before them and did nothing about it. We are dealing with the incapability of Parliament. It is impossible that the government will meet the deadline,” Maimane said.

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He said they had proposed that the government institute a constituency model that would allow independents to compete with political parties.

In November, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi wrote to Speaker of Parliament Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula saying the committee had provided him with a report on June 9, 2021.

“The (committee) explored a variety of options from a range of stakeholders. In the end, the (committee) members were not able to reach a consensus on a single option, but did succeed in narrowing down the options to a fairly stark choice of two options.”

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The first option is the slightly modified multi-member constituency, which accommodates independents but requires relatively minimal changes to the legislation. This option favours inserting independents into the existing electoral system, enabling them to compete with political parties.

The second option is the mixed-member model incorporating a single-member constituency. This option entails combining first-past-the-post and proportional representation systems, making it a mixed-member proportional system resembling the current local government electoral system, albeit with some improvements. This option involves electing MPs from 200 single-member constituencies and the remainder from a single national multi-member constituency.

Motsoaledi then appointed legal experts to draft the amendment bill based on the two options.

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Mapisa-Nqakula told the parliamentary programme committee that the Electoral Amendment Bill was officially introduced to Parliament on January 10.

She said she had since referred the bill to the portfolio committee on home affairs for consideration.

Mosa Chabane, home affairs portfolio committee chairperson, told Independent Media that the committee would decide on one option when Parliament resumed.

Chabane said that in a week or two Parliament would then place adverts in various media houses and online platforms calling for public comments on the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act.

He said that would allow political parties, civil society and business organisations to comment on the bill ahead of Parliament adopting it.

Despite Chabane’s confidence that they would meet the deadline, Maimane thinks that they are delaying the process in a bid to approach the Concourt to grant them an extension.

“We are going to oppose it,” Maimane said.

ACDP chief whip Steve Swart last week expressed concern about meeting the Constitutional Court deadline.

“The deadline is looming. This is an issue we need to look at and get feedback at the next meeting as to whether that proposal will be realised,” Swart said in reference to a suggestion made by the ANC last year that an ad hoc committee to process the bill be formed. - Additional reporting Mayibongwe Maqhina

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Political Bureau

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