The Electoral Laws Second Amendment Bill has been tabled in parliament.
The private member’s bill, drawn up by Mosiuoa Lekota, a Congress of the People member of parliament, aims to amend relevant electoral legislation in order to make provision for independent candidates to stand for public office in provincial and national elections, without requiring such candidate to be a member of a particular political party.
According to the explanatory summary published in Government Gazette 43660 in August 2020, the draft bill will also “provide for a legislative mechanism to allow independent candidates to stand for election and allowing elections to happen in constituencies that align with districts using the “open list” proportional representation, which will best serve the interests of every South African and most particularly those who have remained marginalised, neglected and increasingly alienated from the politics of the day”.
The notice pointed out that the current electoral system of proportional representation results in voters being estranged “because a direct relationship with a member of Parliament is absent and a lack of accountability of members of the relevant legislatures to its voters prevails much to their chagrin. The increasing and continuing alienation of voters from the political system is detrimental to democracy and the well-being of society at large”.
Parliament sought comment on the draft bill in September 2020.
The bill aims to amend the—
• Electoral Commission Act, 1996, so as to accommodate independent candidacy in relation to the powers and functions of the Commission; to provide that keeping abreast with electoral technological developments be included as a function of the Commission; to provide for the establishment of an Electoral Technology Committee; to provide for the registration of a party in respect of all constituencies or such constituencies as selected by the party; to provide for, and regulate, the registration of independent candidates; and
• Electoral Act, 1998, so as to provide that the Commission must administer the Act in a manner conducive to free and fair elections; to delete sections in the Act which allow the chief electoral officer to not register a person as a voter if that person has been declared by the High Court to be of unsound mind or mentally disordered or is detained under the Mental Health Care Act, 2002(Act No. 17 of 2002); to provide that the lists of candidates submitted by a registered party intending to contest an election must be accompanied by a personal manifesto signed by each candidate setting out how and to what extent that candidate is committed to making real the rights enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, and also a list of supporters to validate the nomination of that candidate; to give full effect to section 19(3)(b)of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,1996, by providing for an adult citizen to stand for public office as an independent candidate without having to stand for office through his or her membership of a political party and, if elected, to hold office; to promote democratic governance and electoral accountability through both an open list voting system and a constituency based system; to provide for the establishment of constituencies and the review of constituency boundaries; to amend certain Schedules and to substitute Schedule 1A, and to provide for matters connected therewith.
The portfolio committee on home affairs will process the bill.