Hon. Chairperson –
South Africa is a country in deep crisis. It is because of this painful reality, that South Africans approached the Constitutional Court to be allowed to contest for positions in the National Assembly.
The Bill before us, being the result of this Court action.
It must be pointed out, as we did before, that neither Parliament, nor the Minister, needed to start the electoral reform process from scratch. Electoral Reform already began in 2003, when Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the then Minister of Home Affairs, appointed the Electoral Task Team, also known as the Fredrick van Zyl Slabbert Commission.
This Commission proposed a mixed member proportional system, in which half of parliamentary representation would be through constituencies. And the other half through party lists.
This is why, when the current Bill left the National Assembly for the NCOP, the IFP pleaded for the need to include a small constituency component.
However, this was ignored and what we have now is a flawed and unworkable Bill.
The IFP held right from the start that asking an independent candidate to garner thousands of signatures to be eligible to stand for an election would be unfair and constitute a barrier to entry. The IFP was a lone voice in advocating for the percentage not to be higher than 10 to 15% of what was required for a seat in the previous comparable election. I am happy this is a battle that we eventually won. But there are still those voices that believe this quota is far too high.
There are also additional unworkable concerns. Have we even considered what a debate will look like in this House with 100 different speakers? Have we considered how independents will benefit from funding and free airtime, like political parties? And have we considered that the Bill before us will result in independent MPs who are free floating – not accountable to either a political party or to a defined constituency.
Having realised this Bill isn’t workable, the Department of Home Affairs quickly suggested a remedy – an Electoral Reform Consultation Panel, which must now do further work on electoral reform.
The IFP rejects the ANC’s decision to grant the Minister the sole prerogative to appoint such a Panel. It is not clear why such executive overreach is necessary. Electoral reform is not an not an executive function.
The National Assembly should have retained the power to establish the Panel, as the authority to prescribe an electoral system is vested in the National Assembly in terms of section 46(1)(a) of the Constitution.
In closing, it will be remiss of me not to mention what Mr Vali Moosa – the Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on this Bill – said about the current Bill:
“I urge Parliament not to impose an electoral system that places the democratic order at risk. As I have pointed out previously, the current bill is unconstitutional and unfair.”
The IFP will not be supporting this Bill.
Our only hope lies in the 2024 elections. South Africa is now a country of darkness and despair, with a ruling party that is out of touch, out of ideas, and unfit to lead.
May our nation, just like it did in 1994, rise to the occasion in 2024 and elect leaders that will put South Africans first.
I thank you.