House Chairperson –
Today’s debate goes to the heart of our democracy.
As the trust deficit grows between those who vote, and those who are elected, it is clear that many have lost hope in the current government, as South Africa heads towards a failed state. Citizens are tired of a political system that doesn’t foster accountability.
Yet, decades after electoral reform was first demanded, this Bill been widely criticized by citizens. Where did we go wrong?
In a nutshell, this process hasn’t gone far enough.
On 11 June 2020, Parliament was given 24 months to remedy the unconstitutionality of the Electoral Act.
The baton was passed to the Department of Home Affairs. Yet, the Minister only appointed a Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) in February 2021, a full six months after the court order.
The MAC proposed two options: the majority report and the minority report.
The majority report mirrored the Fredrick van Zyl Slabbert Report, which carried widespread public support. It must be noted that it was former Minister of Home Affairs, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who started the process of electoral reform, which led to the recommendations of the Van Zyl Slabbert Report in 2003.
The MAC majority report was ultimately rejected by the Executive, in favour of the minority report.
What followed were many delays, with Parliament sending letters to the Minister in January, August, September, and November 2021, requesting urgent indications as to when the Bill would be introduced.
No progress was made.
The Minister finally introduced the Electoral Amendment Bill, based on the minority report, to Parliament in January 2022, leaving our Committee with the impossible task of complying with all of the Court’s requirements before the 10 June deadline.
Our main concern at this stage, was whether we would be able to complete our mammoth task, and whether we could meaningfully engage South Africans with such limited time.
With time running out, Parliament was forced to approach the Court again for an extension. In granting the extension to 10 December 2022, the judgment noted: “…the minister did not, in fact, take all reasonable measures to give effect to the order.”
Now, as we rush to pass this Bill, there are still issues that need resolving.
Such as whether the formula to be used to fill vacancies, once they arise, will unfairly benefit big parties. Practical implications have not been considered either: such as the impact on the operations of the National Assembly, as well the Political Party Funding Act and how independents will be funded.
For the IFP, one of the greatest concerns is the issue of signatures. Independent candidates are expected to garner approximately 24 000 signatures to stand for elections – 30% of the number of votes required for a seat in the previous election. The IFP has argued, from the start, that this should be no higher than 10 to 15%, as it will impede the participation of independent candidates.
Chairperson, the ANC’s Mr Snuki Zikalala acknowledged at the weekend a need to further engage on the Bill. Saying that the ANC doesn’t support the Bill in its current form. However, the Minister refuted these claims, saying he noted the confusion surrounding the Bill.
It is therefore the IFP’s view that to resolve the confusion, in the interests of fairness and inclusivity, that we should open the process for further consultation.
If this Bill is referred to the NCOP today, the IFP will call on Parliament to consider beefing up the NCOP process by establishing an ad hoc committee involving all stakeholders, civil society, and the best constitutional law experts to finalise the Bill.
It is not too late to include a compromise that will see 50 MPs directly elected from Constituencies.
With the best interests of our country and our democracy at heart, this would be a fair process. With the knowledge that the 2024 elections will be ‘make-or-break’ for the future of South Africa, we need to restore power to the people.
Considering that electoral reform must be an on-going process now and beyond 2024 and with the shortcomings I have listed, we will reject the Bill at this stage.
I thank you.