Home Affairs Portfolio Committee chairperson Bongani Bongani.

SANDILE MOTHA

PARLIAMENT is racing against time to meet the deadline for the amendments to the Electoral Act ahead of next year’s 2021 Local Government Elections.

The amendment to the piece of legislation will give green light to independent candidates to contest both national and provincial elections.

In its current form, the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 only allows political parties to contest elections in provincial legislatures and national parliament.

On 11 June this year, in what was heralded as a new dawn and a victory to ordinary citizens, the Constitutional Court ruled that the act was invalid.

Presiding Constitutional Court Judge Mbuyiseli Madlanga said the act in its current form infringes on the rights of citizens to exercise their individual political choices.

The court subsequently gave parliament 24 months in order to effect the necessary amendments to the Electoral Act.

On Tuesday, parliament convened virtually to deliberate on how far the process has gone to meet the Constitutional Court directive.

The Select committee on Security and Justice and the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs briefed MPs on the progress being made.

The joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, and the Select Committee on Security and Justice welcomed the assurance by the Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi that the Cabinet has a mechanism in place that will facilitate the acceleration of the amendment of the Electoral Act.

“Both committees remain cognisant of the time constraints as a result of the deadline, but are steadfast that there should be adequate consultation to ensure that the process towards the amendment of the act is an inclusive as possible within the limitations caused by COVID-19,” explained Bongani Bongo, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs this week.

Bongo said the Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi had informed both committees that he had already written to President Cyril Ramaphosa on the intention to activate the mechanisms which will speed up policy consideration which is a necessary prerequisite in amending the Electoral Act.

“Regarding the integrated roadmap, the committees have called on all the role players to commit their efforts and time to ensuring that the process to amend the act is done within stipulated time frame,” said Bongo.

Said Shahidabibi Shaikh, the Chairperson of the Select Committee: “The activation of this mechanism is an evidence of the commitment by all stakeholders in complying with the Constitutional Court deadline to amend the Act.”

The court matter was brought by civil rights organisation, the New Nation Movement.

The organisation argued that the provision of the act diverted citizens political choices as protected by the constitution of the republic.  

These developments coincided with the move by the Congress of the People (COPE) to table the Private   Members Bill on Electoral Law in parliament inviting written comments from ordinary members of the public.   

COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota said this was part of ensuring that the clause ‘ People shall govern’ as contained in the freedom charter becomes practical.

“The current system alienate ordinary citizens from participating in the electoral process and leaves it to politicians. So this bill will ensure that the dream of Kliptown declaration is achieved,” said Lekota.   

In this process Lekota is being supported by former DA leader and now One South Africa Movement chief convener, Mmusi Maimane.

According to Lekota, his party would also be pushing for the reduced number of MPs and MPLs, saying this would lead to more responsiveness and lead to greater accountability. The move by cope will be published on government gazette next Friday. 

(COMPILED BY INSIDE POLITICS STAFF)      

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