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The government has for a long time employed numerous ways to circumvent meaningful electoral reform in South Africa, said Dr Michael Louis, founder of the Independent Candidates Association of South Africa in an address to Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee today.
And now, with 100 days to go until the deadline of 2 years given by the Constitutional Court for Parliament to change the Electoral Act to accommodate independent candidates, they are trying to push through a flawed and unconstitutional government-sponsored bill, he said.
Louis said that while the ConCourt had given Parliament the mandate to change the law, the executive arm of government had decided on the policy direction of the bill and now expects Parliament to rubber-stamp its decision.
The executive had also erred procedurally, by summarily rejecting the most suitable version of electoral reform, provided for in the Lekota Bill, and getting their decision swiftly approved by Parliament on a day when all eyes were on the budget speech delivered by the Finance Minister, he said.
He said the government bill unconstitutionally violates the principle of proportionality by only allowing independent candidates to run for half of the 400 available seats in Parliament, thus requiring them to win double the votes a political party candidate requires to be elected.
“We believe this bill is intended to discourage independents to stand and voters to elect them in favour of the current party dominated system. This flies in the face of the spirit of the New Nation Movement [Constitutional Court] judgment.
Noting the Home Affairs Committee’s intention to request an extension of the court deadline of June 11 2022 to reform the Electoral Act, he said the ICA will only support the proposed extension if the following conditions are met:
– All bills and options must be presented before the people in the public participation process. It cannot be limited to a choice of one single bill
– All nine provinces must be consulted and roll out meaningful public opinion processes
– A clearly-defined plan as to measurables and time frames for implementation
– That all further work is done in conjunction with the IEC
Louis submitted the Lekota Bill, or “People’s Bill”, as an annexure to the ICA’s submission, saying it is true to the Constitutional Court’s ruling in the New Nation Movement case. “This bill must be put back on the table,” he said.
He also said the ICA “is consulting legal counsel and if Parliament is conflicted – which we believe it may very well be – we will ask the President to call for a national referendum to allow the people of South Africa to choose which electoral system they prefer.”
One South Africa movement also released a media statement today in which it accuses Parliament of moving at a snail’s pace on a process that began almost two decades ago which “will culminate is the single most important piece of law our country has seen post-democracy”.
OSA says Parliament has only indicated now that public participation in all nine provinces will begin on Monday, March 7 2022.
“However, there exists no programme in the public domain as to the times, dates, locations, and details of these intended public participation meetings. Moreover, we do not indicate what choices will be put before the people of South Africa in these meetings. With just 100 days to go, there is no time for tricks and games,” says OSA.
“The One South Africa Movement (OSA) today calls on Parliament to urgently make public the public participation programme within the next 24 hours. This will allow South Africans to make the necessary arrangements to attend these meetings en masse and to have their say on this important matter.
“OSA will spend the next two weeks crisscrossing the country to attend as many of these public participation meetings as possible. We call on every South African to make their voice heard and join the call for direct elections to become law in the next 100 days,” concludes the statement.