Getrude Makhafola
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
16 Feb 2022
1:01 pm

MPs want Electoral Act amendment deadline extended

Getrude Makhafola

A deadline of June 2022 was initially set for Parliament to change the electoral law and enable independent candidates to contest elections.

A voter places his ballot in the box at the AFM Danville Church voting station, 1 November 2021, Pretoria. Photo for illustration: Jacques Nelles

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has resolved to apply for an extension at the Constitutional Court as the deadline to amend the Electoral Act fast approaches.

The committee said it needed more time to undertake an “extensive and meaningful” public participation process, and would ask Parliament to apply for the deadline extension.

“Following the adoption of a draft programme of public participation across the country, the committee believes that an extension is necessary to enable the portfolio committee and, thereafter, its sister committee in the National Council of Provinces, enough time to remedy the defect,” said committee chairperson Mosa Chabane.

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In a landmark ruling in June 2020, Section 19 of the act was declared unconstitutional for not allowing independent candidates to contest provincial and national elections.

The apex court set June 2022 as a deadline for Parliament to change the electoral law and enable individuals to stand for national elections.

The case was brought before court by civil organisation New Nation Movement (NNM). The application was dismissed by the Western Cape High Court in 2019, ruling that there was nothing stopping the candidates from exercising their rights by joining or forming a political party.

NNM took the case to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the current Electoral Act 73 of 1998 infringes on the right to exercise individual political choices.

The June deadline, Chabane said, won’t be met due the Covid-19 pandemic and other matters outside the committee’s control.

“The committee is collectively of the view that thorough work needs to be done to ensure that the amendments meet constitutional muster. This will give Parliament the space to engage the people and hopefully arrive at an Act that strengthens our constitutional order.”

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