Parliament says it plans to send to the Electoral Amendment Bill to President Cyril Ramaphosa way ahead of its December deadline for approval.
The extension, until 10 December 2022, will afford time for the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs to amend the Act to allow independent candidates to stand in national and provincial elections in the future.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Amos Masondo have since welcomed the extension.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the committee now plans to finalise amending the Bill two months before its deadline and then send it to Ramaphosa.
“Parliament will use this extension period to finalise the Bill. It is anticipated that the Bill will be sent to the president for assent by end September, so as to leave sufficient time for the president to remit the Bill to Parliament should he have any constitutional concerns,” Mothapo said in a statement on Friday.
‘Focus on the task at hand’
Reacting to the extension news, One South Africa Movement (OSA) said Parliament had been given a “lifeline” after “dragging its feet for two years”.
“It comes as little surprise that Parliament missed this deadline and then begged for an extension,” OSA spokesperson Mudzuli Rakhivhane said.
“For two years, Parliament has employed Stalingrad tactics to dither, delay and defer – all in a bid to avoid the inevitable: a stronger, more accountable new electoral system that gives power back to people and communities and ensures the best, most deserving people represent us in Parliament,” she added.
Rakhivhane further called on Parliament to “use this six-month grace period diligently and to focus on the task at hand”.
“We want to urge Parliament to abandon its short-sighted and self-serving approach. The path to a new electoral system started long before the Constitutional Court judgement of 2020 and Parliament’s tactics cannot stop the inevitable change to our system.
“In the next elections, there will be a new system that allows the people of South Africa to directly choose the 400 people that they deem worthy to go to Parliament and serve the nation,” she said.
The committee previously said it needed more time – at least six months – to undertake an “extensive and meaningful” public participation process.
The ConCourt on 11 June 2020 ruled that Section 19 of the Electoral Act was unconstitutional for not allowing independent candidates to contest provincial and national elections.
In its ruling, the court suspended its order of the Act’s invalidity for 24 months until 10 June, which then required Parliament to make the necessary amendments “to remedy the defect giving rise to the unconstitutionality” in this period.
But Parliament argued for an extension because the Bill was only introduced to the National Assembly on 10 January 2022 – leaving the committee with “only five months to process a bill of such public significance and interest”.
The case was brought by the civil organisation New Nation Movement (NNM) to the apex court in 2019, requesting that independent candidates be allowed to stand as lawmakers in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.