Parliament to look for more nominees to serve on electoral reform panel
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi missed the deadline to appoint the panel.
A voter places his ballot in the box at the Union Building voting station in Pretoria on 1 November 2021. Picture: Jacques Nelles
Parliament is set to reopen the nomination process for candidates who will be tasked with serving on the electoral reform panel.
The Section 23 of the Electoral Amendment Act required Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to appoint the nine-person panel within four months of the legislation becoming law.
The Act was approved and signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa in April, but Motsoaledi missed the deadline.
Briefing the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on Friday, Motsoaledi told MPs his department had published a notice in May calling on the public to nominate candidates who will sit on the panel.
But because the notice was published before Ramaphosa signed a proclamation as to the date which the Act came into operation, the minister said another notice was issued in July.
“For this reason, we realised we had to correct the anomaly by publishing the second notice on 21 July 2023. The department, together with the IEC [Electoral Commission of South Africa] proceeded to draft the requisite correction notice. The rationale for the correction notice was, inter alia, to extend the period [of nominations] up to 11 August,” he explained.
Motsoaledi said Home Affairs received 25 nominations including candidates who are medical doctors, academics, former and current IEC officials.
“Two of the nominees did not hand in proof of acceptance of nomination as per criteria set in the notice.
“In fact one of them actually nominated himself and did not send a CV, he just sent a letter saying I have been nominated for this panel and I am prepared to take part, but we don’t know who nominated him so we regard it as a personal nomination. So this left us with about 23 nominations,” the minister said.
The minister indicated that he met with the IEC this week and it was resolved during the consultation that officials from the commission should not form part of the panel as it would be a conflict of interest.
“It just couldn’t happen because in terms of this Act, I must consult with the IEC about these names so it can’t then be that one of the commissioners become part of the panel because that means they were consulting about their own nominations. After this resolution, three individuals were removed from the list and then that leaves us with 20 nominees three of which are women.”
Watch the meeting below:
Motsoaledi highlighted that the selection process of the panel, which will look into the reform of South Africa’s electoral system after the 2024 elections, would be based on a criteria.
According to the criteria, the composition of the panel needs to reflect a balance in terms of demography, a candidate must have an understanding of the constitutional and national legislative imperatives relevant to electoral systems, the candidate must not hold elected political office in any political party or be a member of Parliament, among others.
At least 11 candidates were recommended for appointment by the minister and IEC “for the sake of choice”.
“These are the names of shortlisted candidates. It does not mean, I’m emphasising, that the other nominees that are still on the list do not qualify. The matter is in your hands… it is within your rights to debate and tell us what to do. We recommend that the National Assembly approves the nine nominees to be appointed as members of the panel,” the minister said.
Motsoaledi told the committee he takes full responsibility for missing the four month deadline.
‘Lack of representation’
During deliberations, African National Congress (ANC) MP Tidimalo Legwase expressed concern about lack of representation of women.
“I also want to lobby the committee for reopening the process to allow women to form part of the process,” Legwase said.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Liezl van der Merwe said she was disappointed that there were only 20 nominees and also pointed out that Parliament can only vote on the panel’s appointment next year since the National Assembly’s fourth term was ending on 8 December.
“We will have to deal with this report, finalised the names and then adopt the report in February. This panel will start it’s work after the elections so if the elections is in May, it means we will have to have the panel in place by then,” she said.
Van der Merwe also supported the reopening of the nomination process “as a matter of urgency”.
“We need to put a little bit of effort maybe into outsourcing or making sure people are aware of this advertisement. So let’s open the process and see if any additional names come forward and we do a re-shortlisting.
“Maybe we could close the applications in January and we do a re-shortlisting in February and we get the National Assembly then to approve this report by February or March next year.
“I just think that 20 names is not a lot considering the complex task they will have to undertake in terms of this process. We will have to make sure we got the very best people with the requisite skills and I think there is a case to reopen the process,” the IFP added.
‘Stick to the criteria’
ANC MP Brandon Pillay said he was concerned that some of the nominees did not have the right skills to serve on the panel.
Pillay and Congress of the People (Cope) MP Mosiuoa Lekota shared the same sentiments about the reopening of the nomination process.
Furthermore, Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Werner Horn said: “If the process is going to be reopened we need to stick to the criteria that is in the legislation. Otherwise, if we create legislation where we have deadlines that are ignored, we have a criteria that is ignored and replaced then what are we doing here? The executive can just do whatever they want.”
The committee’s chairperson, Mosa Chabane, confirmed the new advertisements for nominations will be published.