ConCourt’s Electoral Act ruling ‘a victory for democracy’
After the Electoral Act was declared unconstitutional, political parties and lobby groups were delighted that 'South Africans would now be able to elect credible leaders'.
President and leader of the Congress of the People, Mosiuoa Lekota, left, and One South Africa Movement leader, Mmusi Maimane at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, 11 June 2020, after a judgment allowing independent candidates to contest for national and provincial elections. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
The landmark judgment delivered by the Constitutional Court will pave the way for long overdue electoral reform and ensure true democracy, where the electorate will hold politicians accountable to their constituencies, rather than to political parties.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) welcomed the clarity given by the Constitutional Court. IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said the judgment’s timing and the parliamentary review of the electoral system it prompted was opportune due the maturing SA democracy and the looming impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on election processes around the world.
“The court gave parliament 24 months to revise the legislation and the Electoral Commission stands ready to provide technical assistance into this process,” Mashinini said.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said it respected the judgment. “We support any efforts that seek to strengthen our democracy,” said DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi.
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) director of accountability and its chief legal officer, Stefanie Fick, said: “We believe this judgment should give rise to meaningful amendments to the Act, which could reduce the problem of MPs and political leaders placing political party interests ahead of those of the country.”
Outa joined this case on the basis that there was much-needed electoral reform that would enable South Africans to elect credible leaders.
She said it was time for leaders to be elected as MPs, as opposed to candidates who suit their parties’ agendas.
“This ruling must be used to drive new electoral law that improves transparency and the accountability of people elected to be members of parliament.”
Change party leader Lesiba Molokomme said although the party welcomed the judgment, it was concerned that the constitution itself was full of flaws. He said it was concerning that independent candidates were denied their rights for over 26 years.
“However, the judgment is a victory for our democracy as it will ensure full representation of the citizens and that now the voters, and not politicians, shall become the bosses. We wish the parliament was given far less than 24 months to amend this,” Molokomme said.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa tweeted: “This judgment may necessitate that we introduce a mixed system like at local government level. IEC and parliament will have to divide SA into constituencies.”
Congress of the People (Cope) also hailed the judgment as victory for democracy, saying the party campaigned inside and outside parliament for the change in the Electoral Act.
“We have always said it’s unconstitutional. This judgment will give all citizens the right to exercise their democratic right to stand for elections and represent their constituencies,” said Cope’s Dennis Bloem.