Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

MPs at ‘loggerheads’ over parts of Electoral Amendment Bill

The IEC has suggested that independent candidates should be allowed to contest in more than one province.

Discussions on whether independent candidates can contest elections in multiple regions was the main part of Parliament’s meeting on Tuesday.

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs met to discuss the Electoral Amendment Bill after it was granted a six-month extension by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to continue with its work earlier this month.

The committee has already said it plans to send the Bill to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the end of September, with its deadline to amend the Electoral Act set for 10 December.

Contesting regions

During the discussions on Tuesday, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) suggested that independent candidates should be allowed to contest in more than one province, which was backed by the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Democratic Alliance (DA).

The committee’s Content Advisor Adam Salmon earlier in the briefing had made a presentation of the outstanding issues that needed to be deliberated in the Bill – including the matter of contesting regions.

Salmon said if parties agreed to the inclusion of independent candidates’ agents, the committee would have to ask the National Assembly for permission to do so.

He also indicated that the committee should also decide on the likely percentage of signatures to be required from independents to stand for elections and the deposit they would be required to pay.

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Responding to the presentation, DA MP Adrian Roos said: “The position of the DA is that independent candidates should be able to participate in all regions. One needs to say that a party can run in all provinces and independent candidates should be able to do so.”

IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe expressed the same sentiment.

“I am fully in support of the proposal that they should be able to contest in more than one region, and that of course then take up a seat in the provincial legislature where they got the most votes,” she said.

However, ANC MP Tidimalo Legwase argued that independent candidates should contest one province because they can only occupy one seat.

“I believe an independent candidate must only contest at a space where they are registered [and] they reside.

“They should not be able to contest in all the provinces because in as much as we want to say that political parties contests in all the areas, they are political parties [but] being independent means one. So in my view there’s no single person that stays in many provinces,” she said.

Meanwhile, IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo explained why the commission proposed the participation of independent candidates in all provinces.

“The reason for that proposition is that National Assembly is a national constituency. It is not broken down, as it were, it is one national entity. So you should be able, therefore, to contest that national entity from anywhere,” he told MPs.

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“[This] logic is in our legislation because if you [look at] section 24(a), where you vote outside of your voting station for the national ballot you can cast it anywhere essentially… precisely because we are all voting for this one national constituency, which is the National Assembly. That option should be available to both party and independent candidates,” Mamabolo added.

The IEC boss although did point out that it would be different for provincial elections, where the candidates must be residents where they are contesting.

Referring to independent candidates, he further said: “In the event you win multiple seats in different regions, you take the seat where you won most votes.”

Some members of the committee agreed that the independent candidates should have party agents and that there should be a provision in the Bill for the candidates to submit a number of signatures to compete in an election.

On the matter of deposits, the committee’s chairperson Mosa Chabane said this issue would be left to the IEC to regulate, adding that further deliberations on whether signatures – among others things – should be in the bill or not would take place in future meetings.

“To avoid rushing to a vote on the matter, the committee felt it prudent to further persuade each other in order to arrive at a consensus rather than an imposition.

“It is for this reason that the committee will continue to deliberate on the contentious areas with the aim of finding a middle ground,” said Chabane said in a statement on Wednesday.

The committee will meet next week despite Parliament being in recess until 15 August.

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