Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

IEC ‘concerned’ as Electoral Amendment Bill could affect other laws ahead of 2024 elections

Amendments might have to be made to the Political Parties Funding Act, among others.

Other existing laws could be affected by the Electoral Amendment Bill, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has been told.

The committee, which has been tasked to amend the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 to allow independent candidates to contest elections, met on Tuesday for further deliberations on bill.

Consequential amendments

Members of the committee were informed during the meeting that amendments might have to be made to other laws in order to create a balance between independent candidates and political parties.

“During the processing and deliberations on the Electoral Amendment Bill, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs was informed that in order to fully accommodate independent candidates, consequential amendments would need to be made to other pieces of legislation,” Senior State Law Advisor, Sarah Govender told the committee.

ALSO READ: 2024 polls could be delayed as legal action looms against Electoral Amendment Bill

Such legislation that may possibly require changes include the Electoral Commission Act, Electronic Communications Act, Political Parties Funding Act and the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.

“We want to say that this list has not been exhausted. The Department of Home Affairs and the IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] as the experts in this area of law will need to further advice if there are any other pieces of legislation may require amendment,” she said.

Govender explained that there are two ways in which such amendments can be effected.

“[This can be made] via an executive bill meaning a bill introduced by a minister or a committee bill.”

Committee process

Before any amendments of the bill can be drafted, Govender said, a policy document needs be compiled.

“The document will outline what the committee hopes to achieve and what the amendments or bill should entail,” she continued, adding that “the more complete the policy document is, the faster the bill can be drafted.”

It will take two to three months to develop this policy, according to Govender.

“This is all dependent on how fast the information forthcoming, how quickly the policy input is received and so forth.

“Once the policy is developed, an average of between six to 10 months is required for the development and processing of the bill in the [National Assembly] and then an average of between two to three months is required in the [National Council of Provinces]. Thus eight to 13 months for the processing of the bill Parliament. I want to reiterate that these are only estimated timeframes.”

Executive process

A policy document, which could take between three to six months for the Department of Home Affairs to compile, is also required for an executive bill.

“This is done internally by our policy unit who will process the document and through government clusters up until Cabinet has approved it. Once the policy is approved then it is sent our drafting unit in order to develop a draft bill,” Home Affairs Legal Advisor, Moses Malakate said.

RELATED: Electoral Amendment Bill: Parliament deliberates key issues

Malakate said the drafting of the bill could take two to three months thereafter.

“Once we have concluded our internal consultations, we then have to set up a meeting with the minister to get an in principle approval of the draft bill. We will then consider what the minister would have done in those three to four weeks and revise the bill accordingly. After that we need to consult with the affected department and governmental structures as the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster,” he explained.

Watch the meeting below:

The estimated timeframe, Malakate pointed out, during the interdepartmental consultations could take three to six months.

The bill will only be published in the government gazette after Cabinet approval.

“It has to sit in the government gazette for a period of 30 days from the date of publication and receive public comments. The estimated period there is between one and two months where we would gazetted the bill, but also to come back and consider the public comments and then ensure we revise the bill with the public’s input.”

READ MORE: ‘New Electoral Act could just be a sneaky way to steal power’ from voters

Furthermore, the bill has to be sent to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and then go back to the State Law Advisor’s office before it is sent to Cabinet for approval.

“We will request from the Chief State Law Advisor to provide us with a final legal opinion of the bill. This is in preparation for us to introduce the bill into Parliament. Once we get the requisite approval from Cabinet, we are going to draft the submission for the minister’s approval and then submit the bill to Parliament,” Malakate added.

“Depending on the complicity and whether or not it’s an amendment bill, this process might take us a little bit longer for the minister to introduce the bill to Parliament.”

‘Beyond 2024’

Deliberating on the presentations made, ANC MP Brandon Pillay said he was of the view that the committee bill was the better option.

“I think we were aware from the beginning that there are going to be consequential amendments. I agree that the executive bill is quite long and perhaps we must have a discussion and unpack the committee bill. I’m also recommending that we start the process now given that we have very limited time,” he said.

IEC chairperson Mosotho Moepya said the consequential amendments would be important for the delivery of the 2024 elections.

“When one looks at the timeframes they do appear very long – and some go beyond the 2024 elections -and we are concerned about that,” he said.

NOW READ: People ‘should definitely be worried’ about Electoral Amendment Bill – analysts