MPs' decision to pass Electoral Amendment Bill another blow to public faith in Parliament
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) criticises the National Assembly’s (NA) plenary decision today to adopt the Electoral Amendment Bill. “We are dismayed at Parliament’s utter lack of consideration for the constitutional concerns that OUTA and other civil society organisations and experts raised,” says Rachel Fischer, OUTA’s Parliamentary Engagement and Research Manager. “We believe the Bill in its current form fails to pass constitutional muster.”
A total of 330 votes were cast, with 232 Members of Parliament voting for the Bill, 98 rejecting it and three abstaining from the vote. A breakdown shows that the majority vote can be attributed to the ANC, EFF and Al Jama-ah. The DA, FF Plus, ACDP, IFP, ATM, and UDM have rejected the Bill, which was necessitated by the 2020 Constitutional Court judgment on the New Nation Movement NPC and Others v President of the Republic of South Africa and Others.
The Bill will now go to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
OUTA was a friend of the court (amicus curiae) in the Concourt case brought by the New Nation Movement, and supported the applicants’ argument that the Constitution requires the adoption of an electoral system at both national and provincial level that permits candidates to stand for public office independent of a political party. OUTA subsequently submitted its comments on the Bill and made a presentation on this to Parliament in March 2022, following this up with another round of public submissions on 16 September 2022.
“MPs who voted in favour of this Bill ignored a resounding call from OUTA and more than 50 other civil society organisations to reject the Bill in its current form. It is a disgrace that Parliament was given 24 months from the Concourt judgement to amend the Electoral Act but not only missed the June deadline, but there’s a good chance that the Bill will not be finalised by the extended deadline of 10 December 2022. Unless, of course, the NA and NCOP pull out all the stops to force this Bill through, trampling on any substantial and valid effort to critique it,” says Fischer.
A coalition of civil society organisations have spent months actively campaigning against the Bill. This included written submissions, as well as numerous letters to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in which several concerns were raised, like the defects in the legislative process Parliament has chosen to follow.
In a last-minute attempt to appeal to MPs, the coalition this morning sent a letter to MPs appealing to them to vote against the Bill. In the letter, the coalition explained that “the most significant defect has been that the committee chose to base its deliberations and the public participation process solely
on the option presented by the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in the Bill he tabled in
Parliament.” A Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) was set up to advise Motsoaledi on alternative electoral systems, however no input was sought from civil society or constitutional law experts after the two options were formally presented in the final report.
“As far as we know, the Bill as it stands wasn’t even developed in collaboration with constitutional law experts or civil society organisations,” says Fischer.
The next step is for the Bill to go to the NCOP, with the NCOP’s public participation process commencing on 21 October 2022. “It is evident that the NA and NCOP are intent on forcing this Bill through to meet the 10 December 2022 deadline. Now it is up to civil society and South Africans to ensure proper electoral reform that respects our civic rights and protects our constitution,” says Fischer.
A soundclip with comment by Rachel Fischer, OUTA's Parliamentary Engagement and Research Manager, is here.
Help us oppose corruption
OUTA is standing up against government corruption and mismanagement.
Our work is made possible though donations by our paying supporters.
Join us in working towards a better South Africa by becoming a paying OUTA supporter.
In 2022, we’re in court challenging the AARTO law, the Karpowership generation licences and SANRAL’s secrecy over toll profits.
We’re also challenging electricity prices and defending South Africa’s water resources.
We want to see South Africa’s tax revenue used for the benefit of all, not a greedy few.
Any amount welcome.