Bid for independents to stand in elections headed for Constitutional Court as High Court dismisses application

Bulelani Mkohliswa outside the Western Cape High Court.

The Western Cape High Court yesterday dismissed an application by the New Nation Movement (NNM) and others for the Electoral Act to be amended in time for independent candidates to stand in the May 8 election.

Responding to the judgment last night, an unfazed-sounding Bulelani Mkohliswa, national coordinator of the NNM, told Gateway News: “We will be lodging an urgent application with the Constitutional Court and we are hoping to get a date in the next week because that is the highest court in the land and that is where we believe that the victory will be sealed.”

The application to the High Court by the NMM, Khoi leader Chantal Dawn Revell, the Mediation Foundation for Peace and Justice and the United Public Safety Front, followed a Constitutional Court judgment in June last year in which Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng noted that there was no reason why any citizen could not stand as an independent candidate to be elected to municipal councils, provincial legislatures or the National Assembly.

“The enjoyment of this right has not been proscribed by the Constitution. It is just not facilitated by legislation,” Mogoeng noted at the time.

In his written judgement Judge Siraj Desai, who dismissed the application without a cost order, quoted an earlier Constitutional Court judgment which states: “The Constitution itself obliges every citizen to exercise the franchise through a political party,” reports News 24.

He said a consideration of the Constitution as a whole did not support the applicants’ interpretation of Section 19(3)(b).

“Nowhere in the wording of the section does it expressly state that standing for office must include standing for such office as an independent candidate,” said Desai.

“Any relief granted would, I think, cause substantial distress and uncertainty in relation to the upcoming elections,” he said.

The respondents in the case are the President of the Republic of South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs, the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa and the Speaker of the National Assembly.

After the proceedings, Revell, who wants to stand as an independent candidate said there was no trust in the current party political system, while independents were accountable to the people and not to political parties, reports News 24.

On March 27, before Desai suspended judgment on the application until yesterday, Advocate Alan Nelson SC, for the New Nation Movement (NNM), told the court: “If the matter cannot be resolved by 8th of May, then there will be an application for the postponement of the election.”

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