Application for right of individuals to stand for elections delayed

Judge Siraj Desai.

Originally published in News 24

The application to hear the rights of individuals to stand for national and provincial elections independently was delayed in the Western Cape High Court when Judge Siraj Desai insisted that political parties represented in the National Assembly be joined in the application.

The application came as a result of the 2018 Constitutional Court judgment on political party funding. In delivering his judgment at the time, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng also noted that citizens equally had the right “to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office”.

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“The right to stand for public office is tied up to the right to ‘vote in elections for any legislative body’ that is constitutionally established.

“Meaning, every adult citizen may in terms of the Constitution stand as an independent candidate to be elected to municipalities, provincial legislatures or the National Assembly,” Mogoeng said.

On Thursday, Judge Desai and advocate Alan Nelson, who appeared on behalf of the applicant, New Nation Movement, were caught in a back and forth, with Nelson arguing that political parties represented in the National Assembly need not be joined in the application.

Judge Desai disagreed, saying political parties had a direct interest in the outcome of the application.

“Those who have material interest [in the matter] must be joined. Political parties [in the National Assembly] have an interest in the conditions under which elections take place and I may trigger a constitutional crisis if I don’t grant the joinder order,” said the judge.

Nelson lambasted political parties, which, according to him, were served with papers for the matter, but didn’t attend the meeting to ascertain whether they would join the application or not.

Judge Desai, however, said it was important that political parties be joined. In handing down his order, he said political parties in the National Assembly must be given notice again by Monday, and that they must decide whether to participate or not in proceedings.

The matter was postponed to March 27.

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