South African voters will be able to vote for candidates of their choice in the 2019 elections, and keep their representatives accountable, if a bill calling for the right for independent candidates to stand for public office is passed.
An explanatory summary of the draft Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 2019 has been published in the Government Gazette and the public has been invited to comment on the proposed electoral reforms.
Dr Michael Louis, who drafted the document which will be introduced in parliament by Cope leader Mosioua Lekota as a private member’s bill early next year, said its publication was a breakthrough.
“This is a call for Christian leaders who do not see themselves as part of a political party, to identify themselves and avail themselves on a national and provincial level to stand as independent candidates,” he said.
He urged people who identify with the objectives of the bill, to submit written comments to the Speaker of parliament by the cutoff date of January 21 2019.
In November, Louis, who was a founding member of the ACDP and is an ex-MEC in the Western Cape provincial legislature, told Gateway News that the tabling of the bill was a miraculous answer to prayer after a lengthy legal battle to reform the Electoral Act.
According to the summary of the draft bill published in the Government Gazette on December 7, the current proportional electoral system results in political parties deciding who to place in seats in parliament and provincial legislatures.
“While there are some advantages of such a system, there are also some weaknesses such as: a lack of accountability of members of the relevant legislatures to its voters; alienation of voters from the political system; and no provision is made for the voting public to vote for individual members – there is merely a link between the public and political
parties,” it says.
The summary refers to the right, in section 19(3)(b) of the Constitution, of every adult citizen to stand for public office and hold office if elected. However, it notes that the Electoral Act does not provide for this right and requires people in public office to be drawn from lists drafted by political parties. It says the right has been endorsed in a recent Constitutional Court judgment.
“The enjoyment of this right is not and has not been proscribed by the Constitution. It is just not facilitated by legislation. But that does not mean that the right is not available to be enjoyed by whoever might have lost confidence in political parties,” it says.
The draft Bill will, inter alia, seek to amend:
• the Electoral Commission Act, 1996 (Act No. 51 of 1996), so as to provide for, and to regulate, independent candidacy;
• the Electoral Act, 1998 (Act No. 73 of 1998), so as to, inter alia, give full effect to section 19(3)(b) of the Constitution, which provides that every South African citizen has the fundamental right to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office; to ensure that individuals can stand for office as independent candidates without having to stand for office by virtue of his or her membership of a political party; and to promote democratic governance and electoral accountability; and
• any other relevant legislation so as to provide for independent candidates to participate in election broadcasts and political advertisements on an equitable basis with political parties; to provide for independent candidates to receive financial and administrative assistance to enable them to perform their functions effectively; and to
provide for related and other consequential matters.
Interested parties and institutions are invited to submit written representations on the proposed content of the draft Bill to the Speaker of the National Assembly by January 21 2019.
Representations can be delivered to the Speaker, New Assembly Building, Parliament Street, Cape Town; mailed to Speaker, PO Box 15, Cape Town, 8000, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and copied to email@example.com
Copies of the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, 2019, may, after introduction, be obtained from:
The Congress of the People (COPE)
PO Box 15, Cape Town, 8000
Telephone: 021 403 8915