Court battle on cards in pursuit of electoral reform, petition launched

Office bearers of newly-launched Independent Candidates’ Associations, are, from the left Prof Arno van Niekerk , Adv Mudzuli Rakhivhane, Dr Michael Louis , Adv Zarina Prasadh , Dorian Wringley, Amelia Tsukudu, Rev Chris Mathebula

With just six months left of the two-year deadline government was given by the Constitutional Court to amend the Electoral Act to accommodate independent candidates, a showdown is looming between government and independent organisations which promote direct democracy in South Africa.

Dr Michael Louis, a Christian marketplace leader who was at the forefront of a three-year campaign that resulted in the June 2020 Constitutional Court decision demanding electoral reform says that after a meeting of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs on Tuesday it is apparent that the government intends to push through amendments which do not go far enough and which are problematic.

Louis, who is chairman of the One South Africa (OSA) movement and founder and nonexecutive director of the newly-launched Independent Candidates’ Association (ICA) told Gateway News that indications are that the standing committee is not supportive of the “People’s Bill”, which promotes power to the people and localism, claiming it is too comprehensive to be implemented in the limited time left before the June 10 deadline. Instead, government appears bent on pushing for the “Government Bill” which is a minimalist option that essentially maintains the status quo.

“This is very disappointing. And there is no doubt that there are constitutional issues on the Government Bill, which mostly revolve around fair representation, equality of votes and proportionality — and that many votes will be wasted, and independent candidates won’t be equally represented in in Parliament,” he said.

He said the government’s stance “leaves us no option but to to already give notice that if the [Government] Bill goes through, it will be challenged in the Constitutional Court”.

He said he did not believe that timeframes should set a limit on the destiny of a nation and for that reason OSA has launched a petition titled “Stop Parliament from Throwing Votes Away in the next National Election” and is also mobilising people to participate in the public participation process by emailing
by 4pm on February 21.

Click on the image below to sign the petition

At its inaugural meeting in Midrand last week, the Independent Candidates’ Association of South Africa (ICA) — a new oversight body to govern prospective independent candidates, councillors, prospective and any movements or organisations wanting to promote democracy and independent candidates — resolved to join the fight for electoral reform. After being presented with the Draft Electoral Bill, ICA committed to make both written and oral submissions to Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee on this matter. 

The association will educate independent councillors about matters of finance, the political system and the laws governing it, and in the skills required to be an effective councillor. Membership will not be open to councillors belonging to political parties but will include civil society and other affiliated organisations.

Louis said that in last year’s local government elections 61 independent ward candidates were elected to municipal councils. Together with those elected by civic organisations on both the ward and proportional lists the total was at least 122 councillors countrywide, who Louis said represent about 752 000 voters. Many of these councillors were elected in small rural towns and do not have any experience in local government. The ICA will run courses teaching best practice to professionalise independent councillors and ensure they are accountable, responsible leaders.

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