The Electoral Amendment Bill with new amendments has been adopted and will now head to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
On Friday, NCOP’s Select Committee on Security and Justice passed the bill, which will include a clause that may see the Electoral Act changed yet again after the 2024 elections.
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The bill will be tabled before the NCOP next week Tuesday, before it is sent back to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs for consideration.
The Portfolio Committee is expected to meet on Wednesday to consider the new amendments on the legislation.
During Friday’s meeting, the Select Committee decided to go ahead with the Department of Home Affairs’ proposal to include in the bill a provision for the establishment of a panel of independent experts to look into the reform of South Africa’s electoral system after the 2024 elections.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi must appoint nine members to the panel, including the chairperson.
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It must consist of proper South African citizens who are duly qualified and independent, with expertise in the administration and running of elections or constitutional law or electoral systems.
The panel could possibly start with its work in 2023.
Watch the meeting below:
What will the panel do?
According to Clause 23, the panel must investigate whether reforms are necessary to the electoral system; the possible options for reforms; legal and financial implications; and the potential advantages and disadvantages for each option identified.
It will be obligated to engage in research and consider the issues falling within its mandate before the 2024 elections.
The proposed amendment also states that the panel must also engage in a process of public consultation with political parties, independent candidates, civil society organisations and any interested persons after the elections.
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The panel must also submit its progress reports to Motsoaledi every three months upon its establishment.
Furthermore, the panel has to submit a full report, with its findings, to the minister within 12 months of the date of the 2024 elections.
“The report must reflect the views of the members of the panel as to the possible options and recommendations for electoral reform.
“In the case of disagreement as to the possible options and recommendations for electoral reform, the report may be divided into different sections setting out the different views of the members,” Clause 23 reads.
What happens after?
Once the report is submitted, the minister must immediately table it before Parliament for its consideration and make the document available to the public.
It will be up to Parliament to decide on what, if any, electoral reforms should be adopted on the basis of the panel’s recommendations.
This is not the first time there will be discussions on South Africa’s electoral system.
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In February 2021, Motsoaledi appointed the ministerial advisory committee (MAC) following a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling that declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional.
The MAC, in its majority, recommended a system that combined both a mixed single-member constituency and proportional representation (PR) system.
But Motsoaledi and his department chose the MAC’s minority proposal, which solely on a PR system.
The bill in its current form has received backlashed from a number of civil society groups who believe that it is “fundamentally flawed”.
There is concern that Parliament will not be able to process the bill before the 10 December deadline.
Parliament’s legal department informed the National Assembly’s Programming Committee on Thursday that the deadline may not be met, should NCOP’s amendments require public input.
In this event, a three-month extension would be sought.
NCOP’s new amendments include amending the threshold for supporter signatures and a clause to establish an electoral reform panel.
After the Portfolio Committee processes the bill with the new changes, it will have to be voted and adopted by MPs in the National Assembly for the second time.
The draft legislation will then be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for approval.
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