Speaking Notes by Mr Mosa Chabane, The Chairperson Of The Portfolio Committee On Home Affairs During The Second Reading Of The Electoral Matters Amendment Bill

Hon Chairperson of the House, 

Hon Members, 

The 2024 provincial and national elections signify the birth of a new era in our Parliamentary democracy. While previously only political parties could contest for a seat in this august house, this new era involves opening that possibility to independent representatives. The realisation of this unprecedented era was dependent on this house putting in place legislative frameworks that ensured that political parties and independent candidates participate fairly and equitably in the elections process. 

Following the 11 June 2020 Constitutional Court Judgment that declared the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 unconstitutional to the extent that it requires that adult citizens may be elected to the National Assembly and Provincial Legislatures only through their membership of political parties, considerable work was undertaken to respond effectively to this judgement. This work included, amongst others, the enactment of the Electoral Laws Amendment Act, 2021 and the Electoral Amendment Act, 2023. I can now safely state that the two pieces of legislation and Electoral Matters Amendment Bill are essential tools in achieving this dream of a new era in our body politics. 

The passing of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2023 and subsequent endorsement by the Constitutional Court attest to the impeccable work by this house, while some amongst our society, especially some NGOs who are highly funded to derail the standing of the Electoral Act. 

The Constitutional Court reaffirmed the sacrosanct principle of separation of powers contained in the Constitution, that only Parliament has the power to determine the appropriate electoral system or consider any amendment to the legislation. The Constitutional Court judgement is a clear reminder that an inclusive and prosperous South Africa can only be achieved if everyone contributes meaningfully to this process. 

Honourable Members, on 7 December 2023, the Minister of Home Affairs introduced the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill, and referred it to the Committee for consideration and it was tagged as s75 bill. The Bill includes consequential amendments necessitated by the passing of the Electoral Amendment Act that made it possible for independent candidates to contest elections of the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.     

House Chair, the Bill has 46 Clauses to be considered and the   objects of the Bill include the following:- 

  • The bill introduce amendments on the Electoral act 73 of 1998, Electoral Commission act 51 of 1996, Electronic Communication act of 2005, Financial management of Parliament and Provincial legislature act of 2009.The bill further amend the Political Funding Act 6 of 2018 to provide for the regulation of  private and public funding of political parties and independent representatives .
  • to amend the powers of the President to make regulations on certain matter including in respect of the upper limits and disclosure limits of donations.
  • to amend Schedule 2 in respect of the formula for the allocation of money in the Funds on a proportional and equitable basis in response to section 236 of the constitution.
  • to insert and substitute definitions.
  • to preclude the Electoral Commission from accepting donations to the Multi-Party and Independents Democracy Fund which it has reason to believe are the proceeds of crime.
  • to empower the Commission to invest money in the Funds in any bank registered in terms of the Banks Act, 1990.

The unprecedented nature of the Bill and the proximity to the end of term of the sixth Parliament demanded that the committee adopts a practical process that made it possible to consider the Bill while following due process. 

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs and the Select Committee on Security and Justice agreed to a joint briefing by the Minister of Home Affairs on the contents of the Bill. The Committees also jointly advertised for public comments. The call for public comments commenced on 14 December 2023 on the Parliament website and social media. This was followed by advertisements in the print media and radio from 11 January 2024 and closing date was on 26 January 2024. The Committees received 13 written submissions from various stakeholders which I will highlight later. 

On 6 February 2024, the joint committees conducted a virtual public hearing that involved the participation of individuals and organisations that have submitted written comments. The following responded to the virtual public hearings: Inclusive Society Institute, My Vote Counts, Dr Albertus Schoeman, People’s Legal Centre and #UniteBehind, Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), Mr Michael Atkins, Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu), Zackie 2024 NPC, African National Congress (ANC), Ms Nadia Madlala, Mosuli Qhaba, Prof. Dirk Kotze from Unisa and Mr Raphael Mokiti. 

The committee appreciates the participation by organisations and individuals that contributed and made constructive submissions on the Bill which greatly influenced the final product presented to this house today. 

Honourable Chairperson, Given the new regime on the participation of the independent on the electoral space, the committee examined the current formula for the allocation of funds which only accommodate the political parties. In this case, Section 236 in the Constitution provides that to enhance multi-party democracy, national legislature must provide for funding of political parties participating in national and provincial legislatures on an equitable and proportional basis. On this score, stakeholders during the public hearing presented various formulas to the joint portfolio committees for consideration and others proposed to maintain the current formula. 

After extensive deliberations and consideration, the committee came to the conclusion that clause 29 that deal with Party Political Funding is consequential and the formula of 90/10 as proposed in the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill will achieve the equitable and proportional allocation of resources for both political parties and independent representatives and that it must be adopted. 

Honourable Members, the Bill also has built in checks and balances that will ensure that when the President makes a determination on the annual upper limit for donations to political parties and independent candidates and the minimum threshold amount for disclosure of donations, he does so once National Assembly has passed a resolution to that effect. This decision re-affirms the National Assembly oversight role and enhances our democracy.    

Honourable Members, the adopted Bill also protects the rights of independent candidates to receive broadcasting opportunities for the purpose of elections. This is important to ensure a fair electoral process and will ensure that independent candidates are also able to canvass and share their message  across with the electorate. In the main the committee adopted the A list and B-Bill which involve 46 clauses to be adopted by this august house.  

House chairperson, in 2019 reports emerged that certain voters were able to vote more times than they were entitled facilitated by section 24A process. Faced with that experience Parliament amended Section 24A in 2021. The amended provision removes section24A application from the level of voting station. Section 24A is now only available by pre-notification to the CEO. In line with the IEC timetable, the notification to the CEO must be given by 17 May 2024. 

A voter who does not notify by 17 May can only vote at the voting station at which they are registered. The current Bill is only concerned with section 24A to the extent that it regulates the number of ballots that a voter who votes outside of the province will receive. This is necessary and consequential to the introduction of the regional ballot. A voter who votes in a province in which they are registered, will receive all three ballots. A voter who votes outside a province in which they are registered will only receive the national compensatory ballot and NOT the Regional and Legislature ballots.

THE IEC remains one of the institutions presided over the election process occasioned in the 30 years of democracy and it has demonstrated good governance in managing its corporate affairs and elections outcomes. Since its establishment, it will be for the first time IEC facilitate elections that involve the participation of independent candidates in Provincial and National elections. We remain confident not withstanding challenges that IEC is up to the task to deliver free and fair elections in 2024. To this end, we welcome the swift decision to terminate the employee’s contract as a demonstration to protect the integrity of the institution.

House Chairperson, the portfolio committee present before this house Electoral Matters Amendment for adoption.

Thank you.