Speech by Hon Brandon Pillay, Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs: The Electoral Matters Amendment Bill

12 March 2024

I quote Aloo Denise Obiero, “Democracy is the garden where the seeds of Liberty are sown by the hands of many “

House chairperson honourable minister honourable members…

On the 29th of May this year South Africa takes to the poll…. For the first time since our democracy this election will see the inclusion of independent candidates on the ballot and if elected a part of this house.

After vigorous consultation public participation and support of this very house we were able to pass the Electoral Amendment Bill, once more we are back before this house to debate the The Electoral Matters Amendment Bill which focuses on the amendments of various Acts of Parliament as a consequence of the previous amendments.

The maturing of our democratic system requires strong checks and balance amongst the three arms of the state. In this regard, the amendments we are dealing with, are necessitated by the order of the Constitutional Court that ordered us as legislators to create provisions within our laws for the participation of independent candidates.

We join the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee in appreciating the important work undertaken by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs and other Committees in the processing of the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill.

As a Committee, we have followed all due processes of Parliament in the processing of this Bill that included the invitation to members of the public, the participation of various stakeholders and the support of legal service.

These amendments are in line with the provisions in the Constitution that every adult citizen has the right to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office. By passing these Bills, Parliament is ensuring the strengthening of our electoral system and thus deepening our democratic system.

In addition, the Constitution also provides for the Political Party Funding that is intended to enhance multi-party democracy. This requires that the national legislation must provide for the funding of political parties participating in national and provincial legislatures on an equitable and proportional basis.

This is very important. The test of any form of political funding is about whether such funding is equitable and proportional. Our conviction is that the proposed formula in the amendments passes this test of being equitable and proportional

Honourable Members a strange occurrence happened over the past week, where a political party in the name of the Democratic Alliance wrote a letter to the Secretary of State of the United States through the US Ambassador to South Africa to make some requests regarding the coming elections in May.

We are saying this is strange because it is unprecedented in our electoral system where a political party will by-pass all protocols and invite an Executive Arm of another state to be an observer in our elections.

The letter of the DA opens with the following words ‘the Democratic Alliance, as an Official Opposition in the South Africa Parliament, wishes to sharpen our appeal to the international community in helping to ensure the integrity of the upcoming elections’.

We underline the words ‘ensure the integrity of the upcoming elections’.

The DA does not end there, it continues further to request the government of the United States to amongst other things, provide ‘any available resources that could be directed into an Independent Parallel Vote Tabulation process, run by independent organisations, would be valuable’.

The DA is calling for an Independent Parallel Vote Tabulation process run by an independent organisation!

It is important to indicate that what the DA calls the government of the United States to do in the coming elections is unconstitutional. That section 190 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa on Electoral Commission provides for the following:

The Electoral Commission must-

a. manage elections of national, provincial and municipal legislative bodies in accordance with national legislation. b. ensure that those elections are free and fair; and, c. declare the results of those elections within a period that must be prescribed by national legislation and that is short as reasonably possible.

The Constitution does not make any provision for any independent body to tabulate elections contrary to what the DA requested from the government of the United States.

The question then arises is why would the DA make such a request to the government of the Unites States? Again, does the DA undermine our electoral systems and processes?

Honourable Members, the IEC has run elections in this country since 1994. At no point has anyone or any political party challenged the electoral processes and outcomes in this country since 1994.

We have established systems and processes to be followed for any political party or anyone who has concerns regarding our electoral system. But then why would the DA think in this strange way?

Perhaps, we should wonder whether the DA is intending to reject the outcomes of the elections come 29 May 2024! What else can we think if the DA make a request for an Independent Parallel Vote Tabulation process?

The DA was hit a heavy blow today when the USA expressed its confidence in SA electoral system speaking to News 24, spokesperson for the US Embassy in Pretoria David Feldmann, said the US recognised South Africans sovereignty “South Africa is a sovereign democracy that runs its own electoral processes. The Independent Electoral Commission has a long standing and excellent reputation for conducting free and fair elections.

We are making an appeal to the IEC to take the DA to task on this matter. The DA should explain itself through our established process on the meaning and intention of their letter to the US Secretary of State.

We are also hopeful that the government of the United States of America will publicly respond to this request of the DA, mindful of the fact that this letter seem not to be the first letter to the US government.

For our part, we have full confidence in the integrity of the Independent Electoral Commission, the IEC, that has conducted free, fair and transparent elections since the dawn of democracy without fail. Our electoral systems and process is fair and transparent. All political parties and independent candidates have a right to delegate their election observers to all voting stations to be their eyes and ears, contrary to what the DA suggests.

To South Africans we say: Now we all know what the DA is!

Let me end by reminding of what Amiclar Cabral said “ Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies … expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures – claim no easy victories…

The ANC supports the Bill