The Electoral Amendment Bill, which is currently before Parliament, does not facilitate free and fair elections. This is the view of the Executive Secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) Lawson Naidoo.

He was speaking at a workshop of civil society organisations convened to discuss electoral reform in South Africa. The imminent deadline for Parliament to ensure that independent candidates run in the 2024 national and provincial elections, as declared by the Constitutional Court in June 2020, is the catalyst for the discussion.

Naidoo says a constituency-based system, similar to that used for local government, is required to meaningfully accommodate independent candidates.

“The current draft before Parliament, the current bill says that each of the provinces constitutes a constituency pretty much as they do now. The nine provinces we have a regional to national ballot and a national to national ballot is how we currently choose, that doesn’t change in terms of what is being proposed in the current bill. It merely says independents can contest within the province and will be competing against the resources that big political parties have, that surely is not a level playing field.”

Civil society concerns

Some civil society organisations have also expressed concerns over the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The major issue raised by these groups around the Parliamentary process relates to the omission of the majority of recommendations made to the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee through the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC).

Civil society groups criticise proposed Electoral Amendment Bill: Mmusi Maimane

The civil society group My Vote Counts says the Bill in its current form will not be able to comply with constitutional obligations.

Senior Electoral Researcher at My Vote Counts, Letlhogonolo Letshele said there was consensus in favour of the majority report from the MAC which speaks to the overall changing of the system.

“Regardless of this, the Bill is still based on the minority report which is aligned to the mere cosmetics changes in the electoral system by merely including the independent candidates. Now, the risk to this, especially with regards to the upcoming 2024 general elections, is that the Bill will not pass the constitutionality test because the contents of the Bill are not entirely constitutional,” concluded Letshele.