My Vote Counts has been busy doing work around independent candidates and their role in South Africa’s multi-party democracy. Here’s a quick run-down of two of our most recent engagements on independent candidates and our electoral system. 

On 11 June 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 is unconstitutional as it does not allow for independent candidates to run for provincial and national elections. Parliament was then given 24 months to amend the Act to include independent candidates to contest in these elections. Currently, independents can only run in local government elections. 

Our first big engagement on this matter was our webinar on the Role of Independent Candidates in South Africa’s Multi-Party Democracy. We had presentations from Pearl Pillay, the Managing Director of YouthLab; Tessa Dooms, Political Commentator and member of the National Planning Commission and Mmusi Maimane, leader of One South Africa Movement. 

The conversation went into issues around identity politics, the need to increase voter turnout especially among those younger than 35 and direct accountability to name a few. 

Tessa Dooms spoke about our current electoral system that limits our freedom to associate only to a political party. Noting the Constitutional Court judgement, she emphasised that this conversation is necessary if we are to be more inclusive and ensure fair representation. She went on to ask, “How free are we to decide not only who represents us but what ideas represent us?”

Speaking from the perception of youth, Pearl Pillay explained that democracy is a continuous process and elections is a very small part of that democratic process. She went on to say, “Independent candidates allow for representation. When we look at the top parties, we look at them as fossils as they don’t represent the majority of the South African population.”

Corruption and a lack of electoral accountability was the theme of Mmusi Maimane’s presentation. He claims there are three fundamental issues that we don’t talk enough about as a society — education, economic transformation and giving citizens sufficient power to hold political representatives to account. “The voice of the poor is no longer represented in Parliament. Politics has become an elite exercise where debates are among the elites at the expense of those who are marginalised.” 

MVC’s researchers presented on the role and impact of independent candidates in our democracy.

MVC had then been invited to make a presentation at a workshop hosted by the parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Home Affairs on independent candidates. This workshop stems from the Electoral Act judgement. Other speakers included Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi; Valli Moosa, Chairperson of the Ministerial Committee advising on the Electoral Act Amendments; IEC Commissioner Mosotho Moepya and Grant Masterson from the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in South Africa. 

It was clear from all the speakers that this is not going to be a once off conversation as we are fundamentally changing the electoral system and this therefore needs to be a careful and consultative process. 

The workshop went into the pros and cons of the different types of electoral systems, the need to ensure that the values of the Constitution are upheld, as well as looking into the timeline from now to the next provincial and national elections that are to be held in 2024. 

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi brought up the consequential amendments to several pieces of legislation which includes:

  • The Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act
  • The Electoral Commission Act
  • Local Government Municipal Demarcation Act
  • Political Party Funding Act

MVC will no doubt have several more engagements to not only inform the public of these changes to the Electoral Act but also to ensure that whatever changes are made, these are made in an inclusive and transparent manner. We are already working on new workshops and other events so be on the lookout on our website and social media pages for new announcements. 

Watch our webinar below. 

Let us know your thoughts on this on the following pages: Facebook: myxcounts Twitter: @MVC_SA Instagram: @myvotecountssa

My Vote Counts NPC is a non-profit company founded to improve the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections and politics in the Republic of South Africa. We work to ensure that the political and electoral systems are open, fair and accountable to the public and that they remain relevant in the changing South African socio-political context.