ConCourt explains why urgent application on independent election candidates failed

2019-07-03 12:21
A woman casts her vote for the general elections at the Presbyterian Church ballot station in Dobsonville, Johannesburg, on May 8, 2019. (Michele Spatari, AFP, file)

A woman casts her vote for the general elections at the Presbyterian Church ballot station in Dobsonville, Johannesburg, on May 8, 2019. (Michele Spatari, AFP, file)

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The Constitutional Court has given its reasons for the dismissal of an urgent application for leave to appeal a ruling on the constitutionality of prohibiting independent candidates from standing for election.

The application was lodged by the New Nation Movement's (NNM), Chantal Dawn Revell, who describes herself as a representative of Khoi and San communities, GRO and Indigenous First Nation Advocacy SA PBO.

On May 2, the parties addressed the court on the question of urgency. However, the matter was postponed to August 15, 2019 after the court found that the applicants failed to prove that there was any urgency.

READ: Why the New Nation Movement is asking the Constitutional Court to postpone May 8 election

Giving reasons for the unanimous ruling on Wednesday, the court said that although the applicants had initially "sought an order declaring Section 57A and Schedule 1A to the Electoral Act unconstitutional and allowing independent candidates to stand for elections in the 2019 elections, they had amended their relief to seek a change to the electoral system 'as soon as possible'".

Justice Leona Theron, who wrote the judgment, said: "These are matters which, quite plainly, cannot be considered or determined hurriedly or superficially. They are complex important issues that ideally should not be decided urgently. Yet, the applicants ask this court to do precisely that."

Application dismissed

Theron said the case was heard mere days before voting was scheduled to take place.

"Over six million ballot papers had already been printed, packaged and distributed across the country," she said.

"Moreover, voting in the elections had already begun - voters outside the country voted on 27 April 2019.

"The applicants failed to account whether the postponement of the elections would invalidate the votes of South Africans who had already voted."

The applicants first approached the Western Cape High Court on September 17, 2018 for an order declaring the Electoral Act unconstitutional on the basis that it prevented independent candidates from running for seats in Parliament or provincial legislatures.

The High Court dismissed the application, saying that there was nothing stopping the candidates from exercising their rights by joining or forming a political party.

The High Court also found that the right to stand for public office did not provide for the standing for office "as an independent candidate".

In March, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) argued before the High Court that the NNM's push was an "extraordinary attempt to imperil the elections".

The urgent application was made just six days before more than 26 million registered South African voters were expected to head to the polls.

At the time, the NNM argued that if the case wasn't heard urgently and the polls preceded, the elections could be "invalidated when the case is heard later".

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