Court hears application regarding independent candidates is an 'extraordinary attempt to imperil the elections'

2019-03-27 19:51
Chantall Dawn Revell (centre), princess of the Korana Royal Household (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Chantall Dawn Revell (centre), princess of the Korana Royal Household (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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A case dealing with the rights of independent candidates to stand for election has no basis and is an "extraordinary attempt to imperil the elections" in May, a lawyer told the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

Advocate Steven Budlender, who represents the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC), dismissed the argument that an omission in the Electoral Act to allow independent candidates to stand for national and provincial elections, was a "massive constitutional crisis".

The court earlier heard that if the question of independent candidates was not resolved timeously, there would be an application to postpone the elections.

READ: Could 'massive constitutional crisis' around the rights of independent candidates postpone the elections?

Budlender said the "real constitutional crisis" was that the New Nation Movement (NNM), Khoi leader Chantal Dawn Revell and other applicants wanted the court to make a declaration six weeks before elections, preventing elections from being held properly and plunging the country into "mass panic and pandemonium".

Even if the court or president wanted to address the situation, it would not have the power to do so because there had to be a new election within 90 days of the National Assembly being dissolved, he said.

"We know we are within that period because ballot papers started being printed yesterday, 48 parties have registered," Budlender told Judge Siraj Desai.

"It is with great respect that this application is brought without proper basis... It is irresponsible for them to ask you for an order in that regard," he said.

The respondents are the President of the Republic of South Africa, the home affairs department, the IEC and the speaker of the National Assembly.

The application followed a Constitutional Court judgment in June last year in which Chief Justice Mogoeng noted that there was no reason why any citizen could not stand as an independent candidate to be elected to municipal councils, provincial legislatures or the National Assembly.

"The enjoyment of this right has not been prescribed by the Constitution. It is just not facilitated by legislation," Mogoeng noted at the time. 

Budlender told Desai that the judgment should be treated with caution as they had searched without success in previous judgments and textbooks for references to the rights of independent candidates.

In an affidavit, Revell said they believed that electing independent candidates to the National Assembly was the only way to restore righteousness to the country.

"In this regard, it bears emphasis that I do not want to belong to any particular political party. This is because I have no confidence in their ability to adequately care for or to represent the interests for which I stand as a woman, a mother and a member of the First Nation Peoples. It also bears emphasis that the royal households I represent have also committed themselves to be impartial and politically non-partisan."

She said the First Nation Peoples, as the "original stewards of the land", had a critical role to play in the land issue and should be given a parliamentary voice as soon as possible.

"The land issue has the potential to cause a civil war and could even lead to genocide." 

Advocate Nazeer Cassim, who represented the Department of Home Affairs, said the "abusive application" had not demonstrated that any constitutional rights had been infringed.

He said the applicants could join or start their own political party but did not want to.

Both Budlender and Cassim pointed out that Parliament was already seized with the independent candidates' matter as a result of the Lekota Bill and the High-Level Panel Report (to review post-apartheid legislation, including the Electoral Act).

Given a chance to reply, advocate Alan Nelson, who represented NNM, said the real constitutional crisis would be if the elections took place and re-election was needed because of an application to declare the results invalid.

Desai took issue with the use of the word "genocide" and said he would deal with it in his judgment.

He needed time to consider the arguments and reserved judgment until April 17.

Read more on:    iec  |  elections 2019
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