Parliament to ask ConCourt for another deadline extension for Electoral Amendment Bill

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Parliament will ask the ConCourt for another deadline extension for the Electoral Amendment Bill.
Parliament will ask the ConCourt for another deadline extension for the Electoral Amendment Bill.
Alet Pretorius
  • Parliament will again approach the Constitutional Court to extend the deadline for the enactment of the Electoral Amendment Bill.
  • This after the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs said it should allow another round of public participation after the NCOP adopted changes to the bill that was passed by the National Assembly.
  • This is the second application to extend the deadline after the Constitutional Court extended the initial deadline by six months to 10 December.

Parliament will approach the Constitutional Court to ask for another extension of the deadline to enact the controversial Electoral Amendment Bill.

This was decided at the National Assembly's Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs' meeting on Friday after the committee received legal advice from advocate Steven Budlender SC, on behalf of the Department of Home Affairs and parliamentary legal advisor Siviwe Njikela.

The National Council of Provinces made further changes to the bill that the National Assembly passed in October, therefore it would "be prudent to engage in further public participation", Budlender advised.

The problem is that the deadline set by the Constitutional Court for the bill's enactment is 10 December.

The committee unanimously agreed to allow another period for public participation through written submissions, and that it should approach the Constitutional Court to extend the deadline.

Chief among the NCOP's changes is a clause providing for the establishment of a panel of experts to consider more expansive electoral reform than what the current bill provides for.

This came on the back of widespread criticism of the bill from civil society, with a hybrid proportional/constituency system the preference of many.

READ | NCOP committee adopts Electoral Amendment Bill with clause for reform post-2024

It is not plausible to implement such a system in time for the 2024 election, and it is also not supported by the governing ANC.

Parliamentary legal services indicated that they would start drafting the application to the apex court immediately after the meeting.

It is the second application of this nature to the Constitutional Court.

The bill came about through a Constitutional Court order. In its 11 June 2020 ruling, the apex court declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional "to the extent that it requires that adult citizens may be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures only through their membership of political parties".

The Constitutional Court suspended the declaration of unconstitutionality for "24 months to afford Parliament an opportunity to remedy the defect giving rise to the unconstitutionality".

Parliament initially deferred working on the amendment to the Department of Home Affairs.

READ | Why Parliament missed ConCourt's initial deadline on Electoral Amendment Bill

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi appointed a ministerial advisory committee (MAC), chaired by former minister Valli Moosa, in February 2021, more than six months after the court order.

The MAC's majority recommendation envisaged a system that provided a mixed single-member constituency and proportional representation (PR) system.

Motsoaledi and his department went with the minority advice and drafted a bill that relied solely on a PR system, amending the current system as little as possible.

The ANC has subsequently fallen in step behind Motsoaledi, after the bill was eventually introduced to Parliament in January this year.

The Constitutional Court extended the deadline for the bill's enactment to 10 December after Parliament approached the apex court for a deadline extension, when it became clear that it would not reach the original cut-off date.

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