- The NCOP's Select Committee on Security and Justice adopted the Electoral Amendment Act.
- It now contains a clause providing for the establishment of a panel to review South Africa's electoral system.
- The bill must still be adopted by the NCOP before it is returned to the NA. It must be enacted by 10 December.
The National Council of Provinces' Select Committee on Security and Justice on Friday morning adopted the Electoral Amendment Bill with changes from the version of the bill passed by the National Assembly just more than a month ago.
Chief among these 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.
It is not plausible to implement such a system in time for the 2024 election, and it is also not supported by the ANC.
"I think the committee has taken into account the input of the public, has proposed amendments that will serve to equalise and create parity in relation to the signature requirements of the bill," said committee chairperson, ANC MP from Limpopo, Shahidabibi Shaik, after the committee adopted the bill, with the DA's objection.
"Further, the inclusion of a clause which sets out the establishment and functioning of an electoral reform consultation panel goes a long way in addressing the concerns raised in the public submissions which request the need for broader electoral reform," said Shaik.
"This panel, once established, will receive the views and opinions of all relevant stakeholders in relation to the formulation of such reform post the 2024 election.
"The proposed amendments serve to enhance and strengthen the bill and will go a long way in ensuring a free and fair election by including independent candidates in the 2024 elections."
The bill is in a race against time to be enacted by 10 December, a deadline set by the Constitutional Court.
Before that can happen, it must be passed by the National Council of Provinces, returned to the National Assembly, and referred back to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, which must again adopt it as there were changes from the bill adopted by the National Assembly.
The National Assembly must then adopt it again at a meeting scheduled for 6 December.
This gives the Presidency four days to consider the bill before President Cyril Ramaphosa must sign it.
At Thursday's meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee, asking the Constitutional Court for another extension was mooted.
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.
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.