The Electoral Amendment Bill is expected to be referred back to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs before it is sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for approval.
The bill is currently before the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) after MPs in the National Assembly voted in favour of passing the legislation last month.
NCOP’s Select Committee on Security and Justice has since indicated that it will propose amendments to the bill after considering the public submissions it received on 9 November.
The committee will send the legislation back to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, which was tasked to amend the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 to allow independent candidates to contest elections.
This is according to Committee Section manager, Nomvula Giba.
“The Select Committee on Security of the NCOP is likely to propose amendments on the Electoral Amendment Bill.
“[This] will mean that when the bill is returned by the NCOP on the 29 [of November], the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs will have to meet again either to agree or disagree with the proposed amendments,” she told the National Assembly’s Programming Committee during a meeting on Thursday.
Giba later said: “We were advised that when NCOP finalises its work on the Electoral Amendment Bill, the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs will schedule its meeting on the 30th of November and adopt its report on that particular bill”.
The bill – which has to be signed into law by 10 December as per the June ruling of the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) – will also have to be voted and adopted by the National Assembly yet again after dealing with the NCOP amendments.
On Monday, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi asked members of the Select Committee on Security to consider including in the bill a provision for the establishment of a panel of independent experts to investigate the reform of South Africa’s electoral system, which will include a constituency-based system.
This, however, will only happen after the 2024 national elections.
Motsoaledi’s suggestion was based on a legal opinion from advocates, Steven Budlender and Mitchell de Beer.
“We are of the firm view that the new system proposed in the bill should be adopted only for the 2024 elections, and that the bill should specify the creation of a body of experts – broadly representative of society – to undertake a more thorough and long-term investigation into the electoral system, and propose more long-term and larger reforms to the system should they be appropriate,” the legal opinion reads.
Motsoaledi, backed by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) told NCOP that there was “no way under the sun” that the electoral system would be totally reformed before the elections.
He also said it was very unlikely that the ConCourt would agree to a postponement of the elections, but noted that it was up to the NCOP to decide whether to request for an extension or not.
Last week, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula also proposed that either Parliament extends its working programme to finalise any more changes to the bill or proceed with the legislation in its current form.
Several civil society organisations, including Defend Our Democracy and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, have also raised objections over the bill and previously threatened legal action.
The organisations have argued that the bill does not go far enough in allowing for a mixed electoral system, that makes provision for both a single-member constituency and a proportional representation (PR) system in order for voters to hold politicians accountable.
They have argued that the bill was unfair and will put the upcoming elections at risk if it is not changed.
The signature requirement for independent candidates (about 8 800) was one of the contested inclusions by civil society organisations.
According to the bill, independent candidates are required to demonstrate the support of 8 800 voters in order to contest an election, compared with the 1 000 signatures required for political parties.
Independent candidates are also allowed to contest elections in one or more regions for the National Assembly.
But the candidate may only be elected to one seat in the National Assembly and the provincial legislature in the province in which they are registered as a voter.