Independent candidates seeking to contest the 2024 general elections will need to garner just more than 12,000 voter signatures to be eligible.
At the moment a political party requires 1,000 signatures in order to register with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).
Independent candidates will also be expected to pay deposits. The amount is yet to be determined by IEC.
This was decided by Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee on Thursday after the chief whips of political parties consulted their constituencies.
Previously, the committee’s seat-allocation recommendation was 50% of the quota, but it has now resolved that it must be 30%.
There were 17.5 million people who voted in the 2019 elections. If you divide that by the seats in the National Assembly (400), you get 43,500 a seat.
To stand as an independent you need 30% of the 43,500, which equates to more than 12,000 signatures.
However, the IEC and opposition parties recommended 10% to 30% of the quota. Despite this, the founder of the Independent Candidates Association (ICA), Micheal Louis, told Daily Maverick the recommendation was still far too high.
“We believe it is too high and can be constitutionally challenged as the barrier to entry is too high.”
ANC MP Brandon Pillay said the party had reached consensus and resolved that it was important that the number of signatures be lowered for the purposes of inclusion. However, he cautioned against the number being too low.
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The DA’s Adrian Ross said the party’s view was that the 20% proposal by the state’s adviser was the way to go.
The IFP’s Liezel van der Merwe argued that the initial 50% would impede the participation of independent candidates. Her party would have preferred 10% to 15% because it was more inclusive, but was happy to settle for the proposed 20%.
The changes come against a backdrop of poor voter turnout at the past two elections. In the November 2021 local government poll, millions of eligible voters stayed away.
Less than half of the 26 million registered voters showed up on election day, while another 12 million eligible citizens never bothered to register to vote. This means that of the 38 million people who were eligible to vote in 2021, about 26 million (68%) didn’t.
Committee chairperson Mosa Chabana said its members had solicited the views following which it was clearer that the majority rules:
“We will stand at 30% and that will be the view carried out by the committee.”
The committee is scheduled to sit again on 10 August 2022 and discuss whether independent candidates should be allowed to contest more than one region for a seat in the National Assembly, as MPs appeared to be at loggerheads about this on Friday.
Van der Merwe cautioned the committee against taking a rash decision which would possibly see parliament face litigation ahead of the elections.
“One of our concerns is that we want to protect this process against possible litigation, because if possible litigation happens, it will really put the 2024 elections at great risk and so when the parliamentary adviser tells us that the option that we are taking as a committee is restrictive in nature and that maybe we should err on the side of caution, I really think as a committee we should take it seriously.
“Our job is not to be less inclusive or less restrictive, but to make sure that we allow independent candidates to compete fairly,” said van der Merwe.
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Parliament has been racing to finalise the details for the new electoral dispensation following a landmark ruling two years ago that independent candidates could participate in provincial and national elections. The court gave Parliament two years to effect the necessary changes.
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