South Africa

PARLIAMENT

ANC, EFF carry electoral amendments, slamming civil society push for greater reform

ANC, EFF carry electoral amendments, slamming civil society push for greater reform
Illustrative image | Sources: Aisha Abdool Karim

After the EFF described civil society as ‘stooges and puppets’ and the governing ANC delivered a dose of historical revisionism, the Electoral Amendment Bill was passed by the House of Assembly on Thursday, with 232 votes for, 98 against and three abstentions.

Before Thursday’s parliamentary vote on the Electoral Amendment Bill to bring independents into national and provincial elections, civil society organisations wrote to MPs to reject it over inadequate consultations, bizarre measures like pre-context support thresholds and failure to fully reform the electoral system. 

The letter was from a group of NGOs, including Defend Our Democracy, My Vote Counts, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Rivonia Circle and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. 

That letter, and the civil society initiative for greater electoral reform to include constituencies for greater accountability and public trust, became an EFF and ANC talking point during the debate in the virtual meeting of the House. 

“There is a growing and unacceptable tendency from stooges of the domestic and international white capitalist establishment to undermine, denigrate and look down on members of Parliament. It is our constitutional right as parliamentarians to make the laws,” said EFF MP Thapelo Mogale. “We reject with contempt these nonsensical letters sent by organisations of stooges and puppets.”  

Just before Thursday’s debate and vote in the House, the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, Pemmy Majodina, issued a statement tackling civil society concerns.

“It behoves us to remind the media and civil society groups seeking to impose sweeping changes to our electoral laws that the Constitutional Court made no ruling on the direct election of the president or members of the executive. The court also did not direct Parliament on an electoral system to be enacted.” 

Later in the House, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi reiterated this: “The Constitutional Court did not make any finding as to which electoral system is better than the other or as to which one presents the better outcomes and accountability to the electorate, than the other.” 


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Countrywide public hearings

ANC MP Brandon Pillay used his eight minutes of speaking time to hammer home that countrywide public hearings had fulfilled the consultation requirement, and how opposition and civil society were wrong in talking about minority and majority reports. 

“It is simply not true we have failed on our duty for the citizens of the country to participate [in public hearings],” said Pillay. 

“It’s simply not true for some elements in civil society to spread stories about the [ministerial advisory] committee being divided, and that there was a majority and minority view.” 

He tried to swat away opposition calls to finally implement the constituency-based electoral reform suggested not only by the 2017 report of the independent assessment panel chaired by ex-president Kgalema Motlanthe but also the 2003 report of the Van Zyl Slabbert electoral task team, insisting: “it never materialised”. 

But just because the Thabo Mbeki administration let it gather dust, does not mean it didn’t materialise. 

With a simple Google search, the ANC MP would have found the Van Zyl Slabbert report. And he would also have found the Home Affairs ministerial advisory committee report talking about minority and majority options.  

That ministerial advisory committee report of 9 June 2021 — it was submitted to Parliament with the draft bill in late November 2021 — is clear how it “could not reach a consensus on a single option, but succeeded to narrow down the options to a fairly stark choice on a minority and majority split of 3:4 of the committee members”.  

It talked of “Option One (minority report)”, or minimalist changes to accommodate independents in national and provincial elections, and “Option Two (majority report)”, or broader electoral reform to include directly elected constituencies.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Snail’s pace to electoral amendments while IEC commissioner vacancy remains unfilled” 

In the countrywide public hearings, some of which Pillay chaired, it seemed the ANC got its supporters, most of whom self-identified as belonging to ANC branch so-and-so, to speak in support of Option One, seemingly talking from the same script.  

This all is part and parcel of the politicking — and misdirection — around the inclusion of independent candidates in national and provincial elections as the Constitutional Court ordered in June 2020. 

The draft legislation going for minimalist changes followed several months of discussions and workshops within the governing ANC, according to Business Day in mid-September 2021. 

Throughout, Parliament’s Home Affairs had not moved on Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota’s Private Member’s Bill proposing electoral reform for a mixed constituency and proportional representation. 

That treading water ended only when the home affairs minister in late November 2021 finally submitted a (badly drafted) bill, some 18 months into the 24-month period the Constitutional Court gave Parliament in June 2020 to allow independents to contest national and provincial elections. Ultimately, Parliament had to ask the Constitutional Court for more time — 10 December is the new deadline.  

Political brick wall

On Thursday, the line of march was clear in the National Assembly programming committee meeting just hours before the National Assembly proceedings scheduled for a few hours later. 

IFP Chief Whip Narend Singh ran into a political brick wall when he raised concerns over how the Electoral Amendment Bill was processed, including a lack of “proper consideration”, and said the Constitutional Court should be asked for another extension. 

“We’ll be seen as a rogue Parliament that at the 11th hour we want to derail this process. We are at the stage now to pass the bill,” said Majodina. “It is too late for this concern, tata.” 

The parliamentary counsellor for Deputy President David “DD” Mabuza, ANC MP Hope Papo agreed.

“We must not allow a situation where elections are delayed,” said Papo. 

In the later debate, Motsoaledi expressed similar views. 

“As we all know, the 2024 elections simply cannot be postponed. The Constitutional Court made it clear that even the Covid-19 pandemic was not a justification to postpone the 2021 local government elections,” said Motsoaledi. 

The Electoral Commission of South Africa is on public record that it needs about two years to prepare for polls. Already it’s tight, as the 2024 elections must be held by no later than 7 August that year. 

Now that the Electoral Amendment Bill has passed through the National Assembly, it goes to the National Council of Provinces, which must adopt it by 10 December. 

But the possibility of legal action over this bill, described as a dog’s breakfast by critics, was again raised on Thursday — both inside and outside the House. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Weekly challenge: See if you can find an EFF comment includimg none of the words “white”, “racist” or “imperialist” in it. 😀

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    It appears that the EFF and ANC forget that civil society is made up of voters, the people who pay their salaries. to use “white Capital” to justify oneself is wearing so thin now political parties using it should come up with something else. remember the company that came up with white capitalism is gone forever.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    The sad thing is that most EFF and ANC Parliamentarians lack the intellectual capacity to understand the implications of the bill.
    Nothing racist anti west anti capitalist rhetoric is simply pathetic. South Africans deserve better.

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    EFF MP Mr Mogale must carefully think about what he said. It takes a stooge to try and recognise one. His status as MP is also the result of a not so insignificant number of stooges. That is the beauty of freedom of speech (while it still exisits). Stooges announce themselves.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I think that with this the veil has fallen off the intent of both the EFF and ANC about their role in parliament. They have no intention of representing the voters, as the Constitutional Court has said is what their responsibilities as public representatives are. But it already showed in the public consultation meetings where it was clear that all ANC supporters virtually had identical submissions, and so did the EFF. And both sets of submissions did not have the interest of the voters in mind, but that of the politicians.

    • Patterson Alan John says:

      Quite right.
      The EFF and ANC express similar sentiments – we run the show!
      As was said by Roelf, these Parliamentarians were elected (horror of horrors) by citizens of the country, but these utterances completely overlook the fact that Parliament is there to represent the broad interests of the citizens, irrespective of Party affiliations.
      One can just imagine the consequences of not having a free press, opposition parties and civil organisations who hold these characters to account.
      What has been said in the past few days, is indicative of where SA is being taken. If anyone thinks the situation today is bleak, I shudder to cast my imagination just ten years into the future.

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