Attending last month’s urgent Constitutional Court challenge to the Electoral Amendment Bill was, for all intents and purposes, likely to be the last leg of an almost decade-long legal battle to open the doors of Parliament to every South African wishing to represent their people.
As a princess of the Koranna Royal Household, an official Royal Priesthood of the Khoi and San First Nations people, I acutely appreciate the need for political representation of all cultures, religions, tribes and traditions in our lawmaking institutions. The San First Nations people have been largely missing from public discourse in South Africa, which has only worsened as the years have lapsed.
Almost 10 years ago, I was approached by the Khoisan Kingdom and the subsequent All People’s Party to be their president. At the time I was already active as a Khoi leader and served on the National Khoi and San groupings, having done so for over 30 years.
I decided in 2014 that the surest way to represent the interests, needs and concerns of my people was to run for election to be a Member of Parliament. Unfortunately, due to extraneous factors, the political party route has not materialised. Therefore, I decided to explore how best to run as an independent candidate representing our national Khoi and San groupings.
To this end, my litigation history started in 2019 when I was the second applicant in the Constitutional Court challenge of New Nation Movement vs The President of South Africa, challenging the then Electoral Act which did not make provision for independent candidates to stand for national or provincial elections. This judicial challenge ended in a successful judgment in our favour on 11 June 2020. Parliament was given two years by the court to remedy the Electoral Act.
Another two very frustrating years followed, with affidavits lodged in the National Assembly and the NCOP and a petition to the President, documenting my concerns with the Electoral Amendment Bill that government introduced and Parliament had rubber-stamped.
The chief concern relates to the number of signatures required for an individual to stand for public office. It is currently set at 10,000 for an independent candidate – 10 times higher than the 1,000 signatures required for a political party.
Quick maths shows that if I have to take an average of five minutes per signature (which is modest considering that one needs to ensure the person is registered to vote, obtain a name, identity number and signature) it would take more than 100 eight-hour working days for me to gather all 10,000 signatures.
By saddling an individual with obtaining more than 500 pages with 20 signatures on each page, the current law places a prejudicial barrier that flies in the face of the constitutional provision that all citizens have equal rights and equal protection before the law.
My second concern relates to the time of the process. The prescribed forms have not been published yet, which means a candidate cannot begin to obtain signatures.
Due to financial constraints, at this point I intend to contest the elections only in the Western Cape region and according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) website I still require 10,000 signatures in the Western Cape alone before I’m eligible to stand for public office.
The onerous legislative requirement of signatures can prevent me and others from exercising our political rights. Moreover, the condition is geared at either a wealthy person who can employ teams to assist in gathering signatures or a public figure with a large public profile.
As someone who is financially dependent on my husband, and without a large profile, once again I believe the people who I represent are prejudiced.
The season is ripe for a more vibrant and participatory democracy and this requires an Electoral Act that encourages and attracts new faces and new voices of individuals who want to add value to the rich fabric of our beloved country.
I remain hopeful that the Constitutional Court has heard the voices of individuals who are called to serve and that justice will prevail. It is our last chance to fix it. DM