South Africa

Not time for new constituencies ahead of 2024 elections – IEC

JOHANNESBURG – The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has cautioned that it will not be able to accommodate the establishment of new constituencies for the 2024 national and provincial elections.

However, the Commission has pointed out that it would be able to accommodate proposed changes contained in the current draft legislation before Parliament.

That is if the suggested changes withstand Constitutional muster.

The IEC's Chief Electoral Officer, together with Commissioners Sy Mamabolo and Janet Love addressed a civil society gathering in Braamfontein on Friday.

"The Commission requires a minimum of 18 months to prepare for elections on a finalised electoral system," said Mamabolo.

He was responding to calls from some participants for the establishment of new constituencies that will allow independent candidates to be elected directly by citizens to provincial legislatures and the national assembly.

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In previous elections, political parties have had the final say in who is deployed to the country's legislative bodies.

A June 2020 ruling by the Constitutional Court found that the country's Electoral Act is unconstitutional and gave parliament two years to fix it so as to enable the participation of independent candidates.

In January this year, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi presented an Electoral Amendment Bill to Parliament for consideration.

The bill proposed, among other things, that independent candidates contest for elections together with political parties in a hybrid setting.

IEC Commissioner Mosotho Moepya told Eyewitness News that what is implied in the draft legislation is possible, but they are not certain about whether or not it's constitutional.

Parliament has been given until December 10 to finalise the bill.

The draft legislation has been criticised by some members of civil society who say that it does not facilitate free and fair elections.

Lawson Naidoo from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) said the country needs to adopt a constituency-based system to fairly accommodate independent candidates as is done at local government level.

“The current draft before Parliament, the current bill says that each of the provinces constitutes a constituency pretty much as they do now. The nine provinces have a regional to national ballot and a national to national ballot, it's how we currently choose – that doesn’t change in terms of what is being proposed in the current bill. It merely says independents can contest within the province and will be competing against the resources that big political parties have, that surely is not a level playing field," he said.

The IEC's Moepya has ruled out the possibility of new constituencies being established nationwide ahead of the 2024 elections.

"Let's take it to local government. Vuwani [Vhembe District, Limpopo] burned for two successive elections because people just don't agree on where you draw a boundary line. Now, if you open the whole country to redraw boundary lines – how much time do you need? There isn't enough time. That's the point we are making. In law, there's not even an institution that would be able to do that," he explained.

CASAC's Naidoo agreed that the country will not have new constituencies to fairly accommodate independent candidates in the 2024 elections.

He, however, said it's important for citizens to apply pressure on Parliament so as to ensure that independent candidates are accommodated in elections that will take place after 2024.

Artmotion S.Africa

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