60 days to Concourt's deadline: Public consultation on Electoral Amendment Bill wasn't good enough, civil society tells Parliament

The consultation was rushed, the Bill wasn't clearly explained and doesn't meet constitutional standards for public participation process

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11/04/2022 14:13:49

Public consultation on Electoral Amendment Bill wasn't good enough, civil society tells Parliament 

OUTA, the One South Africa Movement and other civil society organisations have written to Parliament to complain that the public participation process on the Electoral Amendment Bill was flawed and did not meet constitutional standards.

The organisations called on Parliament to explain how it intends to remedy this faulty process.

The letter was sent to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, which deals with election matters.

The Bill is Parliament’s attempt to comply with the Constitutional Court order of June 2020, when the court gave Parliament two years to rewrite the law to enable independent candidates to stand in national and provincial elections.

Despite the June 2020 judgment, the Bill was introduced to Parliament only in January 2022, leaving just six months to process it.

The organisations say the public participation process was flawed because:

  • The Concourt has previously ruled that when managing a public participation process, Parliament must, firstly, provide meaningful opportunities for the public to participate and, secondly, ensure that the public are able to take advantage of those opportunities.

  • In this process, the committee failed to educate the public about the Bill, resulting in the public making comments that had no relevance and misunderstanding what the issues were.

  • The committee failed to give adequate notice to the public of the hearings.

  • The committee failed to give itself enough time to consider the input arising from the public participation, due to Parliament leaving this Bill until the last minute. “Negative inferences can be drawn from the timing of the process, such as that the Committee has already decided on a bill and that this process was merely to rubberstamp that choice; or that Parliament will choose the easiest and simplest bill to meet deadlines,” says the letter.

  • Parliament apparently intends to ask the Concourt for an extension but this was not factored into the public participation process.

  • In the light of the importance of this Bill and its impact on the public, Parliament acted unreasonably by limiting the public participation process.

More information

The letter to the Portfolio Committee is here.

OUTA’s comment to Parliament on the Electoral Amendment Bill is here.

More on OUTA’s campaign for electoral reform is here.

Picture: Flickr/GovernmentZA