Parliament has filed papers with the Constitutional Court requesting a six-month extension of the deadline for the finalisation of the amendment of the Electoral Act to finalise a law that would allow independent candidates to stand as MPs and MPLs in the national and provincial elections.
This comes after the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the country’s Electoral Act is unconstitutional because it does not allow independent candidates to be elected to the national and provincial legislatures.
The Constitutional Court judgment handed down last June gave Parliament 24 months to come up with legislation allowing independent candidates to contest polls on a national level.
That 24-month period expires on 10 June 2022 for Parliament to make the necessary amendments to the Electoral Act “to remedy the defect giving rise to the unconstitutionality.
The case was brought by the New Nation Movement to the apex court to ask that independent candidates be allowed to stand as lawmakers in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.
While the law currently allows independent candidates to stand as councillors in municipal polls, only political parties can send candidates to the national assembly and provinces.
Parliament said given the significance of the Bill and the required public participation process, it has since become apparent that it will not be in a position to pass an amendment to the Electoral Act before the June deadline.
“The Bill was only introduced to the National Assembly on 10 January 2022 – leaving Parliament with only five months to process a Bill of such public significance and interest.”
Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo approached the apex court to seek an extension in order to enable Parliament to properly deliberate on the Bill and allow independent candidates to share their views.
“This Bill is amending the electoral system and therefore its enactment involves complex policy issues which impact on all adult citizens.”
Parliament said a number of other laws, other than the Electoral Act, may also need to be amended.
The new law must be in place in time for the 2024 elections.