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MPs want workshop on bill providing for independents to stand for elections in Parliament

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MPs have asked that they be given an opportunity to engage with the documents and then engage each other on issues raised in the presentations.

The home affairs portfolio committee has decided to organise a workshop to consider matters related to the Electoral Amendment Bil. File picture

CAPE TOWN – The home affairs portfolio committee has decided to organise a workshop to consider matters related to the Electoral Amendment Bill, which provides for independent candidates to stand for elections in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

This came after the committee was briefed on some of the bill’s terms and clauses by the parliamentary legal services, state law advisor and the Independent Electoral Commission.

The clauses related to, among other things, the definition of “region” to be sufficiently clear as compared to a province, redefining the party liaison committees and independent candidates not being required to be ordinarily resident in the region in which they are registered to stand in an election.

The MPs were also briefed on whether there should be signature requirements for independents as compared to none for party candidates as well as whether deposits should be the same as those for parties, given that independents only qualify for one seat.

They also pondered whether the requirement for a member of a political party for three months prior to running as an independent should be increased or reduced.

ANC MP Tidimalo Innocentia Legwase was the first to moot a day-long workshop with the IEC on the presentations.

Legwase asked that they be given an opportunity to engage with the documents and then with each other on issues raised in the presentations.

Her colleague Brandon Pillay shared his sentiments, saying there was quite a lot of information to absorb.

“We listened to the presentations from IEC and parliamentary legal services. It makes you start looking at things differently compared to what we discussed and heard,” Pillay said.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he agreed with Legwase that perhaps the committee might need a one-day workshop and not just listen to the input and responses but engage in a question and answer session.

He said the planned workshop should be similar to the one where they made presentations of the departmental documents to all political parties.

“I would really ask for that,” he said, adding that the MPs should note the areas where there was agreement on issues.

Electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said some of the points on the table would require that they get into detail, and hence the IEC supported the proposed workshop.

“We can’t achieve a lot by trying to explain here and now. We rather defer matters to that engagement which we hope the committee can arrange,” Mamabolo said.

Committee chairperson Mosa Chabane said they would set up another opportunity for the members.

“That workshop, if we consider it, must not start discussions afresh,” Chabane said.

“We must isolate issues that will need further consideration with IEC on technical matters that the committee may need further discussion on. That workshop will refine issues that the committee may need proper or sufficient clarity on,” he added.

Briefing the committee earlier, parliamentary legal advisor Siviwe Njikela told the MPs about the six-month extension granted by the Constitutional Court to finalise the bill after it received court papers and written submissions.

Njikela said the extension, which runs until December 10, would allow Parliament to consider the bill, and if there were comebacks, it would have sufficient time to attend to them.

“It is now up to Parliament to deal with the matter within the time that has been granted by the Constitutional Court,” he said.

The committee plans to finalise the bill and adopt the report next week before the new legislation is sent to the national Council of Provinces for processing.

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