The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) adopted the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill during a special sitting on Thursday.
The bill will enable voters to cast their votes even if their addresses aren’t on the voters’ roll yet. It will also make it illegal for public funds to be used for political campaigning – other than the public funds allocated to a party in terms of the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act.
While there were no parties that voted against the bill, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) didn’t support it and its MPs did not indicate that they abstained.
President Cyril Ramaphosa will now have to sign the bill into law for it to take effect.
Democratic Alliance MP from the North West, Chris Hattingh, proposed a further amendment which would enable the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to have overseas voting stations at any venue it deemed fit – not only at embassies and high commissions.
He said, for instance, the thousands of South Africans living in Perth, Australia would have to travel more than 3 000km to cast their votes in Canberra.
“Is this fair?” he asked.
NCOP chairperson Thandi Modise ruled that Hattingh’s proposed amendments fell outside the scope of the bill and were therefore constitutionally and procedurally out of order. She said it constituted new amendments which were not in the current bill and which did not fall under the purview of the NCOP.
She suggested that he ask his party to introduce a new bill in the National Assembly.
Trying to bring ‘bill through the back door’
ANC MP from the Northern Cape, Dikgang Stock, said there was no rational basis to require voting outside the territory of South Africa. He said in the 2014 election, votes cast overseas amounted to 0.01% of the total votes cast.
He said Hattingh had ample time to engage with the IEC on the matter when the NCOP’s select committee dealing with the bill met with them. However, he did not.
“It looks like the honourable member is in elections mode. He wants to introduce a bill through the back door,” Stock said.
IFP MP from KwaZulu-Natal, Mntomuhle Khawula, welcomed the bill, particularly the provision that state funds could not be used for electioneering purposes. He said it was one of the things the IFP has been “confronting” the IEC about for many years. — News 24