DA to petition president on rights of voters abroad

POLITICS

On Thursday January 10, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill and it will now be referred to the president for assent, after which it will become law.

The Democratic Alliance proposed two amendments to the Bill:

  • First, to provide increased powers for the Independent Electoral Commission to increase the number of suitable voting venues abroad, which would allow South Africans there to vote at any suitable venue. The Bill, as it stands, limits the voting stations available to the South African diaspora to embassies, high commissions or consulates; and
  • Second, to allow one form of identification to be produced by South Africans abroad, instead of two forms of identification, which the Bill currently requires.

After submitting our proposed amendments to the secretary and the chairperson of the NCOP, they were added to the order paper for the day, which should have allowed for the full sitting of members to consider the material substance of such proposals during the plenary.

Unfortunately, during the sitting, NCOP chairperson Thandi Modise ruled that she would refuse to allow the proposed amendments to be considered by the members present for procedural reasons. Her reasoning for this decision was that the proposed amendments should have been introduced when the Bill was being considered in the National Assembly, because they did not pertain to the original amendments being considered in the Bill, and that the Bill was tagged as a Section 75 Bill, which does not affect provinces. Modise, in her conclusion, declared that the DA’s proposed amendments amounted to a new Bill and, if the amendments were to be allowed, it could possibly render the Bill before the council both constitutionally and procedurally out of order.

The DA considers her ruling on the matter as being both a flawed and narrow interpretation of the rules of the NCOP and the Constitution.

Furthermore, the DA is of the opinion that Modise violated the constitutional rights of all South Africans abroad by refusing to allow our proposed amendments to the Bill to be considered.

The Bill, in its current form, places an undue burden on South Africans abroad and would limit their ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote. South Africans living far away from political capitals in which consulates and embassies are situated will be especially affected.

The DA’s proposed amendments would have ensured that the vast and diverse diaspora of South Africans would be able to exercise their democratic right to vote without additional bureaucratic requirements.

Modise’s interpretation of the rules of procedure in the NCOP was not only disingenuous, but also procedurally incorrect. Her finding will make voting inaccessible to thousands.

The DA has written a petition to the president asking that he consider remitting the Bill back to Parliament based on procedural irregularities.

This petition is premised on the simple fact in law that, regardless of Modise’s interpretation of the rules, the NCOP has the constitutional power to consider, pass, propose amendments to or reject section 75 Bills, as stated in Section 68 of the Constitution.

The chairperson further violated the procedures and rules of the NCOP by denying the DA’s proposed amendments for consideration by the council, as concerned by Rule 212.

Any further action to sign this Bill into law without it first being referred back to Parliament for the proposed amendments to be considered would amount to an abuse of process, and a violation of members’ rights to propose amendments to section 75 Bills in terms of the Constitution.

Cathy Labuschagne is the leader of the DA in the NCOP

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

LIVESTREAM: Ramaphosa addresses a locked down nation

President Cyril Ramaphosa is scheduled to address the nation on the measures currently being undertaken to contain the coronavirus pandemic

The rule of law in times of crisis: Covid-19 and...

Under a state of national disaster, some rights may be suspended. But it is critical to remember that the Constitution itself is not suspended

Test backlog skews SA’s corona stats

With thousands of samples still waiting to be processed, labs are racing to ramp up testing to help the government gain a better idea of how prevalent Covid-19 really is

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories