Steamrolling through changes to SA’s electoral system an insult to democracy – IRR

Hermann Pretorius |

04 September 2022

Institute writes letter to committee after it gives a 16 September deadline for submissions and comments

Steamrolling through changes to SA’s electoral system an insult to democracy

South Africans have been given a dangerously limited opportunity to comment on the Electoral Amendment Bill, legislation that stands to fundamentally alter how Parliament is elected, says the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

This objection is contained in a formal letter that attorneys acting on behalf of the IRR have addressed to Mr Mosa Steve Chabane MP, chair of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs.

The Committee published a call for submissions and comments on the Bill on 30 August 2022 with a deadline of 16 September 2022. This leaves South Africans wishing to participate in the key constitutional process of public consultation only 18 days to do so.

Such limited, box-ticking stunts by this Committee, or any other, are beneath the dignity and constitutional standing of Parliament and would be absurd with regard to any legislation, but the immense consequences of the Electoral Amendment Bill for the right of South Africans to vote make this truncated exercise of public consultation in name only an insult to democracy.

Says Hermann Pretorius, IRR director of communications: “The legislation under consideration forms part of a constitutional chain of events starting with the Constitutional Court’s 2020 decision that the Electoral Act was unconstitutional for excluding the election of members of Parliament not affiliated with political parties. Parliament was given 24 months to rectify the legislative situation, but when that deadline was missed in June this year, it became clear that Parliament had dragged its feet on this vital matter.


“This was in and of itself a shameful failure of the Committee and of Parliament. The situation has now worsened further with the decision to allow mere days for South Africans to make submissions. This is another failure to take democracy, the voters, and the decisions of our nation’s apex court seriously. Compounding this embarrassing constitutional fumble by Parliament is the fact that the Electoral Amendment Bill is riddled with uncertainties and legislatively fatal constitutional errors.”

Pretorius adds: “South Africans should be under no illusions: this entire process is a shambolic rush job that throws into chaos and doubt the very foundations of our hard-won constitutional democracy. Had Parliament acted responsibly and effectively to adhere to the Constitutional Court’s decision in 2020, we would not be in a situation where this flawed Bill is put to the public in this flawed manner.

“If the Committee and Parliament cannot bring themselves to show South Africans the respect afforded by the need for public input on legislation, one would have hoped they could at least show some respect for the democratic systems of our constitutional settlement. This matter deserved and deserves even now a wide-ranging, honest, transparent, consultative, collaborative, and inclusive approach in which the merits of various systems can be debated and subjected to scrutiny. As this legislative change cuts to the heart of constitutional democracy, the public should have been the prime consideration of Parliament, not a rushed afterthought.

“We call on the Committee and on Parliament to rescue this process before it derails even further. Further constitutional dead-ends and disaster can be averted, and the integrity of our elections preserved, but only if a halt is called to this panicky, ill-considered legislative scramble. If this is too much for South Africans to ask of its elected legislature, at the very least South Africans should be granted a sufficient opportunity to at least try and protect democracy from the incompetence of the parliamentary majority.”


Text of letter: