South Africa News

Electoral Matters Amendment Bill adopted without any changes as court action looms

The Select Committee on Security and Justice of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has moved to adopt the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill without changes despite fierce criticism.

On Wednesday, the committee gave the controversial bill the greenlight without effecting any amendments following deliberations held a day earlier.

In the meeting, African National Congress (ANC) MPs voted for the adoption of the bill, while the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) rejected the legislation.

The bill, which was referred to the NCOP committee after it was passed by the National Assembly last week, will now head to the upper house for a vote before it goes to President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent.

What is the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill about?

The Electoral Matters Amendment Bill was introduced in December 2023 by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to amend other laws.

This was a result of the Electoral Amendment Act becoming law.

The legislation will see significant amendments to the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) and will, in particular, change the formula of how political parties and independents represented in legislatures receive allocations of state funds.

Under the new formula, 90% of funds will be distributed based on proportional representation, while the remaining 10% will be allocated on an equitable basis.

The bill will further change the R100 000 donation disclosure threshold, which was a requirement under the PPFA.

The draft legislation will also see the removal of annual donation threshold.

A clause in the PPFA had limited the amount a political party can receive from a single donor to R15 million per year.

Additionally, the bill will empower the president to determine the upper limits of how much money political parties and independent candidates may accept as donations.

It will also empower the president to determine the threshold at which parties and independent candidates should declare their donations.

The president, however, will need a National Assembly resolution to change the donation limits or thresholds.

Opposition parties threaten legal action

Some parties have already threatened legal action if the bill is signed into law by Ramaphosa.

IFP MP Narend Singh confirmed in a media briefing on Tuesday that the opposition will challenge the legislation at the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) because it disadvantaged smaller parties.

Singh was flanked by MPs from the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Freedom Front Plus (FF+), the United Democratic Movement (UDM), and GOOD during the media briefing.

Civil society organizations, including My Vote Counts (MVC), wrote to the Select Committee arguing that several of the bill’s proposed amendments were unconstitutional.

“If passed in its current form, amendments the bill makes to the PPFA will weaken transparency and accountability in our party funding legislation.

“While there is a legitimate need to amend certain pieces of legislation to bring independent candidates into the political fold, the attempts to fundamentally alter aspects of the PPFA are opportunistic and make it easier for all political parties to solicit private funding with less public scrutiny,” the organizations’ open letter reads.

In May last year, the MVC took Motsoaledi to court, seeking an order to declare the PPFA unconstitutional and invalid.

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