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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
25 November 2003
ELECTORAL LAWS SECOND AMENDMENT BILL: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Ms L Jacobus (ANC)
Electoral Laws Amendment Act [No. 34 of 2003]
Electoral Laws Act [Act 73 0f 1998]
The Electoral Laws Second Amendment was introduced to allow South Africans to vote in next year's elections if they are temporarily outside the country as long as they are registered on the voters roll and notify the IEC of their intention to vote within 15 days of the election being proclaimed.
Ms Jacobus noted that the Minister had introduced this second amendment Bill. As the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill was already an Act because the President had signed it, further changes had to be in the form of a second amendment bill. The most important amendment was to Clause 33 regarding special votes.
Electoral Laws Second Amendment Bill: briefing
Advocate Rufus Malatji (Chief Director: Legal Services) explained that the main issue had been the question of voters not present within South Africa's borders on Election Day.
- The first amendment in the Bill dealt with the substitution of long title of Act 34 of 2003. There was an amendment from the words 'handicapped people' to voters 'with disabilities' in order to make the wording more sensitive in the Preamble.
- The second amendment dealt with Section 33 of Act 73 1998 regarding voters who were abroad. There was an addition in subsection (1), which allowed for voters abroad to register within 15 days of the announcement of the election date alerting the relevant authorities of their absence thus allowing them to vote outside South African borders. There had to be a reason for the absence such as a holiday, a business trip, the attendance of a tertiary institution and the like. He repeated that citizens who were or would be abroad had to indicate this to the Independent Electoral Commission within 15 days of the election being proclaimed. This meant that South Africans could vote wherever they were.
Ms Jacobus said that it was good to see a concern that they had withdrawn because of lack of time being put back into the legislation. She asked if the Independent Electoral Commission had been canvassed on the change to Section 33 and whether they agreed to it. She also asked if absentee South Africans were only able to cast a national vote.
Dr Nel (NNP) asked if South Africans living abroad were also allowed to vote. It was a resident versus an immigrant debate. He also asked about South Africans delivering a service for the government or specific companies.
Ms E Gouws (DA) commended the Department for including the two issues that the Democratic Alliance had been concerned with. By dealing with people who had disabilities and Section 33, the election was moving in the right direction.
Ms Jacobus pointed out that there was a great deal of opposition from opposition parties to the initial removal of this provision from the first amendment bill.
Advocate Malatji answered that the IEC had been canvassed and that South Africans abroad only had a national vote. He said that all South Africans were allowed to vote as long s they fitted into the conditions outlined and as long as their sojourn overseas was not of a permanent nature. The criteria were very wide so as to allow for the diversity of reasons for one's absence. As long as South Africans were registered and notified the IEC within 15 days that the election was proclaimed they were eligible to vote.
Mr T Matibe (Legal Services) pointed out that there had been a previous amendment covering the issue of government staff abroad.
Ms J Vilakazi (IFP) commended the department for a job well done because this is what opposition parties had been crying for.
Ms Jacobus remarked that the amendment put the onus on the person to tell the IEC that they wanted to vote. The amendments were straightforward and not much deliberation was needed. Procedurally the Committee had to confer with their respective political parties before voting on it on 26 November. The Committee was also asked to go over their Annual Committee Report for 2003 in order to adopt it at that meeting as well
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