Electoral Laws Amendment Bill: IEC response to written submissions; with Deputy Minister (postponed)

NCOP Security and Justice

10 February 2021
Chairperson: Ms S Shaikh (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee held a virtual meeting to discuss the responses by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the written public submissions on the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill [B22B-2020].

Members noted the late submission of information from the IEC to sufficiently go through the report to have a meaningful engagement.

Concern was also raised on the discrepancies between the documentation collated by Parliament against the documentation received from the IEC. Members requested parliamentary and IEC officials to administratively clean the documentation to address the discrepancies and present it to the Committee at a later stage.

It was proposed to reconvene the meeting next Friday so that Members have sufficient time to read through the documentation and engage with all the information available.

Meeting report

Introductory comments

The Chairperson noted the presence of Members in attendance.

Mr K Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape) is standing in for Ms M Bartlett (ANC, Northern Cape), who has sent apologies as she is attending a funeral.

She welcomed Mr Njabulo Nzuza, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, and members of the Independent Electoral Commission (the IEC), Ms Janet Love, the Vice Chairperson, and Mr Glen Mashinini, the Chairperson of the IEC. She noted the presence of Adv Pansy Tlakula, the Chairperson of the Information Regulator of South Africa, and the Parliamentary Legal Advisors in attendance.

The Chairperson thanked the Members and the representatives of the various structures for their presence in this virtual meeting. This is an indication of Members’ commitment to processing this Bill.  

She asked if there are any other apologies from Members.

Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) responded that he will withdraw from the meeting at 12h00 to attend another Committee meeting.

Mr K Mmoiemang responded that he would leave at 11h30 to prepare for the same meeting as Mr Dangor.  

The Chairperson noted Mr Dangor and Mr Mmoiemang’s apologies.

Deputy Minister Nzuza registered an apology from the Minister as he has Cabinet commitments that he must attend to.

The Chairperson noted the apologies.

Before commencing the meeting, the Chairperson requested to have a moment of silence in memory of Mr S Mfayela (IFP, KZN) who sadly died during the parliamentary recess period. She prayed that his soul rest in perfect peace and noted that the Committee has expressed its condolences to Mr Mfayela’s family and friends at the time of his death.

The Chairperson noted the meeting was scheduled to look into the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill. She emphasised that this is quite an urgent Bill and apologised for the late submission of the information required for the meeting.

She noted that she received a few complaints as Members were unable to go through the documentation in time to have a meaningful engagement.

The Chairperson alerted Members to the briefing on the Bill by the IEC on 8 December 2020. Following this, the Committee advertised the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill from the 14 to 29 January 2021 in national and regional newspapers for public comment. The Committee expected the collation of submissions by the first week of February. The IEC also indicated to the Committee that it would be able to complete its responses in that time. This is all in urgency of the Bill.

She explained that she received the information from the IEC on Monday, 8 February 2021 and extended her apologies for the lateness of the submission of information to Members.  

The Chairperson noted her concern regarding the discrepancy between the information in the documentation that she sent out to Members collated by Parliament and the document she received from the IEC. “There seems to be a bit of a discrepancy in terms of numbers”.

She emphasised that as Parliament, the Committee is a custodian of public submissions. It is important to maintain a process of quality assurance on the submissions that the Committee receives, including the responses from the IEC. This is an administrative process that must be rectified so that the information the Committee receives is complete. This has procedural and potentially substantive implications.

She proposed that the Committee receive a briefing from the Content Advisor on the submissions that it received as Parliament from the public. She asked Members to give an indication of support for this suggestion so that this process can be taken forward.

Responses by the Committee

Ms Z Ncitha (ANC, Eastern Cape) agreed that the Committee received the information a bite late and that there were discrepancies between the documents. She noted that the Committee is indeed custodians of these policies and that it is unfortunate that it is the Committee that must present documentation that is in question.

She proposed that the Committee ask the Content Advisor to “clean the documentation” and to come back at a time that would allow Members to look at the documents and contribute positively or negatively on the contents of the document.

Ms N Nkosi (ANC, Mpumalanga) noted the Chairperson’s presentation and supported the proposal that the Committee receives a briefing. She suggested that after the Committee receives the presentation, it must allow the officials to go back and address the discrepancies in the document.

Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) supported Ms Ncitha’s proposal for the Committee to receive an opportunity to prepare adequately. He acknowledged the urgency and timeline on this matter and noted that it is important to firstly start the year properly and secondly to ensure that it is a very impactful piece of legislation.

He seconded the proposal that the Committee must be empowered to be properly informed and have the correct information without any discrepancies so that it can move forward. Even if it takes a bit longer, it is important that the Committee does a proper job.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN) supported the two previous suggestions by Ms Nkosi and Mr Michalakis. This is an important piece of legislation and the Committee must be given a chance to engage, and not only listen to the presentation, to do justice on it. This is so that it can engage in the document on an informed basis.

The Chairperson noted that since most Members are in agreement, the Committee should allow the officials of Parliament and in the IEC to go and administratively clean up the document, notwithstanding the fact that this piece of legislation is urgent.

She agreed with the proposals on the need for Members to sufficiently prepare so that they can engage on an informed level. She noted that Members are always given sufficient time to go through the documentation.

She proposed that the IEC and the parliamentary officials relook at the data that has been captured to ensure that Parliament and the IEC are on the same page on these matters.

She requested the IEC to provide the Committee with a final document by Friday, 12 February 2021, so that Members can prepare sufficiently.

The Chairperson noted that tomorrow will be the State of the Nation Address (the SONA) and that the Committee will be busy with SONA debates next week. She explained that an application must be submitted to hold a meeting next week Friday as this might be the only available day next week for the Committee to try and meet on this matter. She anticipates that this will give Members enough time to sufficiently go through the documentation and the information.

She asked Members if they supported this proposal.

Various Members spontaneously gave their approval.

Mr T Dodovu (ANC, North West) emphasised the Chairperson’s point on the urgency of this matter and the need to attach serious urgency. “The Committee is very lenient to those giving it the information that is imbalanced, improper, and that is not okay in all respects”. This must be corrected so that when the Committee engages on the issues, it can engage with all the information that is available.

The point of emphasis is that the Committee must attach urgency to this matter, expedite the process, and conclude it. All those involved must realise the importance of expediting the process

The Chairperson thanked Mr Dodovu.

The Chairperson noted that the complete documentation will be forwarded to Members once the Committee receives the complete documentation from the IEC and that Members will be engaged further on this matter.

She noted Adv Tlakula’s hand is raised and proposed to engage outside of this meeting.

She concluded the meeting and noted that Members will receive documentation as soon as possible. Members will be informed with urgency on the next meeting. She expected Members to prepare so that the Committee can address the issue with urgency.

The Chairperson thanked the Members for their attendance and closed the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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