The Committee convened virtually to consider and adopt the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill and its report on the Bill. The Bill was adopted without the support of the DA and EFF.
The Committee received a report on the NCOP proposed amendments to the Bill. The amendments proposed included revisions to Section 16 of the Electoral Act 1998 and Section 5 of Act 34 of 2003. One of the amendments proposed by the NCOP is the protection of personal information, with recommendation that some of the digits of identification numbers will be redacted in the voters’ roll made available to political parties and independent candidates.
The Chairperson welcomed Committee Members to the virtual meeting and highlighted the agenda for the meeting. Apologies were noted of the Minister and Deputy Minister, Committee Members absent and some experiencing load shedding.
He requested that the only item be discussed is the consideration, adoption of the report and finalisation of the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.
The agenda was adopted by Members.
Finalisation of the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill
Ms Sueanne Isaac, parliamentary legal advisor, presented the list of amendments according to the C-list format.
-The first amendment made on page 4, in line 43, to omit paragraph (a) and to substitute with the following paragraph:
‘‘(a) by the substitution for subsection (2) of the following subsection:
The chief electoral officer must provide a certified copy of, or extract from, a segment of the voters’ roll as it exists at that time, to any person who has paid the prescribed fee, if the chief electoral officer is satisfied that—
(a) the person requires that information—
(i) to monitor the voters’ roll for election purposes;
(ii) for statistical or research purposes; or
(iii) any other purpose that is prescribed; and
(b) providing that information would not involve the unlawful processing of personal information in terms of the Protection of Personal Act, 2013 (Act No. 4 of 2013).’’
-The second amendment made is to insert a new section that creates a criminal offence for anyone who unlawfully uses the information from the voters’ roll.
On page 4, after line 43, to insert the following paragraph:
‘‘(b) by the insertion after subsection (2) of the following subsection:
‘‘(2A) Any person who uses the information obtained under subsection (2), for a purpose other than that specified in that subsection, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both a fine and such imprisonment.’’
-Amendment three is made on page 4, in line 45, to omit subsection (3) and to substitute with the following sub section:
‘‘(3) Notwithstanding subsection (2), the chief electoral officer must, on payment of the prescribed fee, provide copies of the voter’s roll, or a segment thereof, which includes the addresses of voters, where such addresses are available, to [all] a registered [political parties] party and an independent candidate contesting the elections.’
-Amendment four is made on page 4, in line 51, to omit subsection (4) and to substitute with the following sub section:
‘‘(4) The [voters’ roll with addresses referred to in] information obtained in terms of subsection (3) may only be used by [political parties] a registered party and an independent candidate for election purposes and any person using such information for other purposes guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both a fine and such imprisonment.’’
This section exists in the Act; it is just to include independent candidates.
-Amendment five is made on page 5, in line 4, to omit subsection (5) and to substitute with the following subsection:
‘‘(5) For the purposes of subsection (2) and (3), the chief electoral officer may only provide the digits of the identity numbers of voters, which indicate the voters’ date of birth and citizenship, except where the person who requires the information satisfies the chief electoral officer that—
(a) exceptional circumstances require that additional digits of the voter’s identity number be disclosed; and
(b) providing that information would not involve the unlawful processing of personal information in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (Act No. 4 of 2013).’’
Clause 20 stipulates the voting procedure and deals with voters that do not have addresses. The amendment was made on page 8, in line 27, after ‘‘procedure’’ to insert , “which must accord with the provisions of this section.’’
Ms Isaac said the D version of the Bill was passed by the Committee except for two amendments in clause 8 and clause 20. The amendments in Clause 8 accords with the amendments made in the C-list. The amendment in clause 20, in the first line number 7,” after “procedure’’ to insert ‘‘, which must accord with the provisions of this section.’’
The amendments made in clause 8 is summarised on page 11 in the memo. Clause 8: amends section 16 of the Electoral Act by authorising the chief electoral officer to provide certified copies, extracts or segments of the voters’ roll to any person who has paid the prescribed fee subject to certain conditions and the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (Act No. 4 of 2013). Further, the chief electoral officer, on payment of a fee, must provide copies of the voters’ roll or segments thereof to registered parties and independent candidates. The chief electoral officer may only provide certain digits of the identity numbers in the voters’ roll.
Mr A Roos (DA) said it is a wonderful process to pass a piece of legislation through public participation and the relevant stakeholders finding each other. It is important to remember the purpose of this Bill, which is for free and fair elections. There was limited time to further consult on the amendments, but the party agrees on the protection of personal information. There is a concern whether political parties can handle the data in a correct way. The data must only be used for electoral purposes. The clause is specific to say that if political parties or independent candidates abuse the data, it will lead to a criminal offence.
A workshop is needed to collaborate on different perspectives on how data should be managed. To take certain digits away from the ID number, and not to work with the full ID number can lead to voter registration fraud.
To resolve the issue of fraud, an amendment should be made to amendment five in clause 8. The word “and” should be removed between the subsections (2) and (3). It should read as, “for the purposes of subsection (2), the chief electoral officer may only provide the digits of the identity numbers of voters.”
This will result in political parties and independent candidates contesting the elections, having access to the full voters’ roll, including ID numbers. Political parties and independent candidates will not be allowed to make this data available publicly. The DA objects to the amendments made and will submit a plan on how the data and information should be managed and protected.
Mr K Pillay (ANC) said the amendments are welcomed and supported. He highlighted the fact that discussions were held, and recommendations were made to take into consideration at provincial level. This meeting should not cause any delays further and should proceed to the finalisation of the Bill.
Ms M Molekwa (ANC) agreed with the amendments made.
Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) said it is important to have free and fair elections and agreed with Mr Roos on the contesting of elections by political parties and independent candidates. Elections will not be free and fair if some of the digits in the ID numbers are taken out. Political parties should have access to the full voters’ roll and the full ID number.
The Chairperson responded to say that this matter was discussed on Tuesday and requested that Mr Tshwaku should indicate if he supports the amendments or not.
Mr Tshwaku indicated that he is not in support of the amendments and that political parties should have access to all information.
Ms M Modise (ANC) was satisfied with the amendments on privacy and the protection of the information.
Mr R Dyantyi (ANC) was in support of the Bill.
The Chairperson said that majority of the Committee Members agreeed with the amendments presented and supported the Bill. The Committee report is considered, the Bill adopted and it will be taken to the National Assembly.
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