Proposed Electoral Bill: letters from Minister

Home Affairs

26 February 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

27 February 2001

Chairperson: Mr Mokoena (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
January 24, 2001 letter from Minister to Committee Chair
February 21, 2001 letter from Committee Chair to Minister
February 26, 2001 letter from Minister to Committee Chair
[see Appendix for these letters]

Correspondence between the Minister and the Committee Chair on the proposed Electoral Bill was reviewed. This follows the lapse of the law governing elections. The issue of inclusion of constituency based representation rather than proportional representation was discussed.

The Chairman, Mr Mokoena (ANC), opened the meeting by decrying "the despicable acts undermining our democracy" such as the hijacking that befell committee member Lekgoro (ANC) last weekend in Pretoria.

The session continued with a review of the above-noted correspondence, concerning the Minister's solicitation of participation of the Committee, and its members as individuals, in the task team formulating the proposed Electoral Bill. The Chair noted that this legislation would address the inclusion of "constituency based" Members of Parliament in Parliament, rather than sole reliance on a proportional representation system. It might formalise mechanisms for dealing with the merger of political parties, such as the formation of the Democratic Alliance. He commended the approach of the Minister for input as "progressive", and then opened the floor for discussion.

Mr Waters (DP) noted that the ministerial solicitation may be an effort to overcome the past problems arising between the Committee and the Minister concerning the Immigration Bill, and was to be welcomed.

Mr Skhosana (ANC) also welcomed the overture, but asked whether members must first discuss a formal response with their parties.

Ms Van Wyk (UDM) also noted that input from the Department of Home Affairs on the status of the proposed Electoral Bill would be helpful for any intelligent discussion at party level. She queried how the Committee itself should formally enter the process, adding that task team participation by individuals does not preclude the normal role of the Committee in adopting legislation.

Following up on this point, Mr Swart (ACDP) stated that the task team must brief the Committee so that legislative oversight imperatives can be satisfied, and suggested that participation of individual committee members in the task team could compromise their oversight role.

The Chair observed that there appeared to be a consensus on the Committee's role in the task team process. After confirmation by the respective party caucuses, a response would be directed to the Minister. He noted that formal approval of the response could occur at the next Committee meeting on 13 March, at which time consideration of the pending Immigration Bill and the Committee Programme for 2001 would also occur.

Mr Waters (DP) noted that 35 days of the legislative year had already been "wasted" without Committee consideration of the urgent "skilled migration" matters identified by the President in his Stae of the Nation address on 11 February, as well as many other pending migration matters.

The Chair replied that given the enormity of the tasks, an integrated, comprehensive consideration on 13 March (by which time the ANC position on pending immigration issues would be formulated) will allow these matters to be dealt with appropriately - hopefully by reaching an informed consensus.

Mr Pretorius (NNP) pointed out that prioritizing the Immigration Bill is necessary, and the Chair agreed that the Department must provide input on the status of pending legislation.

Following up after an ANC member's move to adjourn the meeting, Mr Pretorius noted the presence of a high ranking delegation from the Ministry and Department, which had arrived after it had finished its earlier briefing to the NCOP Select Committee on Social Services. Mr Pretorius asked if the Pretoria delegation could briefly bring the Committee up to date on the status of pending legislation and respond to the question of Prince Zulu (IFP) as to whether the recent executive personnel shuffling at the Department had affected work on the Immigration Bill.

The Chair, however, noted that since the delegation had not been scheduled to address the Committee, it was unfair "to dragoon them into speaking". The meeting was adjourned.

24 January 2001

To: Mr AD Mokoena
Chairperson, Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs

From: Dr MG Buthelezi
Minister of Home Affairs

Dear Mr Mokoena


As you know, there is urgent need of preparing a new electoral act in terms of which national and provincial elections may be held, as at present there is no applicable legislation. The drafting of this legislation is both a technical and a policy making exercise which calls for policy choices within the parameters set out in the Constitution. As you know, the Constitution calls for a mixed system which, while accommodating constituencies, ensures an overall proportional outcome.

The policy nature of this piece of legislation requires for it to be driven by the government rather than by an independent and technically orientated institution such as the Independent Electoral Commission. However, the relevant policy formulation exercise should draw on the vast experience and knowledge of the IEC. Within government my department carries the line function responsibility for the drafting of this legislation.

Therefore, it is my intention to begin the process of policy formulation to draft the new Electoral Bill by appointing a task team. Mindful that this Bill also affects the line function of Constitutional Development, I will ensure that the task team includes representatives of that
department, together with those of the IEC. I envisage that the task team should undertake a first stage of information gathering, concomitant with a first stage of public comments and inputs, leading to drafting policy and legislation which can form the basis for a second round of public comments, hearings and scrutiny, leading to the finalisation of a white paper and draft bill to be submitted to a final stage of public comments before its consideration by Cabinet.

Once you have had the opportunity of consulting members of your committee I would like to receive any relevant proposal which your committee may wish to put forward on how it envisages its participation in this process of policy formulation. I am also amenable to considering the participation of some members of your committee or the Justice and Constitutional Development Committee in the task team, serving in their personal capacities in order to respect the separation of powers between parliament and the executive. It is important that we try to move in this process as expeditiously as possible and on the basis of consensus, being always mindful that the drafting of an electoral law is a highly technical and yet highly politically sensitive exercise.

I would appreciate receiving any comments or inputs you wish to make in this respect by no later than February 18, 2001 so that I can approach Cabinet with the final proposal on how the process is to be handled.

I also wish to inform you that I have received numerous requests to introduce the legislation contemplated in Item 13 of Annexure A of Schedule 6 of the Constitution as it relates to Section 23A[4] of the interim Constitution. This item makes provision for national legislation to be adopted "within a reasonable period after the new Constitution took effect" to enable "any existing party to merge with another party, or any party to subdivide into more than one party". This being an interim measure effective until the new electoral law to come into force after the 2004 elections, or earlier in the eventuality of earlier elections, it is extremely urgent for it to be drafted should it be our intention to adopt it. Therefore, it is necessary to shortcut extensive processes of formulation.

Therefore, it is necessary to shortcut extensive processes of formulation. I would like to receive the inputs of your committee in this respect as soon as possible, both in terms of the process and in terms of the merits of this legislation which I would like, if it is to be enacted, to be passed by Parliament this year, subject to Cabinet approval.

Yours sincerely



21 February 2001

To: Dr MG Buthelezi
Minister of Home Affairs

From: Mr AD Mokoena
Chairperson, Home Affairs Portfolio Committee

Dear Dr Buthelezi


Thank you for your letter on the above mentioned subject, dated 24 January 2001.

Unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason, I only received the letter this morning, which goes beyond your deadline for me to respond by 18 February 2001.

However, I will call an emergency Committee meeting for next week 27 February, where I will table the letter and seek a response from the Committee. I will also attach your self-explanatory letter to the notice convening the meeting in order to speed up the process.

Once more I thank you for the good letter. Yours faithfully
A D Mokoena
Chairperson, Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs


26 February 2001

To: Mr AD Mokoena
Chairperson, Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs

From: Dr MG Buthelezi
Minister of Home Affairs

Dear Mr Mokoena

Thank you for your letter of February 21, 2001, which I received only upon my return to my Cape Town office from my trip to the United States, where incidentally I had very successful meetings with the various government agencies dealing with immigration and asylum.

I regret to learn that my letter of January 24, 2001 was received by you only on the 21st for reasons which you correctly style as inexplicable, as such letter was conveyed to your office in the standard fashion. Obviously, we are both victims of our sticking by the old and proven tradition of written correspondence rather than using electronic communications

I appreciate your having called the meeting of your Portfolio Committee as soon as you read my letter. I look forward to receiving the report of the meeting. I will be approaching Cabinet to consolidate the establishment of an inter-departmental task team, also inclusive of the IEC, which will consider and process any input that your committee or the Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development may wish to make in respect of how they intend to contribute to the work of such task team. I will also consider the inputs of your deliberations when I frame the actual terms of reference of such task team, which have not yet been formulated.

The February 18, 2001 deadline mentioned in my letter would have enabled me to consider your inputs before approaching Cabinet. Not having received any input, I have avoided touching upon the issue of the interaction between the task team and the portfolio committees, political parties and other stakeholders, leaving this matter to be fully dealt with by the task team itself within the terms of reference which I will be formulating shortly. Nevertheless I must impress the urgency of this matter.

I hope that your committee may successfully finalise its deliberations on it by March 15, so that the task team may begin its work by April 1, 2001 with a view to completing it within the following twelve months, so that the Electoral Bill can be considered by Cabinet in time for its approval by Parliament by the end of the year 2002.

Yours sincerely,



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