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HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
8 September 1999
ELECTORAL ACT; IMPLEMENTATION OF TRANSFORMATION POLICY: BRIEFING
Professor M Mchunu of the IEC advised the Committee of the need to revisit the Electoral Act. He said problems like the registration of the political parties, the definition of "ordinarily resident" and changing of addresses by the voters have to be ironed out in preparing for the Local Government elections next year. The acting Director General of the Department of Home Affairs briefed the Committee on the implementation of the transformation policies by the Department. He said the first HANIS cards would be available in the first half of 2001. He allayed the fears of Black couples married before 1990 by saying that their marriages were recognised and valid. He invited the affected couples to come forward with their marriage certificates and IDs so that the marriage details can be computerised.
Chairperson Ms Z Capa (ANC) informed the committee that the Minister would be attending the meeting together with some officials from the Department of Home Affairs.
Professor M Mchunu of the IEC Mchunu voiced his concerns on the closeness of the Local Government elections in November 2000, which meant that preparations have to start as soon as possible. He referred to the run up to the June 1999 national elections, which was characterised by litigation due to the uncertainties in the Electoral Act. He said the Act was put into effect quickly and so those unclear issues now need to be clarified.
Aspects of the Act needing to be attended to are:
- Meaning of "qualify to vote".
- Registration of political parties.
- One voting station per voting district.
Professor Mchunu said the issue came up during the preparations to the June elections but it luckily it was not taken to court.
The question of which authority must register political parties and the question of payment of registration fees have to be determined.
A framework does exist but in practice this may differ so a plan has to be formulated.
d. Use of Special Votes, Tendered Ballots and Declaration Votes.
It has to be determined whether these issues need to be tightened up.
- Meaning of "ordinarily resident".
- Changing of addresses by voters.
- Some technical points.
It has to be determined who would be responsible for keeping the voters' roll up to date.
Professor Mchunu expressed concern that the Constitution is not specific about the exact detail of the Electoral System. He said that was needed soon. The Referendum Act would also be needed. He warned that the Local Government elections may be more complex than the National elections and so he suggested a formation of a task team to harmonise issues. He ended by informing the Committee that the IEC has to submit a report on the elections. He challenged the Committee to state what it would like the IEC to put into the report.
Mr M Moss (ANC) said the report that Professor Mchunu is talking about is long overdue. He said the Committee would like to have it as soon as possible.
Mr M Skhosana (ANC) commended Professor Mchunu at length for the IEC's performance during the June elections.
Mr S Pillay (DP) appreciated the Professor's input in the meeting especially with regard to the report to be submitted. "I would like the complaints received at the various polling stations to be includedâ€¦" suggested Mr Pillay.
Ms G Borman (DP) also commended Professor Mchunu and said she was happy that the problematic question of "ordinarily resident" would be addressed.
Mr M Sigwela (ANC) suggested that the report highlight the mapping of the terrain in the rural areas because some potential voters during the June elections could not reach the voting stations. Ms C Gcina (ANC) concurred.
In his response Professor Mchunu said that he feels the IEC should not draft a report "away from the Portfolio Committee". The Portfolio Committee must suggest the issues and say where the report should start and end.
On the arrival of the Minister and his officials, from the Department of Home Affairs the chairperson sympathised with the Minister for having been trapped in one of the lifts in Parliament resulting in his late arrival at the meeting. She briefed the Minister on the progress made at the meeting thus far.
Implementation of transformation policies
Dr Mbatha, the Acting Director General in the Department of Home Affairs, said the proposals for the transformation of the Department were implemented in April 1998. The Transformation Unit operates at all levels of the country. "The fight against corruption in the Department is regarded as part and parcel of service delivery, " said Dr Mbatha. The Department of Home Affairs is also addressing the customer service dimension and, adequate service provision to the poor and to the rural people is being looked at. The Department is also looking at upgrading services in the former TBVC states. "The Department is fostering a culture of service " Dr Mbatha added.
On the progress of Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) Dr Mbatha declared that the losses associated with ID frauds could not be condoned any longer, hence the introduction of HANIS. Cabinet approved the programme in 1996 and the tender was awarded to the MarPless Consortium this year. Dr Mbatha promised that the first cards would be produced in the first half of 2001.
Dr Mbatha mentioned the litigation cases that the Department is involved in. He also touched on the status of Black marriages entered into before 1990.
He said these marriages are legal and are recognised. The only problem is that they have not been computerised. "It is our friends in the media who have a tendency of exaggerating," said Dr Mbatha. He made an example of such exaggeration by quoting a newspaper article that announced "Black people living in sin". He said that Black couples affected have been invited to come with their IDs and copies of their marriage certificates so that their marriage details can be computerised.
Mr W Skhosana (ANC) asked whether the duty is on the individual to make sure that he or she applies for an ID and that it is collected. Dr Mbatha said it is not the duty of the Department to do so but he mentioned that the Department nonetheless went out of its way to arm people with IDs. "We used mobile units to ensure delivery," said Dr Mbatha.
Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) asked how many Black marriages are not computerised and whether the Department can be sure that those marriage certificates were not lost. Due to time constraints this question was not answered.
Chairperson suggested that the rest of the questions be addressed and answered during the next meeting and she adjourned the meeting.
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