Electoral Amendment Bill: public hearings

Home Affairs

02 March 2022
Chairperson: Mr M Chabane (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


Tracking the Electoral Reform Legislation in Parliament

As part of its public participation process on the Electoral Amendment Bill (EAB), the Committee was briefed in a virtual meeting by eight civic organisations. These were the New Nation Movement (NNM), the Abatsha Force of Change (AFC), the Indigenous First Nations Advocacy of South Africa (IFNASA), the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), the Inclusive Society Institute (ISI), the Independent Candidate Association of South Africa (ICA), the 70s Group and the South African Council of Churches (SACC).

All the represented organisations were in agreement with the Constitutional Court’s (CC's) judgment in the NNM matter, which ruled that independent candidates should be accommodated to participate in provincial and national elections. However, the organisations highlighted their concern regarding what they viewed as Parliament’s lack of urgency in reviewing the EAB, specifically because the CC order had been made 20 months ago, yet the public submission process had begun only recently. They urged Parliament to seize this significant moment provided by the CC, to make fundamental changes to the electoral system.

The Committee rejected the proposal that a single transferable vote be included in the Bill, as it believed that this would encourage independent candidates to form coalitions with one another, which they believed would defeat the purpose of running apart from a political party. Members recommended that instead, independent candidates should either join an existing political party or form their own.

Representatives of the organisations called on Parliament to seek an extension from the CC so that it would be able to implement broader electoral change. This would include moving from the current proportional representation (PR) system to either a multi-member constituency (MMC) system or a single-constituency system. Proponents of the single-constituency system, such as CASAC and the NNM, argued that a shift to this system would create a direct link between representatives and constituencies. In this system, Members of Parliament (MP) would have to pay attention to the desires and concerns of their constituents if they wished to be re-elected, thus providing them with an incentive to conduct their work.

Proponents of the MMC, such as the SACC, the 70s Group and the ISI, submitted that a shift to this hybrid system would balance the positive effects of a single-constituency system and the closed-list PR system currently used in the country. They proposed that 75% (300) of MPs be directly elected by voters in defined MMCs and 25% (100) be proportionally appointed by the respective political parties. This, they suggested, would guarantee that no votes cast would be lost and voters would be able to choose the representatives they trusted the most.

Members appreciated the input made by the various organisations, and indicated that it would be considered further once the Committee deliberated on the Bill. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the Committee would be briefed by various civic organisations and interested parties on their submissions regarding the Electoral Amendment Bill (EAB).

Submissions on the EAB

Abatsha Force of Change

Ms Nhongo Solo and Prof Philip Machanick, Co-founders of Abatsha Force of Change (AFC), briefed the Committee on its submission regarding the EAB.

They voiced its support of the Constitutional Court's (CC’s) judgment, which had instructed Parliament to accommodate independent candidates for provincial and national elections. Most of the submission focused on the AFC’s criticisms of the Bill, as well as its proposals – some of which would be outlined.

It criticised the Bill’s proposal that independent candidates be excluded from the compensatory seats and recommended that there were two ways to deal with this issue: first, that the total number of party votes on the second ballot should be divided, without disregarding any votes cast for independents. Or, independents could also be allowed to appear on the second ballot paper.

It also criticised the clause which allowed for a seat left vacant by an independent candidate to remain vacant until the next elections and proposed that in such instances, by-elections be held. This would ensure that constituents were represented during the five-year term.

Further, the AFC supported the Private Members’ Bill (PMB) submitted by Member of Parliament (MP) Lekota, and asked that it be included in the discussions for further consideration.

Independent Candidate Association

Dr Michael Louis, an affiliate of the Independent Candidate Association (ICA), briefed the Committee on ICA’s submission regarding the EAB.

In its submission, the ICA took issue with several of the Bill’s proposals, some of which were:

  • That independents could compete for only 200 regional seats of the National Assembly (NA);
  • That a droop quota would be used only in the award for compensatory seats, for which independents could not compete;
  • That there be no transfer of votes from one candidate to another.

ICA believed that the limitation of independent candidates to compete for only 200 regional seats of the NA unfairly disadvantaged independent candidates, as political parties would be able to contest for all 400 seats in the NA. Therefore, it submitted that independents should be allowed to contest all 400 seats in the NA.

Regarding the omission of a droop quota in the first two rounds of voting for independents, Dr Louis said that this omission would disadvantage independent candidates from being awarded seats more than political parties. (The calculations can be found in the presentation).

As many more people could vote for an independent candidate than their share of the seats, those excess votes were removed from the calculations under the Bill entirely. These then become wasted votes. Moreover, the seat shares of political parties were inflated as a result of their receipt of surplus votes. Consequently, the seat shares of a party may be above their vote share. This, the ICA believes, would not result in proportional representation.


Mr K Pillay (ANC) referred to the AFC’s submission, where it recommended that independents form a collective and seats should be allocated in order of the independent who received the most votes. He asked if this would not be contradicting the call for independents to be independent. He suggested that if independents wanted to form a collective, they should either join a political party or create their own.

He asked what would occur if an independent met the threshold for both provincial and national elections -- an independent could not contest two spaces, as there was only one individual who would be eligible for one seat. Additionally, would this not violate the will of voters?

He asked what the ICA suggested should be done to address what they described as the unfair high threshold for independent candidates to obtain a seat in the NA.

Ms A Khanyile (DA) said that independents who wanted to stand as a collective should not be deemed as being independent, and they should rather join an existing political party or form their own. 

Mr M Lekota (COPE) said that the suggestion that independents who decided to form a collective must register a political party showed that the current political system excludes independents, and privileges political parties. This, he believed, was a clear violation of the Constitution. He suggested that the Committee allow for members of the public to discuss his Private Members’ Bill (PMB) during the hearings, to ensure that they had greater choice.

Ms T Legwase (ANC) said that there needed to be clarity as to why an independent should receive a seat merely because another candidate had designated them to receive his or her excess votes.

She clarified that the intention of the meeting was for the Committee to listen to the various suggestions for further deliberation.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on what the AFC had meant regarding its proposal on how staff should be appointed to the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

He asked what process would be taken to nominate independents to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

He also asked what mitigating factors would be put in place once there was a vacancy in an independent seat.


Mr Machanick said that the AFC had not proposed that independents should form collectives, but rather, it had proposed that in the case where independent candidates managed to attain 10% of the total vote, those who had received the highest vote of the 10% upper limit should be represented in Parliament. This would be an expression of the voters' will. Furthermore, the AFC’s proposal looked to make the two systems equivalent, which would create a personal connection between candidate and voters. Presently, an individual elected to Parliament needed to first win over his or her party to get onto the party list, and subsequently, based on the results received by the party, the candidate would be elected. Thus voters did not vote directly for them.

Regarding vacancies, he said that where there was a vacancy, by-elections should occur, as was done in local government.

He said that the AFC did not have an opinion on the election of independents to the NCOP.

Ms Solo emphasised that AFC felt that independents should be independent in execution and united in their action. This would allow for candidates to associate with one another. Additionally, the AFC would support an extension to the process, as it would ensure greater voter awareness and reinvigorate interest in politics for the youth prior to 2024.

On the vacancies, she said that the AFC was recommending that there be by-elections where there was a vacancy, as this would allow for constituencies to exercise their right to vote for a representative. 

Touching on the question of the IEC, she said that the Bill should deal with the roles and responsibilities of the IEC holistically. In addition, she stressed the importance of educating voters on how the IEC functions.

Dr Lewis said that there was no other alternative for the country, other than to adopt a constituency-based system.

Referring to vacancies, he said that by-elections would be easier to manage in a constituency-based system. Vacancies could not be allowed to last, as voters deserved to be represented.

As nominations of candidates to the NCOP were done through the provincial legislatures, he did not believe that finding a solution would be difficult. He recommended that independent candidates could qualify for a seat in the NCOP as a collective.

He clarified that the ICA was not looking to stand as a political party, but rather that it had been established to provide training and support for independent candidates to represent citizens well in government.

Joint submission: SA Council of Churches and 70s Group

Dr Saths Cooper, Chairperson, 70s Group, said the 70s Group proposed that the current electoral system be changed to a multi-member constituency (MMC) system, as recommended by the Van Zyl Slabbert Commission Report in 2003. The group believed that this hybrid system would balance the positive effects of a single-constituency system and the closed list proportional representation (PR) system currently used in the country. It further proposed that 75% (300) of MPs be directly elected by voters in defined MMCs, and 25% (100) of MPs be proportionally appointed by the respective political parties. This, it believed, would guarantee that no votes cast would be lost and voters would be able to choose the representatives they trusted most.

Mr Roelf Meyer said that a panel had been appointed by the Institute to look into the New Nation Movement (NNM) Constitutional Court (CC) judgment. Providing a background, he said that the original intention was for the current PR system to remain in the country for the first term of government, and subsequently an assessment on its sustainability would be done. Following this, Cabinet had appointed the Electoral Task Team in 2002, which was chaired by Freiderick van Zyl Slabbert. Its task was to draft new electoral legislation required by the Constitution. A report was published in 2003, but it was not put out for public discussion.

He called for all stakeholders to apply their minds to the CC judgment, as the Bill held importance for voters. If Parliament succeeded in obtaining an extension, it would be important that the Committee ensured greater consultation and public participation, similar to the process followed during the drafting of the Constitution. 

Prof William Gumede, Executive Chairperson, Democracy Works Foundation, highlighted two issues with the Bill. First, as it stood, it offered a minimal change to the electoral system and voters would not be able to vote directly for their candidates in political parties. This, he believed, not only undermined the electoral system but also democracy in general. Whilst the Constitution did advocate for proportionality in the electoral system, it also stated that Parliament could change the electoral system.

The second issue he highlighted was that the Bill did not make changes to the current party list system, which was currently a closed-list. He believed that this system undermined participatory democracy, as voters were unable to vote for their candidate directly, and also hold them accountable. Due to the closed-list system, party representatives in legislatures were beholden to their respective party and not the citizens. Additionally, there was a lack of fairness in the composition of the legislatures, as well as in the Cabinet.

There should be a greater ability for voters to elect candidates and to have a say in how party representatives were recalled. He believed that the proportionality of candidates in any electoral system must encourage diversity. He encouraged the Committee to view this as an opportunity to change the entire electoral system.

Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) submission on the EAB

The Chief Executive Officer of the ISI, Mr Daryl Swanepoel, briefed the Committee on the ISI’s submission regarding the EAB.

The core of ISI’s submission was the proposal that Parliament adopt a mixed constituency/ proportional representation system where, at the national level, 300 candidates would be elected via 66 MMCs comprising between three and seven members per MMC; and 100 members via a compensatory PR list, which would be used to ensure overall proportionality in the votes cast. The MMCs would be based on the existing district and metropolitan council boundaries. This would also be applied at a provincial level.


Mr Pillay asked how many constituencies the ISI wanted in its proposed constituency-based system. In addition, he asked how the proposal included the country having 66 districts, and if the current local municipalities had to be clustered to form these districts. If so, he asked how one individual member would be able to service one large geographical area.

He also asked the ISI how it arrived at having 300 seats for independent candidates and 100 seats for compensatory proportional representation for political parties.

Regarding the election of independents, he asked which seat an independent would take up if he or she had contested both the provincial and national legislature.

Ms Molekwa and Ms Khanyile asked for the ISI to elaborate on its submission on the 300 seats vs 100 seats to the NA.

Mr Lekota asked if the presenters could send their submissions to the Committee so that it was able to study them further. He highlighted the importance of the Bill for the country’s democracy.

The Chairperson said that the Committee Secretary would circulate the presentations to the Members after the meeting.


Dr Cooper mentioned that the 70s Group had not proposed that the current 400 member ceiling be increased. Rather, it proposed that 75% of those seats should be constituency-based, and they must accommodate independents. Demarcations could be done accordingly by the IEC. In large geographic areas, where populations were distant from one another, measures needed to be taken to ensure that the representatives did not have to travel long distances when doing their job. He added that the seats would be allocated according to the density of the population in the area. Assuming that half of the population was eligible and above the age of 21 to vote, a member would represent a constituency of 100 000 people. 

Mr Swanepoel, referring to the question on the 300 candidates, said that the ISI submitted that the electoral system should have 66 MMCs where parties and independents would be able to put up three to seven candidates for election. Of the candidates up for election, 300 would be elected into the NA. The 100 compensatory list would be used to ensure overall proportionality in the legislature. He added that the MMCs should be created along the current municipal boundaries.

Further explaining how the system would work, he said that in provinces where there were a low number of district councils, like the Northern Cape, two districts would be added together to form an MMC. In the metros, however, the boundaries would have to be divided along regional lines, so a city such as Cape Town would have up to 8 MMCs. The ISI recognised that the demarcation processes were long and drawn out, and would not be completed by 2024. However, the organisation’s proposal did not advocate for a demarcation process to be conducted; rather, it was recommended that the IEC should allocate the voters per voting district that fell within that district municipality. This, it believed, could be executed in a short space of time.

On the number of voters per MMC, he said that a three-seat MMC would likely have 265 000 voters, whereas in a seven-seat MMC, there would likely be over 500 000 voters. Thus, each seat would carry the mandate of 89 000 registered voters. The organisation hoped that this voting system would create greater enthusiasm for potential voters in future elections.

He added that the ISI had forwarded its model to the Committee.

Mr Meyer clarified that with the inclusion of the metros, the country would have 66 districts.

New Nation Movement

Mr Bulelani Mkhohliswa, National Coordinator, New Nation Movement (NNM), briefed the Committee on the NNM’s submission regarding the EAB.

He was concerned with Parliament’s lack of urgency in reviewing the EAB, specifically because the CC order had been made 20 months ago, yet the public submission process had begun only recently. He urged Parliament to seize this significant moment provided by the CC to make fundamental changes to the electoral system.

In its submission, the NNM proposed that the 52 district municipalities in the country be retained as they were and that they be recognised as 52 MMCs in which citizens could be organised for the purposes of voting. The NNM believed that this would eliminate the need to re-demarcate the nation for the purposes of accommodating independent candidates in time for the elections in 2024. The 52 MMCs would be allocated seats based on the population numbers. This could range from three representatives for the smaller constituencies to eight representatives for the bigger metros. The NNM further proposed a 75/25 % split for the 400 seats in the National Assembly, 75% being for direct constituency based communities and 25% for proportional representatives.

This proposed change would also accommodate independents in taking part in both provincial and national elections.

Another one of its proposals was that the EAB should permit citizen associations and/or non-partisan movements to mobilise their respective communities for the purpose of exercising their political choices through these associations and the causes they may deem fit to meet their diverse needs.

Ms Mandisa Mashego, Interim Director, Abantu Batho Congress, said that the NNM was disappointed that the process of drafting the Bill had been stalled and viewed it with suspicion, particularly as Parliament had sufficient resources to conduct public hearings. She indicated that this process was centred on how to rebuild South Africa and correct the negative effects created by the PR system.

As it stood, the majority of South Africans who lived in peri-urban and rural areas were not well versed in electoral politics. This, she believed, could be solved through mass education.

The NNM submitted that the Bill should include a meritocratic electoral system, which would prevent criminals and ill-suited individuals from accessing public office. The organisation felt that this would ensure that those elected into office would prioritise, first, consulting with their constituencies and second, giving back to the people. It also wanted to see the inclusion of civilian oversight mechanisms, as the current oversight model was not working. Moreover, the NNM requested that the Bill prioritise equality, particularly between men and women, as the latter did not have the opportunity to express themselves in political parties and legislatures.

Indigenous First Nation Advocacy South Africa

Rev Anthony Williams, Coordinator, Indigenous First Nation Advocacy South Africa (IFNASA), briefed the Committee on IFNASA’s submission on the EAB.

In its submission, IFNASA made several proposals to be considered, some of which were:

  • That the Bill should make explicit provision for independent candidates;
  • That independent candidates be permitted to transfer their excess votes to another candidate;
  • That any amendment should insert a mechanism to ensure that there were no prolonged vacancies in an independent-held seat; and
  • That Parliament consider including dedicated seats for minorities – similar to the model utilised in New Zealand – such as the indigenous Khoisan in the NA

Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution

Mr Lawson Naidoo, Executive Secretary, Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC), briefed the Committee on CASAC’s submission on the EAB.

CASAC submitted that any change to the electoral system should be based on ensuring fairness for all competing candidates – political parties included – as well as ensuring greater accountability. While CASAC believed that the PR system was a fair and inclusive system, it also felt that this system had contributed to an accountability deficit, where the links between Members of Parliament (MPs) and voters had been weakened. CASAC disagreed with the notion that Parliament should opt for an MMC system, arguing that this would not create direct accountability between representatives and constituents, but rather diffuse accountability that could lead to blame-shifting among multi-member representatives. Instead, it preferred the adoption of a single-constituency system.

The organisation contended that a shift to a single-constituency system would create a direct link between representatives and constituencies. In this system, MPs would have to pay attention to the desires and concerns of their constituents if they wished to be re-elected, thus providing them with an incentive to conduct their work.

To mitigate against the disadvantages of the system, such as the disproportional outcomes produced (the system tended to suit larger parties) and the wasted votes, CASAC supported the proposal that there be an allocation of compensatory proportional seats in Parliament. However, it noted that more discussion needed to be had on whether the proportional list should be compensatory or form part of the constituency list.

CASAC expressed the hope that these changes would lead to greater accountability of elected representatives.


Mr Pillay clarified that the Committee had invited the organisations to the meeting so that it could gain clarity, and could package the Bill as best as possible. 

He asked CASAC how the adoption of a single-constituency system would be administered, and how it would improve voter awareness and their interaction with their elected representatives.

Responding to the accusation of delays by Parliament, he said that Covid-19 had limited its ability to deliberate on the Bill.

He asked what the NNM termed a 'direct representative,' as opposed to an 'independent candidate.' He also asked for clarity on the number of seats the NNM was proposing in a constituency-based system. He asked that both organisations clarify how the election of independent candidates to the NCOP would occur and how it would be accommodated in the Bill.

Ms Molekwa appreciated the work done by the IEC since the advent of democracy in the country. The entity had ensured that each and every election had been free and fair. She encouraged all members of society to participate in the Party Liaison Committee (PLC) meetings, as they would be able to raise issues related to elections, which would assist the IEC in its work. 

Mr Mkholiswa, referring to the NNM’s definition of an independent candidate, mentioned that independents were standing for election as a single candidate, advancing their interests. On the other hand, direct representation spoke to constituencies owning a seat, where they nominate representatives to Parliament to advance their causes. He underlined the importance of the Electoral Act recognising citizen associations, and giving them equal status to political parties so that the compensatory seats were not lost.

Rev Williams asked that the Committee, in its deliberations, consider the New Zealand model.

Mr Naidoo said that Parliament acknowledged the importance of constituency work, and had allocated time for it in its programme. This was currently done informally, and it was up to political parties as to when it should be done, yet no formal report back on the work was done, while Parliament made financial provision for the function of the constituencies and the offices. Thus, it was providing the resources for the work, but there was no accountability. He said that CASAC proposed a defined geographic area be assigned to one member, who must consistently report back to the constituency on what work had been done. This, CASAC hoped, would create a direct link between an identifiable Member of Parliament or provincial legislature, and the constituency.

The Chairperson appreciated the input made and indicated that it would be included in the Committee’s future deliberations regarding the Bill. 

He highlighted three points. Firstly, other parties had not been invited to the consultations with Mr Valli Moosa’s task team.

Secondly, the IEC had been invited to the Committee to inform it on the lessons it could learn from other countries. The IEC would be invited again, once Parliament had completed its work.

Thirdly, the Committee had reflected on the input from the previous speakers and had initiated a mass-education process which it believed would deal with all the issues extensively.

Ms Mashego said that in the NNM’s proposal, all 400 seats in the NA would be constituency-based. She added that if an independent passed on or resigned, then the vacancy would return to the constituency where the person was from, which would remove the power of political parties from owning seats and deciding who should occupy seats.

She said that the NNM would submit an additional proposal to the Committee and the IEC on what should be done regarding the election of independents to the NCOP.

The meeting was adjourned.   

Share this page: