In this virtual meeting, the Committee considered and adopted (via a majority) its Interim Report on the Electoral Amendment Bill.
The report requested approval from the National Assembly (NA) to extend the scope of the Electoral Amendment Bill [B1-2022], due to the substantive changes the Committee intends to make to the Bill. This request is in line with the NA Rules 286(4)(b) and 286(4)(c), which allow a Committee to make substantive changes after receiving public submissions and concluding its deliberations on certain clauses in the Bill. Thereafter the Committee must then seek approval from the NA to make those substantive changes.
Moreover, as a result of the proposed substantive changes, the Committee requested the Assembly to grant it a period of 14 days to seek further public comment on the changes.
The Independent Electoral Commission briefed the Committee on the findings of the Electoral Integrity Global Report for 2019-2021. The Report assesses the quality of elections in democracies across the world. SA was ranked 66 in the world, and second in the continent, behind Cape Verde. Only in three areas did SA do relatively poorly, these are: voter registration, media coverage and campaign finance. In all three, SA scored below 60, with the campaign finance category being the worst performing area, with scores of 41 in the 2014 elections, and 35 in the 2019 elections. There were five areas where SA performed well, with scores above 70, in both the 2014 and 2019 elections: Electoral Laws; Electoral Procedures; Vote Count; Results Index and Electoral Authorities.
Members were concerned that South Africa (SA) did poorly (according to the indexes used) in voter registration, media coverage and campaign, scoring below 60 for the period under review.
Notwithstanding this, the Committee was pleased with the progress the IEC has made to rectify the issues highlighted in the report and by others (voters, the Committee, et cetera), particularly those encountered during the 2021 Local Government Elections (LGE), such as; the late opening of voter stations, and the turning away of voters from stations. With the enactment of the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) in 2021, and the successes of the online registration system, Members were left confident that SA’s democracy was in safe hands under the IEC.
The Committee was supposed to be briefed by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on, amongst other things, its research into developments in women’s representation in politics and government between 2014 and 2019. However, due to absence of the Chairperson of the CGE, and a lack of preparedness of CGE officials, the presentation was postponed to a later, unconfirmed date. The Committee Chairperson expressed disappointment with the CGE’s conduct, and requested that this not be repeated in future meetings.
The Chairperson indicated that the Committee would be briefed by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the Electoral Integrity Global Report 2019-2021 and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on its research on women’s representation in politics and government between 2014 and 2019. However, prior to that, the Committee would first consider its Interim Report on the Electoral Amendment Bill [B 1 – 2022] (National Assembly – sec 75), dated 30 August 2022.
Consideration of the Interim Report on the Electoral Amendment Bill [B1 – 2022] (National Assembly – sec 75), dated 30 August 2022
The Committee Secretary took the Committee through its Interim Report on the Electoral Amendment Bill [B1 – 2022].
The report highlighted that flowing from the public submissions received and pursuant to its deliberations, the Committee has identified certain other sections of the Electoral Act that require an amendment and subjects that the introduced Bill does not address and, therefore, in terms of National Assembly (NA) Rule 286(4)(b) and 286(4)(c) seeks the Assembly’s permission to amend these sections of the Act as well as extend the subject of the Bill.
The proposed amendments were highlighted (see report link below).
The Chairperson highlighted that the adoption of the report would allow the Committee to proceed with requesting permission from the NA for the Committee to advertise the Bill for written submissions from the public.
Thereafter he requested a mover for the adoption of the report.
Mr K Pillay (ANC) thanked all Committee staff involved in finalising the report.
On behalf of the ANC, he moved for the adoption of the report.
Ms T Legwase (ANC) seconded the mover for the adoption of the report.
Ms L Tito (EFF) indicated that the EFF did not support the adoption of the report.
Mr A Roos (DA) mentioned that while the DA did not support the entirety of the report, it agreed with the majority view that the Committee had to request for an extension of the process from Parliament.
Ms M Molekwa (ANC) agreed with Mr Pillay and Ms Legwase’s sentiments.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP), on behalf of the IFP, supported the adoption of the report.
Ms M Modise (ANC) highlighted her support for the adoption of the report.
Ms Legwase suggested that all Members who oppose the report provide reasons for doing so, as this would allow the Committee to make amendments where necessary.
The Chairperson noted Mr Legwase’s suggestion; however, he did not agree with it, as Members had previously been given the opportunity to deliberate on the report. Members would have the opportunity to provide input on the Bill when it is presented to the House of Assemblies. What was important, he added, was that Members had not differed on the Constitutional Court (CC) ruling.
He asked whether Members felt his viewpoint was a true reflection of the entire process.
Ms Tito indicated that she was comfortable with the Chairperson’s characterisation of the process thus far. She added that the EFF took issue with some of the clauses in the Bill but that these could be dealt with later.
Ms Legwase agreed with the Chairperson’s version of events.
The Chairperson said that the report had been adopted, thus enabling the Committee to request the NA's permission to begin the public consultation process.
The Committee Secretary stated that the report would be published the following day. He added that the Committee did not need to advertise the Bill yet, and advised that it wait until the NA has approved its request.
The Chairperson mentioned that adopting the report would give credence to the Committee’s request to the NA.
Ms Daksha Kassan, Legal Advisor, Constitutional and Legal Service Office, stated that since the report had been adopted, it would therefore have to be tabled in the House. Once all the necessary protocols had been followed, the Bill would be re-advertised for written submissions.
The Chairperson then requested that IEC brief the Committee on its report.
Ms Janet Love, Vice-Chairperson, IEC, mentioned that the IEC’s presentation would highlight ten areas of the international framework that assesses the ability and integrity of the electoral process and its management.
Briefing by the IEC on the Electoral Integrity Global Report 2019-2021
Mr Sy Mamabolo, CEO, IEC, briefed the Committee on the Electoral Integrity Global Report 2019-2021.
He began by informing Members that the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) is an independent study founded by Professor Pipa Norris, in 2012, which assesses and covers the quality of elections. The methodology used includes:
- A focus on national elections and not sub-national (Municipal elections)
- 480 national elections in 169 countries have been assessed since 2012
- Assessment conducted by independent country experts (i.e. Political/Social Scientists, mass surveys, case studies, researchers and authors with knowledge of electoral processes in a particular country)
- Data collected on 49 indicators to compare elections and it is drawn from a rolling survey of 4591 expert assessments of electoral integrity across 480 elections in 169 countries around the world
He indicated that SA was ranked 66 in the world, and second in the continent, behind Cape Verde. Compared to the 30 assessed countries in the continent of America, 21 countries (including USA at 57) rank below South Africa, one country (Barbados at 66) ranks similar to SA, while only eight countries rank above SA.
Further, regarding the country-specific analysis of the eleven sub-categories of measurement, SA scored relatively well in both the 2014 and 2019 elections, with scores above 60 in the majority of these measurement categories. Only in three areas did SA do relatively poorly, these are: voter registration, media coverage and campaign finance. In all three, SA scored below 60, with the campaign finance category being the worst performing area, with scores of 41 in the 2014 elections, and 35 in the 2019 elections. Nevertheless, there were five areas where SA performed well, with scores above 70, in both the 2014 and 2019 elections: Electoral Laws; Electoral Procedures; Vote Count; Results Index and Electoral Authorities.
The Chairperson asked if the CGE was on the platform.
The Committee Secretary said that officials from the CGE were not present on the meeting platform – as it had not received the link to the meeting – and the Chairperson of CGE was not in the country. As such, he recommended that the Committee continues with its discussions until the officials were ready to present it.
Ms van der Merwe asked when the Committee had invited the CGE to make its presentation.
The Committee Secretary indicated that he had sent the approved Committee programme and a subsequent letter to the CGE sometime back. He added that he had spoken to the Chairperson of the CGE, who assured him that the Commission would be present in the meeting.
The Chairperson was not pleased with the unprofessional manner in which the CGE had conducted itself. He felt that the Chairperson should have tendered an apology to the Committee, and that CGE officials could have highlighted that they did not receive the link, earlier in the morning.
Mr Pillay supported the Chairperson’s submission and highlighted the importance of respecting the Committee.
Discussion on IEC presentation
The Chairperson opened the floor for discussion.
Mr Roos asked what proposals the IEC had to address the gaps identified during the 2021 Local Government Elections (LGEs).
He then asked for the IEC to share the reasons why voter registration has continued to decrease since 2019; and what steps were being taken to ensure that the mishaps seen in the last few years, in registering voters did not occur again.
Ms Legwase asked what the IEC would do, as part of its efforts to educate voters to ensure that more citizens are made aware of the need to vote before or on the voting day.
She encouraged the IEC to resolve the various issues it encountered during the previous election, such as the delays in material not arriving to stations on time and in the opening of voting stations, the latter of which led to voters not casting their votes. These issues dismayed voters.
Ms Molekwa was pleased with the work done by the IEC thus far, and its contribution to South Africa’s positive performance against other high-performing democracies worldwide.
She asked, apart from the IEC’s budget limitations, what factors had negatively contributed to the areas of voter registration, media coverage and campaign finance (in the report).
Mr A Khanyile (DA) asked what would be done to address the current confusion amongst voters regarding which voting stations they should be registered at.
She also asked what would be done to improve the findings in the report on voter registration and media coverage.
Ms van der Merwe congratulated the IEC for its credibility score and believed that it underscored the good work it continues to do. However, she noted that the Commission still needed to address certain challenges and explain to the Committee the steps being taken in that regard.
She then asked three questions. One, she asked if campaign finance, as mentioned in the report, related to the finances of the Commission or those available to those contesting the elections. She was unsure as to how the IEC had measured this.
Two, she asked how the IEC had measured media coverage and how it planned to increase it, considering its limited budget.
Three, highlighting her concern regarding the low participation of the youth in elections, she asked if there were any lessons from other countries surveyed in the report, to improve this situation.
Mr Pillay commended the IEC for fulfilling its mandate of holding free and fair elections. However, he was left concerned by two issues: one, many of those registered for special votes were unable to do so because IEC officials had not visited them, to allow them to cast their votes and two, several registered voters were turned away by IEC officials at the voting stations during the 2021 LGEs. These issues, he did not allow all citizens the equal opportunity to participate in elections.
He suggested a clear plan on how the issues surrounding voting districts will be corrected, as one household, for instance, cannot have four registered voters in two separate districts. Not enough was being done to advise voters on where to vote, particularly considering the change in ward boundaries. Furthermore, he requested that the Committee provide clear timelines on how many of these issues will be addressed.
Finally, he asked the IEC to provide an update on the electronic voting system, which it once spoke about, especially in light of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Ms Modise indicated that while the IEC still had certain weaknesses that it had to address, it should be commended for the work it has done over the years.
She encouraged the IEC to intensify its voter education drive, to encourage more citizens, particularly the youth, to participate in elections.
Ms Love, referring to the question on campaign finance, mentioned that the report flagged the regulation of political funding in the country as an issue, particularly in ensuring that it is done in a transparent and understandable manner for the electorate. The issues highlighted in the report relate to the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) rather than the finances associated with the work of the IEC.
Regarding the question on media coverage, she said that one of the IEC’s biggest concerns (also referenced in this report) is the high levels of disinformation spread on social media platforms. She mentioned that the IEC had done reasonably well to correct this, but the enforcement of regulating this space does not necessarily reside with the Commission. Evaluation reports have focused on how social media can be used in campaigns to intimidate and belittle women and journalists.
Mr Mosotho Moepya, Commissioner, IEC, indicated that the IEC had taken note of the report’s findings and believed that they offered value to the Commission.
Referring to the question on campaign finance, he highlighted that the survey report criticised the fact that SA did not have any legislation governing funding for political parties. The PPFA had not been passed at that point. This was the main cause for the country ranking at 41 during this period, and 35 in 2014; although, now that the PPFA legislation had been implemented, the IEC expected SA’s score to improve.
He confirmed that the IEC is attending to the voter registration issues encountered during the 2021 LGEs. The Tlokwe case impacted the IEC’s score in 2016, where the Constitutional Court indicated that the Commission had to ensure that all voters on the roll had addresses. This issue was flagged as a big concern by surveyors during the 2019 National/Provincial Elections, reducing the Commission’s score from 52 to 46. Nonetheless, the Commission has since managed to ensure that 95% of registered voters have an address on the voters’ roll; with all newly registered voters expected to do so. On that basis alone, the IEC expected SA’s score to increase. He added that the IEC is improving the process to allow people to register online.
He informed Members that the IEC wants to improve in all areas with deficiencies.
Mr Mamabolo, touching on the questions related to media coverage. He explained that the survey included five questions in each of the eleven categories, which include: ‘did newspapers provide balanced election news’; ‘did TV news favour the governing party’; ‘did parties and candidates have fair access to political broadcasts and advertising’; ‘did journalist provide fair coverage of the elections’; ‘was social media used to expose electoral fraud’.
The questions considered on campaign finance were: ‘did candidates have equitable access to public subsidies’; ‘did candidates have equitable access to donations’; ‘did candidates publish transparent financial accounts’; ‘did rich people buy elections’; ‘were some state resources improperly used for campaign purposes’.
The study was a systemic assessment of democracies across the world. He asked Members to take note of the consequences related to the 2016 CC ruling, requiring the IEC to place the addresses of voters on the voters’ roll. These were: ensuring that the address provided is within the designated ward (as the law requires that a person be registered in a voting district of a ward they are ordinarily residing in); engaging with a voter whose address is found not to match their ward, and in terms of Section 11 and 12 of the Electoral Act, informing the voter that his or her registration is incorrect, requiring that they be placed in a different ward. This process, he said, has to involve the voter concerned.
He explained that voters have several modalities available to them to check their registration status. One, they can visit their voting station during the registration weekend, for confirmation. Two, they can contact the IEC’s call centre. Three, they can check through the IEC’s online system. Four, they can send their ID number to an SMS line (32810). Five, they can contact political contestants, who by law, are provided with a copy of the voters’ roll, which contains voters’ addresses and other retracted details, as per Section 16 (3) of the Electoral Act. A majority of these measures are active.
The IEC had to ensure that the modalities for registration are easy for all eligible voters, particularly given the uneven economic development across the country; hence, it strives to open a voting station in every community. Opening voting stations in areas across the country should remain a mainstay mechanism for affording qualifying citizens to register. That, however, did not detract from the need to provide other supplementary mechanisms, in particular, those that target young people. For that purpose, the IEC introduced an online registration platform in July 2021, which over 500 000 people used to register ahead of the election, most of whom were young.
Furthermore, the IEC created a voter registration platform for cell phones, as it was aware that it is the mechanism that young people mostly use to engage in politics. What remains is for the IEC to popularise this platform so that eligible voters in the rural areas of the country are made aware of their availability. To do so, the IEC will look to engage with the business sector, especially the telecommunications companies, to work on making its mobile platform zero-rated, so that users don’t have the burden of data costs and other related amenities.
Touching on the statement made regarding special votes, he mentioned that as a general principle, IEC officials are expected to visit those who have applied to cast their vote via a special vote. However, the Commission has noted elements of application abuse, where IEC officials, upon arrival at the purported applicants’ home, find that the person had gone out to do their shopping – which raises questions on whether the voter is truly unfit to vote in the election; and individuals applying on behalf of an unknowing voter, for a special vote. Another issue encountered during the 2021 LGE, was that because the special votes were conducted on Saturday and Sunday, days of worship, many people could not cast their vote. All of these issues needed to be dealt with by the IEC.
On electronic voting, he indicated that previously the IEC had looked into including the piloting of electronic voting as a provision in the previous Electoral Bill, but the Committee felt that should not be done at that stage; instead, it suggested that both parties debate the subject separately from the Bill. The IEC has since written to the Committee to further engage on this matter, particularly the budget, the political implications and how to ensure that citizens buy into it.
Ms Love said there are a number of detailed conversations around, for example, technology, that the IEC would like to have with the Committee, at a later stage.
The Chairperson invited the Deputy Minister to provide remarks.
Remarks by the DM
Mr Njabulo Nzuza, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, mentioned that the country’s high ranking in the report illustrated two things: the strength of the country’s democracy; and the IEC’s continued quality performance, both of which pleased the DHA. However, he urged the Department, the IEC and the Committee to look into the areas inhibiting further electoral progress, such as the PPFA, and develop mechanisms to resolve the issues. Moreover, all three parties should work to translate the electoral achievements to voters to improve their confidence in the system.
He added that the Department would always be available to assist the IEC where required. The Department was confident that SA’s democracy was in safe hands.
The Chairperson indicated that the IEC had demonstrated its good work over the years. Members were shocked by the allegations of corruption within the IEC made by a certain non-governmental organisation; though the report presented went against these.
In its next session, the Committee would meet with the IEC for an update on the identified areas, post the 2021 LGE, that need improvement. After which he called for society to assist the IEC in conducting its work.
He thanked all the officials for the engagement.
Returning to the earlier matter relating to the CGE’s absence in the meeting, he mentioned that the Committee had mentioned that a communication was sent to the CGE sometime back, requesting for it to brief it on its research into women’s representation in SA politics. Furthermore, the Committee was disappointed with the CGE’s conduct as it had not tendered an apology in the morning. He then asked if the CGE was ready to present its two reports.
Mr Velenkosini Zitha, Researcher, CGE, on behalf of the Chairperson CGE, apologised for her absence and the Commission’s late arrival at the meeting. He indicated that earlier mishap was due to a lapse in communication between him and the Committee Secretary. The CGE preferred to postpone the presentation as it was not adequately prepared.
The Chairperson asked for Members’ comments on the CGE’s proposal to postpone the presentation to a later date.
Ms van der Merwe recommended that the Committee resolve to postpone the presentation, as it seemed that the officials were not adequately prepared to speak to the report; and Members had also wanted to engage with the Chairperson of the CGE.
Ms Legwase felt that the Committee support staff should have followed up on whether the CGE had received its programme, and in the same vain, the Commission should have confirmed with them whether the meeting would still be taking place. As such, she recommended that the Committee postpone the presentation to a later date, even though that would impact its programme going forward.
Ms Khanyile agreed that the Committee postpone the meeting and expressed hope that this would not occur again. In its next programme meeting, she suggested that the Committee consider whether its Office could strengthen its communication.
Ms Modise supported the recommendation that the presentation be postponed.
Mr Roos also supported the recommendation that the presentation be postponed. He was frustrated that the Committee had received the CGE’s presentation reports late, and highlighted that this was a continued problem. As such, he requested that the reports be provided timeously, to allow Members to adequately engage them.
The Chairperson took responsibility for all the administrative issues raised by the Members. Notwithstanding that, he believed that the CGE could have sent its presentation reports earlier, as it had received a communique earlier in the year on the date of the meeting.
He requested that the Chairperson of the CGE lead the presentation in the next meeting so that the Committee is able to hold the Committee to account.
He then asked if there were any announcements.
The Committee Secretary said that in the last week, the Committee announced that there would be joint-oversight visits with the Portfolio Committees on Mineral Resources and Energy and Police, in provinces where illegal mining is occurring. The first oversight visit will take place on the weekend of the 10th and 11th of September.
The meeting was adjourned.
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