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HOME AFFAIRS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
5 August 1998
ELECTORAL BILL: DISCUSSION
Documents handed out
United Democratic Movement
United Democratic Movement: legal opinion on funding
South African Council of Churches
Electoral Institute of South Africa
Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Proposed Amendments to Electoral Bill [B 69-98]
Electoral Bill [B69-98] (access from http://www.polity.org.za
The Bill, the committee amendments and the submissions were considered.
The Chairperson, Mr Desmond Lockey introduced the drafters of the Bill.
The discussion began with Chapter 3 of the Bill which deals with the proclamation of and preparations for elections. Section 14 was discussed and it was noted that the official proclamation calling for elections would be published in the Gazette on 1 May 1999 and that would comply with the 60 days' notice provision. The Chairperson stated that the Department of Constitutional Development was busy with the constitutional amendments and the amendment to the provisions on the proclamation calling for elections, would be included in it. The election date would, however, be made known prior to the official proclamation date of 1 May 1999.
There was much discussion concerning the Afrikaans version of section 81(6) where the word "ondersteun" is used in the Afrikaans text. It was asserted that this word means "support" and it might be interpreted as prohibiting IEC officers from supporting any political party.
As this discussion was held in Afrikaans, certain committee members requested that the discussion be conducted in English due to their poor knowledge of Afrikaans. The Chairperson suggested that the word should be left as it is and reserved for later discussion. He also said that this word could be maintained as the constitution guaranteed a person the right to vote for a party of his/her choice.
An new clause will be inserted stating that the IEC can table regulations after consultation with the party liaison committee.
There was an amendment to the heading to which there were no objections.
There was a proposal to omit the words " the Commission is regarded to own" and to insert the words "the Commission is regarded as owning" instead.
The National Party suggested redrafting the Afrikaans text to mean the same as the English text. They argued that the translation into Afrikaans was incorrect: the word "meningspeilings" means opinion poll and not exit poll.
Mr Sikakane (ANC) said that this section seems to be prohibiting the media, including the political parties, from publishing exit polls and he considered this to be an infringement on the right of freedom of expression.
The Chairperson suggested that this controversial issue should be suspended until the following week's discussion.
There was a proposal by the Electoral Institute of South Africa (EISA) that a section relating to the protection of journalists, photographers and other members of the media be incorporated into the new Electoral Code of Conduct.
Ms Smuts said that this was a good idea as a whole range of media sources had been consulted on this. Mr Chikane (ANC) said that as long as there were rules governing the media to prevent the disruption of the election process, there should be no objection.
A National Party member wanted to know who is more protected by the constitution - the right of the press to gain access or the privacy of the voter.
The Chairperson suggested that the issue of the media in the Code of Conduct be flagged.
He urged the study groups to discuss this issue as well as those raised by the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference regarding special votes and the funding of the election, and to reach a decision by the following week.
Clarity was sought whether voters have to be inside the premises by close of voting in order to be allowed to vote or is it sufficient merely to be in the queue outside. Judge Kriegler said that they should be in the queue by that hour. He suggested that this should be left out and regulated by means of the regulations.
Judge Kriegler clarified that the assistance of voters by the presiding officer should take place provided members from different parties are present. A question was raised as to whether the voter could elect an assistant of his/her choice rather than receive assistance from the presiding officer?
The Chairperson referred the committee to the protection provided by section 86 (Undue influence) and section 97 which sets penalties.
Mr Chikane (ANC) suggested that one should respect the intellect of the voter and that a voter should be warned about intimidation and undue influence and what should be done if it happens. It must be ensured that voters know what their rights are.
Ms Smuts raised the issue of penalties. Judge Kriegler said that an electoral tribunal and other measures for gross violations were foreseen and that is why the section had come into existence.
Ms Smuts wanted clarity on section 107 (Prohibition on certain political activities). Kriegler said that the prohibition applied to political activities within the inner boundary of a voting station. Mr Van Deventer (NP) wanted to know if it therefore allowed political activities to take place on that day elsewhere. The Chairperson responded that this had been provided for in section 102 which states that no political activity should take place at all on that day.
Before adjourning the meeting, the Chairperson asked the committee if there were any further issues to be raised. Ms Smuts argued that South Africans who are currently overseas should not generally be referred to as ‘expatriates’. The Chairperson replied that this issue would be addressed when the committee meets next week.