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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
9 September 1998
ADOPTION MATTERS AMENDMENT BILL; ELECTORAL BILL: DISCUSSION
Documents handed out:
SACC letter to Social Services Select Committee
Proposed amendments to Electoral Bill
Adoption Matters Amendment Bill [B80-98]
Electoral Bill [B69B-98]
The committee was briefed on the Adoption Matters Amendment Bill. They went through the Bill clause-by-clause and passed it without any amendments.
The committee reviewed and approved each clause of the Electoral Bill ([B69B-98]). The Committee made a few minor amendments to several of the clauses. Clause 14, which deals with the registration of voters, generated the longest debate. Ultimately, the Committee did not amend this controversial clause.
The committee formally passed the Electoral Bill with the Democratic Party and National Party dissenting.
The Adoption Matters Amendment Bill.
The legal advisor, Adv M Masutha, briefed the committee on the new definition of "a child born out of wedlock". Previously, a child born out of wedlock was considered a child born outside of a marriage. This definition focused on the time of conception, which was too restrictive. The period before birth must be covered. The definition includes children whose unmarried parents accept full parental responsibility for the unborn child, for example, a father who pays for the expenses of the child's birth. The new definition of a child born out of wedlock expands the range of people who can be considered parents of a child.
He commented on the definition of a "natural father". The natural father of the child must have had a sexual relationship with the mother, not a once-off incident but a relationship. The conception of the child must result from a mutual willingness between a couple to cultivate a relationship more meaningful than a frivolous encounter.
For the same reason, a man who causes the birth of a child through a rape or an incestuous relationship cannot be the natural father of that child. Conversely, take the example of an unmarried couple in love who decide to have a child via artificial insemination. The man will be the natural father of that child because the child was the result of a meaningful relationship between the man and the woman.
This definition of a natural father includes a greater range of men who can be considered the father of their children. This Bill will give a greater number of men the opportunity to claim that they are the fathers of their children and participate in any adoption proceedings. This amendment is crucial to men because only a recognised parent can give consent to an adoption.
The committee went through the Bill section by section. The Bill was passed by all parties present without amendment.
The Committee first decided that the phrase, "section 16", in line 3 of Clause 1 was unnecessary. The Committee decided to delete this phrase from Clause 1.
With regard to the registration of voters, the Committee decided not to amend the bill. Currently, anyone without a barcoded ID cannot vote. Committee members from the Freedom Front and the Democratic Party registered their disappointment with the current policy. Their main argument was that many people will be unable to vote because they will not have had their IDs barcoded by the time elections take place. As a result, many people will be left out of the voting process and unable to participate in government.
The Democratic Party warned of the constitutional violations that could result if constituents are frozen out of the voting process.
ANC members expressed their confidence that the Department of Home Affairs will be able to register everyone by the time elections take place. An MP from the ANC said the primary purpose behind the barcoding was to prevent voter fraud, which occurs when people vote more than once. The chairperson of the committee, Dr. Cwele, added that it is better to have all of the voters with the same kind of ID, because it instills a sense of uniformity among the voters. Finally, Dr. Cwele made it clear that the ANC was not trying to punish white people, most of whom do not have the necessary barcoded ID.
The Democratic Party representative raised a question about clause 15, line 3. He wondered what the phrase, "serve notice" meant. An ANC committee explained that if someone objects to another person’s registration details then the objecting party must serve notice upon the person who is the subject of the objection.
The next debate surrounded Clause 33, line 37. According to Clause 33, line 37, "the Commission may prescribe other categories of persons who may apply for special votes". The Committee debated about what sort of conditions would necessitate a special vote. Some ANC MPs feared that physically challenged persons would suffer if this provision were removed. However, physically challenged persons are already covered in subsection (a) of Clause 33. Other MPs agreed that line 37 was too broad. The Committee voted on whether to delete or keep the "special vote" provision. Those who voted to keep the provision won.
The Committee decided to delete the phrase "or is blind" from line 30 of Clause 39. The Committee agreed that blind persons are covered in subsection (2) of Clause 39.
The Committee decided to omit subsection (6) of clause 41. According to the representative from the Department of Home Affairs, appeals can now be had against the presiding officer who is operating the ballot box. For the same reason, the Committee decided to delete subsection (6) of Clause 49. The next amendment was made to subsection (2) of Clause 55. The Committee decided to change "21:00" to "9 p.m.". Before the amendment, the sentence read "the objection must be made to the Commission in the prescribed manner not later than 21:00 on the second day after voting".
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