ATC130730: Report of the Select Committee on Trade and International Relations on the Tourism Bill [B 44B – 2012] (National Assembly – sec 76), dated 24 July 2013:

NCOP Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Small Business Development, Tourism, Employment and Labour

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on the Electoral Amendment Bill [PMB 2 - 2013], dated 30 July 2013

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (the Committee), having considered the Electoral Amendment Bill [PMB 2 - 2013] (National Assembly – section 75), referred to it and classified by the Joint Tagging Mechanism (JTM) as a section 75 Bill, reports as follows:

The Electoral Amendment Bill [PMB 2 - 2013], a private member’s bill, was tabled and referred to the Committee on 27 March 2013. The Committee met with the sponsor of the Bill, Mr James Selfe, MP, on 19 June 2013, in order to receive a briefing on the Bill.

The Bill seeks to amend the Electoral Act, 1998 (Act 73 of 1998), so as to amend the manner in which voters who are absent from their voting districts can vote; to provide for the institution of constituencies for the National Assembly; to provide for the demarcation of such constituencies; to provide for the method of election of members of the National Assembly from such constituencies, and to provide for matters incidental thereto.

During the briefing, Mr. Selfe indicated that it was envisioned that the proposed amendments relating to a mixed constituency and proportional representation electoral system would only be implemented in time for the 2019 elections.

The Committee deliberated on the Bill on 23 and 24 July 2013. The Committee adopted a motion that the legislation is not desirable at the moment for the following reasons:

  • The proposed changes to the electoral system to include both a constituency and proportional representation list system might very well dilute the constitutional principle of multi-party democracy. It does appear that these changes to the system will be to the detriment of smaller parties and result in a two or three party system instead of the current multi-party system. The net result of the Bill would be an increased threshold, resulting in a system that is less proportionate to the votes received by each party than what is currently the case. The introduction of a constituency-based proportional representation list system will result in a more complex electoral system.

  • Whilst aimed at greater accountability, it is questionable to what extent a proportional representation list at constituency level will achieve this . The voter will still vote for a party, not a candidate. Each party will have a list of more than one candidate and this may confuse voters as far as who they are voting for. On his own admission, the member who sponsored the Bill, Mr Selfe, indicated the acceptance of the Bill would amount to trade-offs, such as greater accountability on the one hand as opposed to smaller parties being negatively affected. The member admitted that there would be gains as well as losses .

  • As far as the part of the Bill dealing with absent and special voters is concerned, the Committee is of the following opinion:

- The Electoral Amendment Bill [B22-2013], 2013, has been submitted to the Speaker by the Minister of Home Affairs in terms of Joint Rule 159.

- This Bill has been properly researched by the Electoral Commission and deals with similar matters to those in this part of the private member’s bill. The Committee will therefore prefer to deal with these matters when it deals with the Electoral Amendment Bill [B22-2013]. It is hereby suggested that Mr Selfe’s proposal could be dealt with at that time.

Given the fact that the implementation of the proposed private member’s bill is unlikely to occur in time for the imminent general elections in 2014, the Committee is of the opinion that this is probably not the time for legislation of this nature to be passed.

On the balance therefore, the Committee believes that the Bill is not desirable at this stage.

The Committee thanks Mr Selfe for sponsoring this Bill and in so doing giving the Committee the opportunity to engage in a continuous debate on the most appropriate electoral system for our country. This is certainly a matter that will receive ongoing attention of both the Committee and the Electoral Commission.

Report to be considered.

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