Action at last from Ramaphosa bar the flaws in the act

Many South Africans of different political stripes or no stripes at all paid heavily for the price of constitutional democracy which we enjoy or ought to enjoy today, imperfect as things might be in some areas of governance.

Yet, we ought to fittingly pay tribute that President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally appended his signature to the Electoral Amendment Bill to become the legislative framework to firm up our electoral process.

The bill was adopted by parliament on February 23, after the Constitutional Court made a landmark decision permitting independent candidates to contest national and provincial elections.

The Presidency announced this week that Ramaphosa had signed the bill, which will constitutionally legalise independent candidates to contest the national and provincial elections – a moment all South Africans should celebrate.

In effect, the landmark Constitutional Court ruling, and the fact that the president has signed it into law, will make it possible for Mr Joe Soap or Ms Joey Soap, who lives down the lane in shacks or suburbs, to have a voice and directly represent their constituency, and articulate their political and socioeconomic interests in the National Assembly.

We live in hope. With this legislative framework in place, we shall no longer depend for our political succour on the big fish in the world of politics for political stewardship or guidance. The voting masses, if they so choose, will enjoy direct representation from the leadership they know and trust – whom they can directly hold accountable when things go awry.

In its wisdom, the Constitutional Court came to the decision based on the recognition that “to the extent that [the Electoral Act] requires that the adult citizens may be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures only through their membership of political affiliation”, the act had, since its inception, been constitutionally flawed or irrational.

With this recognition, the days of the great leviathans of the deep are over – small and big fish will from now henceforth compete in the same political pond.

In the words of Ramaphosa, “the bill presents a development that can only enrich and sustain our growing constitutional democracy”.

With all good intentions, we know that there might be glitches. Some members of civil society have raised complaints that the amended act does not allow for “a mixed constituency-proportional list system”. Also, that the new system may not be ready for implementation by 2024 when the national general elections take place. Valid points these are. But they do not nullify the good intentions envisaged in the amended act and how it has been framed by the Constitutional Court.

We also add that the amended act requires the minister of home affairs to establish an electoral reform consultation panel within four months of gazetting the amendments. These endeavours, we think will add to attempts to weed out glitches that cause unhappiness.

Rome was not built in a day. Certainly, our constitutional framework is subject to evolution and reinterpretation. Nothing is static. We congratulate the president for signing the amended act into law.

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