Disappointment mounts over president’s decision to sign Electoral Amendment Bill

Judge’s gavel and law books stacked behind

Judge’s gavel and law books stacked behind

Published May 9, 2024


More voices have risen up against the President Cyril Ramaphosa’s signing of the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill (EMAB) into law, with detractors vowing to take legal action to protect the gains made by the country and to ensure political funding transparency.

The latest critic is non-profit organisation My Vote Counts (MVC), which commented how the ‘unconstitutional’ EMAB, which was introduced in December, may have been necessary to amend several pieces of legislation to allow independent candidates to contest the national and provincial elections. However, it had been amended opportunistically by the governing party to undermine political funding laws, it said.

Since the introduction of the amendments, the organisation said, it had made representations to both houses of Parliament as part of the public participation process, warning that the changes, especially in relation to the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA), were deeply flawed and unconstitutional.

The first objection was that they placed too much power in the position of the president to determine the upper limit of donations and the reporting threshold in the PPFA, essentially allowing the president to set rules that could disproportionately benefit their political interests, creating an unequal playing field for other political entities.

Furthermore, the MVC argued that the changes also created a ‘’lacuna“ (a gap or deficiency) in the PPFA as unless the president simultaneously proclaimed the regulations governing the upper limit of donations and the reporting thresholds, there would be no limits and no reporting requirements.

“This means that parties will be able to take donations, of any nature and amount, and not have to make this public. This is the type of environment that enabled state capture.”

The organisation said it had written to the president, as of March 27, urging him to not sign the EMAB into law, and instead exercise his powers and refer it back to Parliament for reconsideration and remedy.

It said the president had also received advice from the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council on the dangerous impact the EMAB would have on transparency, but the president had defied the spirit of the Constitution and signed the EMAB.

Following its challenge against certain aspects of the PPFA in the Western Cape High Court last year, the organisation said it would be challenging aspects of the EMAB that weaken the PPFA.

“The efforts to weaken the PPFA through EMAB will be dealt with as supplemental matters in our court case, which is set to be heard in August this year.

“This political spin by the president that the legislation enacted constituted tangible, material support for a vibrant, competitive, open and equitable electoral system and democratic culture has little to do with democracy or the electorate or enhancing our electoral system. There was no need to amend the PPFA in the way it has been.”

“The MVC will be closely monitoring developments. If the need arises, we will take legal action to protect the gains we have made as a country on political funding transparency,” read the statement.

Since the passing of the bill, a number of civil society organisations and political parties have decried the president’s decision to sign the bill into law.

Acting ActionSA national spokesperson Pakes Dikgetsi described the move by the president to sign the bill so close to the upcoming elections as further demonstration of the general inefficiencies of Ramaphosa’s administration, which were characterised by tasks being completed either slowly or not at all.

Dikgetsi blasted the decision, alleging it was an assault on the constitutional values that the country had fought to achieve, in particular the need for transparency and accountability.

As many as 10 political parties have pleaded for the bill not to be signed including the ACDP, IFP, FF+, DA, ATM, GOOD, National Freedom Party, PAC and UDM.

The Star