One step to true rule of the masses

The ruling by the Constitutional Court is good for democracy, the writer says.
The ruling by the Constitutional Court is good for democracy, the writer says.
Image: RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP

The Constitutional Court ruling yesterday which declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional is welcome.

The judgment orders the legislature to amend the Act so that it allows independent candidates, without being members of political parties, to contest provincial and national elections. That is good for democracy.

As the Act stands it only allows political parties to run for national and provincial polls. The matter was brought to the apex court by nongovernmental organisation, New Nation Movement, which challenged the constitutionality of that.

"It is thus declared that insofar as it makes it impossible for candidates to stand for political office without being members of political parties, the Electoral Act is unconstitutional," said Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga.

Section 19 of the Electoral Act was proclaimed unconstitutional because it required adult citizens to only be elected to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures only if they were members of political parties.

But, the declaration of constitutional invalidity of the act became effective from the date of the judgment. The order has been suspended for 24 months to allow parliament to rework the Act.

This was already happening at local government level where we have seen nonaligned citizens run wards after winning elections. Most of these were as a result of unhappiness with how their parties were responding to service delivery needs of communities.

That was followed by residents organising themselves and choosing people they trusted to run their wards. It will be interesting to watch how this would unfold at provincial and national level.

The past two national elections showed a shift in voters casting their ballots based on loyalty as a few new parties saw a significant growth.

The order will result in the entire Act being reviewed, and the electoral commission having to change how it works to accommodate the independents.

This is likely to be a game changer for SA politics, as all a candidate would need now would be money and a significant support of the electorate to make it to parliament unbeholden to party hacks unaccountable to voters.

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