Issued by Cathy Labuschagne, Leader of the Democratic Alliance in the NCOP, 10 January 2019
Today, Chairperson of the NCOP, Thandi Modise, violated the Constitutional rights of all South Africans abroad by disallowing the consideration of the DA’s proposed amendments to the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill. The DA’s proposed amendments aimed to provide for South Africans to be able to vote abroad with either their ID document or valid South African passport instead of having to produce both.
The Chairperson also rejected the DA’s proposed amendment to provide increased powers for the Independent Electoral Commission to increase the number of suitable voting venues abroad. The Bill, as was passed by the NCOP, requires South African’s to vote at an embassy, high commission or consulate. This places an undue burden on South African’s living away from capital and political cities, who will now need to travel to such in order to vote.
The Chairperson rejected the DA’s proposed amendments on the basis that these should be introduced in the National Assembly – as only Section 74 and Section 76 Bills may be amended in the National Council of Provinces.
NCOP Rule 212(1) (a), dealing with amendments to Section 75 Bills clearly reads,
“After a Bill has been placed on the Order Paper but before the Council decides the Bill a member may place proposals for amending the Bill on the Order Paper.”
Modise’s narrow interpretation that the NCOP’s ability to propose amendments to section 75 Bills after it has been placed on the Order Paper will result in an increased burden on millions of South Africans living abroad to vote, making voting inaccessible to those who live far from South African embassies, high commissions or consulates.
This narrow interpretation further encroaches upon the rights of member of the NCOP to propose amendments to section 75 Bills, in line with section 70(2)(c) of the Constitution requiring the NCOP’s rules and orders to provide for “the participation in the proceedings of the Council and its committees of minority parties represented in the Council, in a manner consistent with democracy, whenever a matter is to be decided in accordance with section 75.”
The NCOP has now irregularly passed this Bill, placing an undue burden on hundreds of thousands of South African’s living abroad, who wish to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The DA will now petition Parliament on this matter as we continue to fight for the rights of South African citizens abroad to exercise their democratic rights as citizens of the Republic.