By Jan Gerber
An application to have South Africa’s electoral laws amended before the May 8 elections to expressly allow independent candidates to stand in the election, has been dismissed in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
Judge Siraj Desai dismissed the New Nation Movement and others’ application without a cost order. The applicants asked the court for an order compelling Parliament to remedy the “invalidity” of electoral laws to allow independent candidates to stand for national or provincial election before the May 8 poll.The applicants’ case was based on Section 19(3)(b) and reads: “Every citizen has the right to stand for public office and if elected, to hold office.”They argued that an individual’s right to stand for public office is unjustifiably limited by the current electoral system in that an individuals has to be a member of a political party, and can’t stand as an individual.
‘Substantial distress’ to upcoming elections
In his written judgement Desai quoted an earlier Constitutional Court judgment which states: “The Constitution itself obliges every citizen to exercise the franchise through a political party.”
He said a consideration of the Constitution as a whole does not support applicants’ interpretation of Section 19(3)(b).
Desai said: “Nowhere in the wording of the section does it expressly state that standing for office must include standing for such office as an independent candidate.
“Any relief granted would, I think, cause substantial distress and uncertainty in relation to the upcoming elections,” Desai added.
The application followed the Constitutional Court judgment in June last year in which Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng noted that there was no reason why any citizen could not stand as an independent candidate to be elected to municipal councils, provincial legislatures or the National Assembly.
“The enjoyment of this right has not been proscribed by the Constitution. It is just not facilitated by legislation,” Mogoeng said at the time.
The applicants in the matter include Khoi leader Chantal Revell (who wants to stand as an independent candidate), the Mediation Foundation for Peace and Justice and the United Public Safety Front.
A political party will ‘cover your wrongs’
The respondents are the President of the Republic of South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs, the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa and the Speaker of the National Assembly.
After the proceedings, Revell said: “We are ready to take it to the Constitutional Court. We are not going to leave it here. We’re definitely going to take further steps.
“We’re just ready for a new South Africa, a more righteous one. You know, leading our people into a new, you can say a new dawn, a new era, because we are fed up with what is happening, we’re fed up with all the complaints. We’re fed up with all the corruption that is happening in our country and no one is saying anything,” she said.
She said there is no trust in the political system.
“Independent people are accountable to the people, not to political parties,” she said. “A political party will cover your wrongs.”