ANC Bill ‘will limit’ expat voting rights abroad
The Democratic Alliance will petition President Cyril Ramaphosa about the rights of South African voters currently living abroad, DA leader in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Cathy Labuschagne said yesterday.
On Thursday, the NCOP passed the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, which would now be referred to Ramaphosa for assent, she said.
This came after NCOP chairperson Thandi Modise “violated the constitutional rights” of all South Africans abroad by refusing to allow the DA’s proposed amendments to the Bill to be considered.
The DA proposed two amendments to the Bill. First, to provide increased powers for the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) to increase the number of suitable voting venues abroad.
The Bill, as it stood, limited the voting stations available to the South African diaspora to only embassies, high commissions, or consulates.
Second, to allow one form of identification to be produced, instead of two forms of identification which the Bill currently required. Both these requirements placed an undue burden on South Africans abroad and would limit their ability to exercise their constitutional right to vote. South Africans living in smaller towns or villages in other countries would be especially affected, Labuschagne said.
Modise rejected the DA’s proposed amendments on the basis that those should have been introduced in the National Assembly, as they did not pertain to the amendments being considered in the current Bill.
“Modise’s narrow interpretation of the rules of procedure in the NCOP was not only disingenuous, but procedurally incorrect.
“Her finding will now place an undue burden on millions of South Africans living abroad, making voting inaccessible to those who live far from South African embassies, high commissions, or consulates, or do not have two valid forms of identification with them,” Labushagne said.
The DA would now petition the president on the basis of Section 75 and 79 of the constitution, to consider returning the Bill – as passed by the NCOP –- back to parliament because of procedural irregularities.
The DA would continue to fight for the rights of South African citizens abroad to exercise their democratic rights as citizens of the republic, Labuschagne said. – ANA