ConCourt refuses to hear case which could have affected elections

The Constitutional Court has refused to hear an urgent application filed by organisations that want individuals to to be allowed to stand as independent candidates for election to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.
The Constitutional Court has refused to hear an urgent application filed by organisations that want individuals to to be allowed to stand as independent candidates for election to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The Constitutional Court on Thursday refused to hear an urgent application concerning the rights of individuals to stand as independent candidates in national or provincial elections.

The New Nation Movement, the Indigenous First Nation Advocacy SA and Chantal Revelle brought an appeal to the Constitutional Court following the dismissal of their application by the Cape High Court on April 17.

Revelle and the organisations wanted the high court to declare that the Electoral Act was unconstitutional because it omitted to regulate the positions of individuals standing for election at national and provincial level as independent candidates.

The current system allows people to be elected as public representatives on a party ticket only.

They also sought an order directing parliament to take all necessary steps to resolve these matters "as soon as possible".

Judge Siraj Desai dismissed their application.

The parties then approached the Constitutional Court, which on Thursday heard arguments only on whether the case should be heard urgently, or after the elections.

After hearing submissions from Revelle and the two organisations, the minister of home affairs and the Electoral Commission of SA, the Constitutional Court said the applicants had not succeeded in making a case for an urgent hearing.

The court postponed the matter to August 15. It said there was no order for costs on this application.

The court said it would give reasons for Thursday’s ruling on urgency in due course.

Counsel for Revelle and the two organisations, Alan Nelson SC, had asked the court to postpone the elections.

He said this would give the National Assembly enough time to ensure that steps were taken to ensure that any adult South African who wished to, was able to stand for election to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

The judges of the court questioned whether it was possible to deal with the matter before the elections which are due next Wednesday.

Justice Nonkosi Mhlantla said parliament had been dissolved and said if the court were to postpone the elections for three months, there would be no parliamentarians to make amendments to the electoral laws.

Nazeer Cassim SC, for the minister of home affairs, said the Constitutional Court was not geared to hear urgent matters.

Cassim said the electoral commission would suffer prejudice on a number of grounds.

He said although the main voting day was May 8, voting had already taken place in 121 foreign missions abroad on April 27.

Cassim said 63.6 million ballots had been printed - 31.8 million for the national elections and 31.8 million for the provincial elections - and had been distributed.

Cassim said the system of public representation currently in place was constitutionally compliant.

Steven Budlender, counsel for the IEC, had urged the court to dismiss the application on the basis that it was not in the interests of justice at this stage for leave to appeal.

He said this approach would ensure that issues raised could be given the careful consideration they deserved.


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