2019 is a general election year in South Africa, with national and provincial elections set to take place, and three important recent announcements have been made in relation to elections in the country.
Voter registration weekend
The Electoral Commission of South Africa has announced that a final voter registration weekend will take place over 26 and 27 January.
The country’s 22 932 voting stations will open from 08h00 to 17h00 on Saturday 26 January and Sunday 27 January 2019 to allow first-time voters to register and existing voters to update and to check their registration details.
Currently there are 26.1 million registered voters on the national common voters’ roll and it is hoped that at least one million voters will be added to the voters’ roll ahead of the 2019 elections.
The Electoral Commission is also hopeful that voters who are already registered will use the opportunity to visit their voting station to check their registration and specifically to confirm and update their address details.
Registered voters can visit the Electoral Commission website (www.elections.org.za) to check their current registration details and voting station location.
They can also SMS their ID number to 32810 to receive an SMS containing their registration status and the address of their voting station (charged at R1).
Unregistered voters can insert their address in the Voting Station Finder application on the website (http://maps.elections.org.za/vsfinder/) to find their correct voting station or call the Contact Centre.
An online facility (www.elections.org.za/MyIEC) is also available for registered voters with access to the internet to update and review their address online.
Identity document collection
The Home Affairs Department has called on people who have applied for identity documents (IDs) to collect it, ahead of this weekend’s voter registration.
In the Western Cape alone, more than 23,000 people have not collected their IDs. Bellville and Cape Town branches are the highest with over 3,500 uncollected IDs each.
The department says it is extending its office hours at some of the offices. Spokesperson Siya Qoza explains, “Our offices will be open from 8 am until 5 pm over the weekend to assist as many people as possible who may need assistance. Our assistance will include handing out IDs and assisting people with temporary IDs so that they can register to vote”.
Political Party Funding Bill
It’s now law for political parties to reveal their private funding annually but it’s unlikely to come into effect before this year’s elections. The Presidency confirmed late on Tuesday night that President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Political Party Funding Bill into law, which was passed by the National Assembly late last year.
But the electoral commission has already indicated to Parliament that it will need at least six months to get the system functional. Lobby group My Vote Counts, which took the matter to court, says that the implementation of the bill will drastically enhance transparency and accountability in the country’s political and electoral system.
The new legislation repeals a 1997 Act to better regulate the public and private funding of political parties. It establishes a multi-party democracy fund that will fund all political parties from state coffers.
The new law will prohibit certain donations being made directly to political parties and compel them to disclose private donations to the electoral commission. Political parties will not be allowed to accept donations from foreign governments or agencies.
The African National Congress (ANC) has welcomed the law, saying it will deepen democracy and usher in a new culture of transparency. But My Vote Counts says that it is however regrettable that the law will not have an impact on this year’s elections and that the electorate will once again go to the polls without this crucial information.
The bill follows a June 2018 order by the Western Cape High Court to have Parliament make provision for political parties to publicly disclose private funding within 18 months. Judge Yasmin Meer stressed that there must be transparency about private political party funding. The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s opposition party, was the only party to oppose the application for the transparency bill.
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