Individuals not affiliated to any political party who want to contest general elections will possibly only get a chance in 2024, if the Constitutional Court finds that sections of the Electoral Act barring them from doing so is unconstitutional, notes a Business Day report.

Yesterday, the court postponed the urgent challenge to the Act by lobby group New Nation Movement (NNM) and others. Several independent candidates who wanted to stand in Wednesday’s elections, had asked the court to halt the polls to allow the legislation to be challenged. The Minister of Home Affairs and the Electoral Commission (IEC) opposed the application.

The President and the Speaker of the National Assembly, who were respondents, did not oppose it. The merits of the case, which could have far-reaching consequences for the electoral system, will now be heard on 15 August.

According to a News24 report, Advocate Allen Nelson SC asked the court to make an order declaring the Electoral Act unconstitutional. 'This includes the need for the election to be postponed (it will fall in your power to do that), Nelson told Judge Johan Froneman. This comes after the applicants approached the Western Cape High Court in September 2018, seeking an order declaring the Electoral Act unconstitutional as it prevented individual candidates from running for seats in Parliament or provincial legislatures.

The application was dismissed by the High Court, which ruled there was nothing stopping the candidates from exercising their rights by joining or forming a political party. In March, the IEC argued before the High Court that the NNM's push was an 'extraordinary attempt to imperil the elections'.

The NNM argued that if the case wasn't heard urgently, and the polls proceeded, the elections could be 'invalidated when the case is heard later'.

Full News24 report

Justice Edwin Cameron said reasons for the court’s decision would be given at a later stage. Directions on further conduct in the case would be given by the court, but he made no order as to who should carry the costs for yesterday proceedings, notes the Business Day report. NNM spokesperson Tshego Motaung said they were happy that the hearing had been set down for August.

‘We had hoped that even within these elections something could have been done, remembering that the conversation did not start now,’ she said. The remedies that were available today would still be available in August, she said.

The risk was that if the relevant sections in the Act were declared unconstitutional, the outcome of the elections could be challenged, Motaung said. The action was not aimed at disrupting elections, but about reforming the system. ‘We are confident that this next Parliament will have no option but to prioritise this matter,’ she said.

Full Business Day report (subscription needed)