Accusations Mount Against South Africa’s Constitutional Court for Delaying Decision on Crucial Election Case

Activist Zackie Achmat, who is contesting the 2024 general election as an independent candidate, has raised concerns about the Constitutional Court’s delay in delivering a crucial judgment regarding election laws. This delay has the potential to undermine the election process if not resolved soon.

In a letter to Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Achmat emphasized the public importance of the challenge to sections of the Electoral Amendment Act, enacted in April this year, despite not being a litigant in the case.

The 2024 election will allow independent candidates to run for office for the first time.

During the hearing in August, the Independent Candidates Association and Build One SA argued that the Act was unconstitutional as it unfairly restricted the participation and representation of independent candidates compared to political party candidates in the National Assembly.

The applicants claimed that independent candidates would require more votes to obtain a seat, suggesting an unequal playing field.

The application faced opposition from Parliament and Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi.

Mosotho Moepya, chair of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), recently expressed concerns about the outstanding court judgment, stating that it is causing anxiety and preventing the IEC from finalizing election plans.

It was expected that the judgment would be delivered before the end of September.

In a letter to the Chief Justice dated November 23, Achmat requested an estimated timeframe for the judgment or an order without reasons.

Achmat, who is currently collecting signatures to obtain nomination in the Western Cape region, highlighted the lack of certainty in the nomination process for independent candidates.

He referred to the court’s directive in August 2023 regarding the hearing date as an indication that the judgment would be delivered promptly to ensure certainty for the upcoming election.

Despite acknowledging the difficulty of the court’s task, Achmat expressed concern over the nearly three-month delay since the argument was heard and suggested that a further delay could impact the election process.

Achmat urged the court to provide an estimated date for the judgment or issue an order without reasons to address the pressing matter of nomination by independent candidates.

The Office of the Chief Justice has not yet responded to GroundUp’s request for comment.

According to Mbekezeli Benjamin from Judges Matter, while the court’s judgment may take time, the circumstances of the 2024 election require urgency. Benjamin suggests that a similar approach to the 2021 elections, where the court issued an order with reasons later, could strike a fair balance between delivering a reasoned judgment and allowing time for preparation by the Independent Electoral Commission and independent candidates.

In the past, the Constitutional Court has acted swiftly on electoral questions, delivering judgments shortly after the hearings.

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