You can lie under oath, you can be unethical, and even face serious allegations of corruption, as long as you were not convicted and sentenced to 12 months in jail without the option of a fine, you can become a parliamentarian in South Africa.
This as the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) national spokesperson, Kate Bapela, yesterday told The Citizen the commission had received objections against nine political parties and 53 candidates since the objection window was opened to the public.
The commission was expected to make a determination on all objections and notify the objectors and affected parties of its decision by Monday.
The deadline for objections to candidates on party lists was 5pm on Tuesday this week, and political parties whose candidates had been objected to, will be given an opportunity to respond.
In terms of the law, those prohibited from standing for elections included unrehabilitated insolvents, anyone declared to be of unsound mind by a court, and anyone who was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine, either in South Africa or outside the country.
The disqualification would end five years after the sentence has been completed.
This meant that Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini and ex-minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba, who face allegations of bribery and have been found to have lied under oath, may return to parliament or even Cabinet.
The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) and Corruption Watch want none of that. The organisations lambasted the law for not being tight enough against known culprits of unethical behaviour.
Casac’s executive secretary, Lawson Naidoo, demanded legislation be amended to raise the bar on acceptable candidates for office.
David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, concurred with Naidoo and blamed the old mantra of “innocent until proven guilty” because it implied that only convicted criminals should be disqualified from public offices, while individuals known for unethical behaviour could still be elected.