For twenty-five years we have been told endlessly that one of the major arguments against the proportional representation electoral system in South Africa is that it places “too much power in the hands of party bosses.” The argument has always been that this system takes power away from the local voters who merely get presented with a party list containing the names of candidates who are favoured by the leadership of the parties.
All the parties contesting the May 8th General Election were required to hand in their parliamentary and provincial legislature lists to the IEC last Thursday. The candidates on the lists are all in numerical order of preference and candidates are elected up to the percentage of the vote obtained by their party.
Most of the other parties had not at the time of writing published their candidates’ lists but the news of just who was included on the ANC lists caused a major- mainly extremely negative – reaction. Former and present ministers like Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane and Bathabile Dlamini, all of whom are operating under a cloud of allegations of criminality; of incompetence; of lying under oath, in some cases; of participating in state capture to the enormous harm to our country and our people, are ANC candidates.
We were previously informed that a large number of those nominated were to be removed from the lists at the instance of the Integrity Commission of the ANC. That has not happened. Ace Magashule, Secretary General of the ANC, implicated in the Free State’s Estina dairy farm scandal, defended the lists on the grounds that one could not exclude people on the basis of allegations of improper conduct. He said that none of these people had been convicted. Magashule pointed out that anyone could be nominated for parliament unless they had been convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months in prison.
He did not refer to her, but Bathabile Dlamini is a convicted criminal – dating back to the Travelgate fraud when she and other MPs defrauded parliament and thus the people by making exorbitant claims about air travel. Presumably because she was not sent to jail, she is perfectly acceptable to him and to her party, to the extent that she has been a minister for many years, appointed by President Zuma and reappointed by President Ramaphosa.
More importantly, President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking on the campaign trail, said that the ANC would “of course” win the election. He defended the ANC candidates, according to the Daily Maverick, on the basis that, “We are a broad movement. We are a democratic movement and the membership of the ANC, if you remember how we choose all the representatives, they are chosen from the ground. We are a party that does not impose representatives from the top.” He added, “They were chosen from the bottom by the membership of the organisation and we must respect the democratic process.”
There you have it. If someone is sent to jail for 12 months or more, they become ineligible by law; failing that, no matter what reputational damage their inclusion in the lists and later in Parliament, or even the Cabinet, may do, if they can persuade a couple of ANC branches to nominate them, they can go right ahead. Accordingly, it seems fair to point out that if President Ramaphosa and the “party bosses” have no power in the nomination of candidates, electing more MPs from the ANC lists may not “strengthen his hand.” On the contrary, it may weaken him because he could be surrounded in parliament by flawed MPs who do not support him.
Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His website is: douglasgibsonsouthafrica.com. This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.