OPINION

ConCourt paves way for electoral reform – Herman Mashaba

Parliament must go further and amend Electoral Act to allow for constituency system

Constitutional Court Paves the Way for Electoral Reform

11 June 2020

The Constitutional Court has delivered a landmark judgement today, allowing for independent candidates to contest National and Provincial Elections.

The relevance of this judgement lies in its ability to pave the way for electoral reform, a fundamental value of The People’s Dialogue emanating from the submissions of the millions of South Africans who shared their views with us.

For parliament to give expression to this judgement, it cannot stop at amending the Electoral Act simply to allow for independent candidates to contest at a National or Provincial level. This could result in a scenario where an independent candidate garnered more votes than the required threshold for a single seat in the National Assembly or a Provincial Legislature and the remainder of the votes would have to be redistributed to other political parties who were not chosen by those voters.

In our view, for the Constitutional Court ruling to be given full expression, Parliament must amend the Electoral Act to provide for a change to our electoral system. Parliament must amend the Electoral Act to provide for a mixed electoral system, providing for at least half of the 400 seats to be directly elected through constituencies.

This would allow for a situation, for the first time in democratic South Africa, where voters could hold individual members of Parliament accountable for their performance and their voting records.

The problem lies with members of Parliament, and our current political parties, being vehemently opposed to any form of direct accountability. The fallout they would experience from any form of direct accountability would be disastrous for them, given the poor calibre of candidates that political parties put forward to represent the people of South Africa.

This is why the political party that I am working to establish has placed electoral reform as one of our key values. While we will push for these reforms in Parliament, we are going to live the principle of accountability internally. Our party has already committed to subject aspirant candidates to a system of primary elections, where members of the public will be able to vote for the candidate from our party, that they would like to see standing in their community when they go to the ballot box. What will arise form this is a much higher calibre of candidate, chosen by the residents of that area, to serve that community. This same system will be used as a performance management system to hold candidates to account should they fail the residents who elected them.

Today’s judgement is a victory for our country’s road towards electoral reform. However, there is much more that will need to be done to ensure that Parliament takes the necessary steps to amend the Electoral Act in a manner that creates direct accountability for the voters of our country without sacrificing fairness.

Issued by Herman Mashaba, Founder of the People’s Dialogue, 11 June 2020