Dealing with SA's accountability deficit

Omry Makgoale says the root cause of the problem lies with our closed list PR system

Response to Mmusi Maimane on Accountability Deficit

It is good to read Mmusi Maimane’s article, “Our accountability deficit” (Politicsweb, 27 July 2018). He raises a crucial issue. South Africa is suffering from a huge accountability deficit.

How to approach this issue is the problem, however.

Accountability of politicians is a reflection of how empowered the voters are. It is a reflection of the consciousness of the voters, and should rightfully be demanded by the voters. The question is, do voters actually have the power in law to make politicians accountable to themselves, or do they lack that power.

It is true that ANC politicians fall far below acceptable standards of accountability.

For Qedani Mahlangu, former MEC for Health in Gauteng who presided over the deaths of 144 Life Esidimeni mental patients, to have been re-elected by Gauteng ANC branches onto the Provincial Executive Committee is a disgrace for us ANC members.

Brian Hlongwa, also the former MEC for Health, must still account for R1.2 Billion under his watch during his tenure as Health MEC. Then Bathabile Dlamini, former Social Welfare Minister and now Minister for Women, is the cornerstone of SASSA crises. As for Angie Motshekga, she is the nightmare behind the lowest literacy and maths standards, not mentioning poor infrastructure at schools with pit latrines in the 21st century.

All these failures – to put it nicely - happened because the ANC is captured by the tenderpreneurs from the branches to the NEC, from ward councillors to cabinet ministers. ANC is no longer in the hands of the people. ANC branches are hijacked and they elect corrupt politicians at every elective conference from the branch general meetings to the regional elective conferences up to the national elective conference, such as at Nasrec and Mangaung elective conferences. Most ANC-run municipalities have only a qualified audit, according to the Auditor General. It gets that low.

However Mmusi Maimane misses the root cause of the crisis of lack of individual accountability, which is the system of 100% proportional representation in the parliamentary electoral laws.

State capture happens because of party-capture, and party-capture is inevitable under an electoral system in which the party inner circle appoints all MPs, keeps them under iron discipline and sacks them if – like Makhosi Khoza – they dare to defy Luthuli House.

Accountability deficit is built into South African public affairs because of the accountability of politicians only to party bosses and not to the voters, dictated by our present electoral law. Any proposal that avoids this issue is just window-dressing.

Without reforming the parliamentary electoral laws it will only get worse and worse. Of course this system is suitable for opposition parties in short term, as it gives them unmissable targets to criticise, but this will not address the cause: the lack of individual accountability of politicians. The only solution to our lack of individual accountability of politicians is by reforming the parliamentary electoral laws, introducing large, multi-member constituency system as proposed by the commission headed by Dr

Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert in 2003, so that 75% (300) members of parliament are directly elected by the voters and only 25% (100) members of parliament are appointed by the party headquarters, like now.

Lack of accountability of politicians is the derivative of lack of direct election of MPs by the voters. Appointment of members of parliament by the party headquarters is fundamentally flawed.

Members of Parliament must be elected by the voters, not appointed by the party headquarters.

Under the present electoral law placed in the Constitution in 1993, South Africa does not have the basic condition for representative government – that is, politicians answerable individually to the voters.

Instead, the president of the ruling party is effectively the employer for cabinet ministers and an employer for ruling party members of parliament in the National Assembly. In protecting their jobs and their pensions, cabinet ministers and ruling party MPs defend the president even when he is extremely corrupt and hands power over to a foreign family, the Guptas, who then appoint ministers and directors of state owned enterprises.

With this top-down political system, who is surprised that the Guptas were given presidential privilege for landing at Waterkloof Airforce

Base and given police escort to their wedding at Sun City. It comes with the electoral law.

Appointment of MPs creates the ideal ground for state capture, since they are constitutionally compelled to be loyal to party HQ to keep their jobs instead of being loyal to the Constitution.

There is a contradiction here at the heart of our post-apartheid Constitution. To protect the Constitution we have to change it.

We can have no democracy without electoral reform.

I would like to know how Mmusi Maimane views this proposal.

Omry Makgoale is a rank file member of the ANC. These are his personal views.