By Dr Michael Louis, One South Africa
On Tuesday a conference was held entitled “Real power to the people” with the theme “Electoral Reform for Community Based Governance.” The hosts were the School of Social Innovation and Governance, One South Africa Movement and the School of Governance. The facilitator was Professor Erwin Schwella, and the speakers me (Dr Michael Louis), Deon van der Westhuizen of Next Step Academy, Professor Louis Scheepers of the School of Governance of UWC and Herman Bailey, Emeritus Mayor
I communicated to the participants that I had received the Ministerial Advisory Commission Report that was chaired by former Minister Valli Moosa which was presented to the Minister of Home Affairs last week.
Valli Moosa alongside eight experienced specialists in public policy, constitutional affairs and representatives of the Electoral Commission drafted their recommendations. Representations were made by political parties, civil society organisations, organised business and labour, academics and faith-based organisations. The committee’s guiding principles were inclusivity, simplicity, accountability, gender equality, proportionality, effective participation of independence, and legislation principles.
The committee could unfortunately not reach a consensus and therefore presented two options for the minister to consider and for parliament to enact.
The options were as follows:
The existing multi-member electoral system remains exactly the same and is amended to accommodate independent candidates.
It recommends a broader definition of “political parties” to include “organisations and movements”.
It says the IEC should request National Parliament to divide 400 parliamentary seats among the provinces based on their population and that votes will be counted provincially for national representation, i.e. MPs’ constituencies will be provinces and not the nation.
It recommends that provincial legislature votes will remain unchanged.
This option was supported by three of the eight committee members .
This option fails to adhere to all three previous electoral commissions, viz Van Zyl Slabbert Report, Pregs Commission and High Level Report of Ex President Motlanthe that encouraged a total overall of the electoral system.
Its main failure is that it does not allow for independents to be treated equally and for each vote to be counted.
This option combines the “first past the post” and proportional representation, making it a mixed-member proportional representation system resembling local government electoral systems, albeit with some improvements.
It involves selecting MPs from 200 single-member constituencies and the remainder from the single national multi-member constituencies. Voters nominate a single MP to represent a single-member constituency (first vote) and for a party on a national member proportional closed party list (second vote).
I commented that the report exceeds what they expected from the committee. It definitely promotes the principle of “power to the people” and especially the aspirations of the Freedom Charter.
The major benefits and differences from past elections is that the committee suggested that there will be four votes, two ballots for national and two ballots for provincial and that South Africa will be divided into 200 wards. If there are 26 million registered voters, each constituency will have 130 000 registered voters for MPs to control. In the first option, for example, each MP in Gauteng will be responsible for 6.3 million voters, Western Cape 3.6 million and KwaZulu-Natal 5.5 million.
The second option was the preferred majority option recommended by the committee.
There is no doubt that parliament and the minister now have no more excuses to comply with the Constitutional Court order that a new Electoral Act must be implemented and completed by June 12 2022. We have to encourage parliamentarians to do what they must do to implement this bill and that “Option two” as presented by the committee is the only consideration.
The ideal that “the people shall govern” is a goal worth attaining.
What started as a small seed five years ago when I began to pursue a dream of seeing our electoral system align with our Constitution has now got the potential, with God’s help, to blossom into a forest of big trees and create a future that we can all be proud of.