Former DA leader Mmusi Maimane will be the guest speaker at a stakeholder consultation convened by Vuka Africa Foundation in Randburg, Johannesburg on Tuesday February 18.
The consultation is a sequel to a widely-representative electoral reform workshop at the University of Witwatersrand on October 17 last year where a decision was taken to form a movement to drive ordinary people’s participation in the electoral reform process in order to deepen democracy and increase accountability of elected public officials.
At the time of the Wits workshop which was attended by senior academics, members of political parties, MK veterans, faith-based communities and civil society members, it was unknown that Maimane would shortly resign as leader of the DA.
Maimane has rejected speculation that he might form a new political party with former Johannesburg DA mayor Herman Mashaba (or anybody else) but has called for reforms and increasing participation of ordinary people in how they are governed — goals which are in line with the outcomes of the Wits electoral reforms workshop. Most recently he has confirmed he plans to launch a movement which will mobilise people to become active citizens.
It is for this reason that Maimane was invited to speak at next week’s consultation with those that began the conversation last year, say the event organisers. Maimane, too, will get an opportunity to hear views from people who have been mobilising in their communities and if there are synergies, it is expected collaborations may follow — such as nation-building initiatives.
The Wits workshop, which brought together a diverse group of people who are rising to take responsibility to influence the direction their nation should move, was a follow-up to a dialogue that took place last August, a day before the Constitutional Court heard a case brought by New Nation Movement and Others who are calling for change in the electoral system to enable independent candidates to stand for elections.
Christian visionaries have been at the forefront of several non-partisan electoral reform initiatives that have been emerging in recent times.
The Wits workshop was aimed at delving deeper in understanding the current electoral system and the role of different stakeholders such as the IEC, Parliament, the Executive and the Constitutional Court — a need that was identified at the earlier dialogue where it became clear that there was a need for broader reforms than those sought in the case before the Constitutional Court and for more participation by ordinary citizens in the process.
Another objective of the workshop was to unpack the report of the Electoral Task Team (ETT) led by Dr Van Zyl Slabbert that had made recommendations to Parliament to change the country’s electoral system to a mixed system that would ensure MPs were voted for by constituencies.
This topic was unpacked by Roger Southall who has written widely on the need to reform the country’s electoral systems, and was also part of the ETT.
Professor Daryl Glaser gave the workshop an in-depth understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the current electoral system, and compared it with systems used in other countries. He cautioned that the current proportional representation system has ensured that the voice of opposition parties was not drowned in parliament.
Omry Makgoale, a member of the ruling party ANC who has campaigned both inside and outside his party for electoral reforms, addressed the workshop on the subject of political party funding and the need to improve internal democracy within political parties. He linked the weakness in internal democracy in parties to a number of problems that have affected the nations, as well as to state capture.
It was clearly understood by those at the workshop that despite the need to change the current electoral system, it would be naïve to think political parties will disappear. However, to ensure democracy is deepened in the nation, there is a need to regulate and hold political parties accountable.
The workshop discussions were robust and indicated the depth of frustration people have with government and the current electoral system — and sadly the representative of the IEC bore the brunt of the discontent.
Linda Gobodo of Vuka Africa Foundation, who represented the voice of civil society on the workshop panel, made the proposal that was adopted by all to form a movement that would become the voice of ordinary citizens on electoral reform. The movement would include ordinary citizens, academics, politicians, businesspeople, traditional and faith leaders and would ensure that electoral reforms are not manipulated by politicians or elite think tanks to the detriment of the citizens of South Africa.
For more information about the consultation at Vuka Africa Foundation’s offices at 19 Harley Street, Ferndale, Randburg from 6pm to 8pm on Tuesday February 18 contact firstname.lastname@example.org.