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Our ConCourt challenge to the Electoral Act was for the sake of democracy: Have your say

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Dr Michael Louis is Chairperson of the One South Africa Movement (OSA).

At the core of reforming the Electoral Act is ensuring citizens can directly elect their representatives in government. This brings decision-making closer to the very people such decisions will affect. It is in essence self-government and self-determination.

On the eve of the notice of intention to introduce the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill and request for public comment to be published in the Government Gazette, I ask the following questions: how are we going to change a land of philosophers, ideologues and liberators into a nation of “doers“? Are we going to keep talking, debating and theorising about what needs change in South Africa, or are we going to finally act? Are we going to shrug our shoulders in despair, blaming our infrastructure, finances, bureaucracy, and political system, or are we going to roll up our sleeves and take action? The time for talk is over, we’re in the business of building a nation.

In the landmark judgment in June this year in the case brought by the New Nation Movement, the Constitutional Court declared the Electoral Act to be unconstitutional. Specifically, it found that the current legislation strips ordinary citizens of the right not to affiliate themselves with a political party if wanting to run for public office. Individual candidates, the court ruled, must be allowed to contest elections independently and free from the rigorous constraints of political parties.

Parliament has been given 24 months to amend the legislation. During this period a wide range of stakeholders will be consulted – political parties, civil society, academia and most importantly the citizens at large. The time to reshape our electoral system is upon us. This is an unprecedented “Kairos” moment in which we must all participate. Indeed, we must, to fulfil the aspirations of the Freedom Charter – “the people shall govern” – and this begins from day one on the path to direct elections.

At the core of reforming the Electoral Act is ensuring citizens can directly elect their representatives in government. This brings decision-making closer to the very people such decisions will affect. It is in essence self-government and self-determination. Representative governance allows us to impart values as a generational legacy including a newfound understanding of the importance of family; of business and its central role in growing the economy for all; of religious institutions and the role they play in families and communities; and of local government in a bid to decentralise power and bring it closer to communities.

For too long we’ve relied on a top-down approach to tackle our country’s most pressing issues. It’s time we flip this on its head. Let’s solve neighbourhood, community and city problems first – which are best solved by those who are locally involved. Servant leadership means we start in our own backyards, and we believe local community heroes and heroines are the ones who ought to be elected to government.

Our Direct Elections Bill will serve the interests of every South African by bringing power closer to the people, ensuring the direct elections of accountable community leaders to Parliament.

The Bill will in effect lead to:

  •       Independents having the right to stand for election;
  •       Smaller national Parliament and provincial legislatures;
  •       An open and transparent party list system;
  •       Constituency based elections made up of 52 constituencies;
  •       A single transferable vote so as to ensure no votes are wasted; and
  •       Electronic elections

It is important for me to state that this bill is not an “anti-political party” bill. As a founder member of a political party during the democratic transition, I will always recognise the invaluable role political parties fulfilled and continue to fulfil. But they cannot be the only option.

My aim in personally pursuing this important legal course of action is for five reasons.

  1. It is grounded in the Constitution. If we believe we are a constitutional state, we must respect constitutionality;
  2. We need responsible elected legislators who are directly accountable to their communities. This has been recommended by numerous reports and commissions over many years, most notably the Van Zyl Slabbert Commission report of 2003;
  3. Almost 20 million eligible voters did not vote in the last election. We need a new electoral system that the majority of South Africans buy in to and participate in;
  4. We need to attract a wide, more diverse field of skills and experience of statesmen and stateswomen who are attracted to take part in governance, but do not want to be part of a political party; and
  5. Local government has all but collapsed in SA. Our bill divides the nation into 52 constituencies for elections to take place. Scaffolding will take place where the constituency will be represented by a national MP, provincial MP and local MP, thereby strengthening inter-governmental relationships.

On Friday, 27 August 2020, the intention to introduce the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill will appear in the Government Gazette and open for public comment. It will be in the name of Hon Mosiuoa Lekota MP. All South Africans are to make their voices heard and submit written submissions and representations to the proposed content of the draft bill to the Speaker of the national assembly by the 30th of September via email: [email protected]

The bill, memorandum, and policy paper can be viewed at www.osa.org.za

Now is the time to take hold of this power handed to the people and rescue our families and our beloved nation. The highest service that any man or woman can offer is to have a heart for their own generation and the next. Now is our time! DM

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