Dear Mr Valli Moosa,
On behalf of the One South Africa Movement, I wish to extend warm congratulations to you on your appointment as chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on amending the Electoral Act. The establishment of this committee by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi marks a milestone on the journey to electoral reform in South Africa – a long-overdue journey, I might add.
From the outset, I wish to pledge the support of the One South Africa Movement to the work you are doing. Achieving meaningful electoral reform is the movement’s raison d’etre. We are convinced that it is the most suitable pathway to ending overt and excessive power wielded by political parties and their funders, and gives greater say to voters in who they elect to government.
Reforming our electoral system to bring power and decision making closer to citizens is something I believe in deeply. In this light, I initiated a process, in my name originally and later through the New Nation Movement and others, to challenge the constitutionality of the Electoral Act insofar as it requires a citizen to run for public office through a political party. My aim in pursuing this important legal course of action is fourfold:
- It is grounded in the Constitution. If we believe we are a constitutional state we must respect constitutionality;
- 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;
- 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 into and wish to participate in. For the first time in our history, in the last election, more eligible voters abstained than voted; and
- We need to attract a wide, more diverse field of experienced statesmen and stateswomen who wish to take part in governance but do not want to be part of a political party.
As someone who was active in the United Democratic Front during the Struggle, you more than most can appreciate the ideal of government of the people, by the people and for the people. This, alongside your sterling career in the public and private sectors, reaffirms that you are indeed the right person for this task.
While the Constitutional Court ruling is the reason for a change in our electoral laws, I wish to emphasise that it hands us a golden opportunity to improve and reform our entire electoral system. An opportunity we should not let go to waste.
In this light, I wish to point your attention to the Electoral Laws Second Amendment Bill, a comprehensive piece of legislation that not only honours the Constitutional Court judgment but seeks to drastically improve our electoral system and in turn to mature our democracy. This bill is already before Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee and was, together with my legal team, spearheaded by Mosiuoa Lekota of Cope as a private member’s bill.
The draft bill will, in essence, achieve the following:
- Independents will have the right to stand for election;
- A 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 to ensure no votes are wasted; and
- Electronic elections.
It is important 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 of political parties. But they cannot be the only option and we need to encourage and identify leaders who do not want to be part of a political party but who wish to stand for election and add their much-valued experience and skill to help transform our political landscape.
The work has begun and we would like nothing more than to partner with you to achieve shared objectives as they relate to electoral reform. With my legal, political and business leadership in the local and international arenas, it would be a privilege to serve you and the committee.
The time to reshape our electoral system is upon us. This is an unprecedented “Kairos” moment in which we must all participate. We must fulfil the aspirations of the Freedom Charter – that “the people shall govern” – and the hard yards have already begun. DM