Defend Truth


More electoral reform needed – we must give power to the people of South Africa


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

Why must the people of South Africa depend on political parties to choose their members of Parliament, their president, their premiers and mayors?

Now that the political parties have submitted their candidates’ lists to the Electoral Commission for the general elections, the question is: where are the citizens of South Africa? Were they contacted and consulted, and did they have any role in nominating candidates for the national and provincial assemblies? The answer is no.

South African voters remain disempowered from directly choosing members of Parliament — except that in the upcoming general elections, for the first time, independent candidates will be contesting alongside party candidates.

The citizens of South Africa do not run political parties and are not responsible for their day-to-day operations and activities.  

Why can voters not choose their members of Parliament? Why must citizens be given premiers without the right to choose their preferred candidates?

The State Capture inquiry report delivered by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo implicated more than 90 ANC leaders and members in wrongdoing.

These include Gwede Mantashe, the ANC national chairperson; Zizi Kodwa, the minister of arts and culture; and Thabang Makwetla, the deputy defence minister. Citizens have no say over who is included in the candidate lists.

Where is power to the people in this case?

It is power to the party headquarters, with no say from the citizens. Thirty years since the end of apartheid, black voters still do not enjoy a right that whites had under apartheid — the right to directly elect or remove their members of Parliament in their constituencies.  

The rule by party headquarters since 1994 has made citizens dependent on political parties, leading to corruption inside political parties that has spread throughout South Africa, destroying Eskom, Transnet, Prasa, the Post Office, PetroSA, water treatment plants and road infrastructure.

The powerlessness of the people has led to the destruction of South Africa’s economic and social infrastructure. Voters are powerless to remove corrupt or incompetent members of Parliament.

We need to give power to the people. We need citizens to have the right to directly elect their own members of Parliament on the basis of one citizen, one vote. The president, premiers and mayors should be elected on the same basis of one citizen, one vote rather than through appointments made by political parties. The taxpayers who are responsible for the salaries of politicians are excluded from directly choosing them. 

When will we wake up and reform our undemocratic system of voting? The fact that for the first time in 30 years there will be independent candidates contesting the elections alongside party appointees should be the beginning of a mass campaign for total reform of our electoral system.

Let us call for power to the people — and not party appointees. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Peter Atkins says:

    A more representative election process would be good for us, the voters, but not so good for the politicians. Perhaps that’s why all parties have been dragging their heels on election reform. So we are stuck for now.

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    Isn’t it crazy that in this day and age, we have a system where we give so few people so much power? Why have we not yet developed a system that is by the people, for the people. We’ve sent people to the moon, we have developed AI, etc, etc. But, we’re still using a system developed by the Greeks, more than 2000 years ago.

  • Danie Maré says:

    Because it is possible to bribe 50%+1 party delegates, I feel strongly that the Westminster system cannot work here.

    I would like to see that ⅔ majority in parliament must vote for the president. I mean you need that to fire him/her. If it cannot be obtained, parliament must give the electorate 2 candidates for a popular vote run off election. 1 Rule, a member or parliament cannot refuse nomination. It should be us all, not just Gallagher Estate that should pick between for example Ramaphosa and Zuma.

    Secondly, some formula should give opposition parties veto rights on cabinet members.

    The National Speaker should resign all office bearing positions in a political party.

    And the head of all chapter 9 institutions, of which the NPA must become part of, must be appointed by the president from a nomination pool only drwan up by opposition parties.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Excellent article sir – succinct, to the point and completely valid.

  • John Stephens says:

    I have for many years insisted that our constitution is fundamentally flawed in its system of representation. Members of Parliament are not elected by, nor answerable to the people. They represent their parties, not their people. This part of the constitution needs urgent reformation. We need a new constitutional congress to negotiate this part of the constitution. It must consist of representatives of the people, not of political parties and other role players.

  • Margaux Overbeek says:

    The Organic Humanity Movement will be on the regional and national ballots this year. We have no policies. We have a SOLE purpose, and that is to change the governance structure and electoral system toe Direct Elections. Read our manifesto on our website and join the work to change our system.

    • Lawrence Sisitka says:

      Yes, a nice article Mr Makgoale! The constituency system, and direct elections of presidents etc. would certainly be a step in the right direction and remove much opportunity for the corruption that has blighted SA and many other countries for so long; and it is vital to reduce the influence of political parties. But these changes in themselves will not solve the problem – the US may well vote Trump in again, for example, and many African presidents claim to have been elected directly and democratically, and we know how far from the truth that is. One vital change necessary will be a massive reduction in the power wielded by individuals in the roles of president, in particular. In fact we need to move from a concept of power to a concept of representation, where no-one in elected office has access to the country’s wealth in any form, and is held accountable by a citizen’s forum, not any party or elected parliament. ‘Power’ itself must remain the domain of the people,and ‘governments’, teams of highly competent professionals with the necessary skills and experience across the board, seconded by their employers to manage the country, should be appointed under short-term (5-year?) contracts, based on their vision for the country and their proposed deliverables rather than on any ideology. Their tenure should be subject to review every 2 years. Yes, lots of details to be thought through, but this level of radical rethink is required.

  • Anthony Kearley says:

    Who the political parties choose to represent them (and by implication the voters who voted for the party) in parliament, tells us something valuable about each political party. Pay attention. If you don’t trust the chosen representatives, does that party represent your values? If not, no need to micromanage, just vote for another party.

  • Colin K says:

    Absolutely. Clinging to the old closed party list system is ridiculous. Wasn’t it supposed to be temporary anyway?

    I guess the sticking point is the Constitutional requirement for proportionality. Amend it to allow for constituency instead. I’m not a fan of first-past-the-post, but is the general populace ready for Alternative Vote, multi-round? Ranked-choice might be the way go.

    Another comment I saw on DM related to the Swiss Canton voting system. If it is as described it appeals to the technocrat in me. ANYTHING but out current languishing system!

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