The reason why the parliament is called « House of the people» in any country throughout the world, is because it members are elected by the people through the mode of election. As the House of people, the parliament has a crucial role to play in the country in terms of the advancement of democracy ,and assuring that all institutions complies with the rule of law. Honourable members have collective responsibilities regardless of their political affiliation to discuss and pass policies and laws that cannot compromise what is prescribe in the fundamental law, which is the constitution.
But additionally they have power to assure accountability to all organs of state as well as members of the executive and their cabinets. Is this happening effectively in South Africa? I am wondering if all citizens around the country know exactly what is expected from MPs, and also a big question is what if members of parliament cannot deliver to the best of people’s expectation what will happen to them. As we know that they were appointed by their political organisations. Can people put pressure to recall them?
When I asked many people in South Africa about interaction with MPs, 25 out 30 assured me that they do not even know the names of MPs as well as their living areas. Some indicated to me that they knew some members who were been living with them for some time, but they lost contact with them when they went to parliament. My concern is why MPs are not familiar with people that they pretend to represent in the house? How can you represent someone but you do not meet or interact regularly with? The simple answer to my question is that, perhaps MPs don’t really concern about acquainting with people because they assume that serving the interest of their parties that placed them in the house, will be advantageous than doing the opposite. Because to my opinion, if I am appointed by my political party as MP, whether people disagrees with it policies or not, I have to serve it interest as it provided me with job. And if I am elected directly by people, I will deliver my best to keep the level of confidence between myself and my electorates.
Politics become more attractive when citizens feel that their concerns are debated at the national sphere, and they representatives get to provide them with regularly feedback. Many countries throughout the world have adopted the electoral systems which allow members of parliament to be elected directly by the people on the party’s lists. This system have shown that people get to know better the way in which their interests are been debate, and it put MPs under certain obligations which make them realise that striving to keep the interest of people as first priority, is the only thing they have to do. It is pretty when surfing the parliament website which some time indicate that a proposal has been put to public for comment.
The question that one can ask is how can you persuade an electorate living in the rural area to comment on the proposal which is been place in the parliament website while internet access in most rural areas throughout the country remain a big challenge? If most proposals are getting full public participation in South Africa, we shouldn’t see people opposing e-Toll. Because to my view, when policies that have direct impact on household are been debate in parliament, they should receive full participation of all citizens so that when they are signed into law, they will not confront opposition. As taxpayers, they deserve to participate in policies building.
What to do in future to gain people’s confidence on their representatives if nothing has changed? If we need to change a negative observation, something must be changed. If we need to change peoples’ perceptions on MPs, maybe the mode of electing them to parliament should be reviewed in the way such, it make candidate to be elected directly by citizens on the parties’ lists, also independent candidates that can do better, should be encouraged to campaign. It is not necessary to belong to a certain party, for being elected as MP.
As doctors, nurses, engineers are needed to strength the economy of the country, young people should be encouraged as well to enter politics to strengthen democracy and build an equal society where policies are brought to people for comment and consideration before they can be sign into law. Politics must not been considered as a way of enrichment, but as an opportunity to serve the nation and others. What is considered to be wrong today can be adjusted tomorrow, but young people should be encouraged to study politics, as we believe that the future of any nation is on the youth’ fingers.
Leonard Mulunda, Independent Researcher in Issues affecting the Great Lakes region of Africa