Decision to fire president shouldn't be in hands of few - former IEC head

2016-05-14 22:39
Brigalia Bam. (Lucky Nxumalo)

Brigalia Bam. (Lucky Nxumalo)

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Cape Town – A decision to fire a president cannot be in the hands of five people in a democracy, former Independent Electoral Commission chairperson Brigalia Bam has said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Franschhoek Literary Festival, Bam said a new system was needed in the country for elections.

She said the current system was right in the beginning of democracy, but it was time for it to evolve, and South Africa had to find a system that suited it.

“You cannot run a democratic state where key decisions of firing a president are made by five people, because it is in the hands of the party. The people who went to fire Thabo [Mbeki] were five, for an example,” she said.

Bam said the current system was right in 1994 and the following years, because people did not know the parties, or leaders.

“I couldn’t have voted for you because there were no systems for us to communicate, so we had to rely on the parties to choose people for us,” she said.

The country has ended up with a system that puts the power in the hands of a party, she said.

“Judging by public opinion now, people want him [President Jacob Zuma] to go, but the party position is he must stay, so he stays,” she said.

Bam was in the festival discussing her book Democracy: More than just elections.

She said the country needed a system that allowed for broader participation.

Where there was enough accountability to the voter, she said.

As it stood, she said, the opposition could scream and say the right things, but that would be waste of time, as the control in all parties was with the top six.

She called for a system where people in wards and municipalities decided who was going to be their representatives, instead of having someone chosen by the party and presented to the area.

“Let them make a mistake, let this person be accountable to the ward, be scared of them and respect them,” she said.

At present, these ward councillors were only afraid of the ANC, she said, and not the residents they were supposed to be working for.

“It shouldn’t matter which party put you there, you should be accountable to us, in a ward,” she said.

Bam, together with political economist Moeletsi Mbeki and City Press editor Ferial Haffajee were discussing the strategies needed to protect South African’s democracy. 

Bam was questioned on the idea of free and fair elections and the challenges faced to run such elections.

She said political parties were essential in the running of free and fair elections, and how they campaigned played a part.

“Right now it’s desperate, everyone wants to be on a list, everyone wants to have the job, and it can get violent,” she said.

Read more on:    iec  |  brigalia bam  |  cape town  |  franschhoek literary festival

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