Maimane and Lekota eye election reform in new draft Bill

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One SA Movement leader and former DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Jan Gerber, News24)
One SA Movement leader and former DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Jan Gerber, News24)
  • COPE president Mosiuoa Lekota is tabling a private members bill that seeks to reform South Africa's electoral laws.
  • The draft Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 2020 seeks to ensure MPs will answer only to voters in the community they represent.
  • Lekota already has the backing of One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane.

COPE president Mosiuoa Lekota is to table a private members bill proposing wholesale reform of the country's electoral laws to give voters the power to elect their own leaders free from political party constraints.

Lekota already had the backing of the One SA Movement, led by former DA leader Mmusi Maimane, in tabling his draft Electoral Laws Amendment Bill 2020 that sought to "give voters a direct relationship with their elected representatives".

The two leaders presented their plans at a press briefing on the steps of the National Assembly on Wednesday.

"The year 1994 was a watershed moment. South Africa witnessed the demise of apartheid and the birth of a new democracy. There was not enough time to get everything right as the new period of politics in our country was ushered in. This was particularly so in respect of the electoral system," Lekota said.

The draft Bill seeks to:

  • Create a direct relationship between voters and their Member of Parliament;
  • Give true effect to the Constitutional provision that states "[E]very adult citizen has the right to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office";
  • Curtail the excessive power political parties currently wield;
  • Ensure people can choose the best of the best, from business, the education and health sectors, scientists and academics, as well as community leaders who best know the needs of their communities; and
  • Ensure that public representatives will answer only to voters in the communities they represent.

READ | MPs want more time to consider policy options on independent candidates judgment

In June, the Constitutional Court declared the Electoral Act unconstitutional.

The New Nation Movement (NNM) launched a bid to allow an independent candidate to run for elections, which challenged the current Electoral Act 73 of 1998, arguing that it infringed on the right to exercise individual political choices.

The court ordered Parliament to amend the Electoral Act within 24 months.

The court victory allowed independent candidates to run for provincial and national elections.

Lekota said they planned to engage South Africans on independent candidates, proportionality and the open list proportional representative (PR) system as well as constituency representation.

READ ALSO | 'ConCourt judgment brings power back to the people' - political leaders react

"COPE believes that the closed list PR system be replaced with an open list PR system. In this system, political parties will still put up a list and the outcome will still be proportional because provision for a single transferable vote will apply. The big difference is that voters will have the right to rearrange the order on the list. Voter preference will, therefore, be accommodated,” he said.

Maimane said South Africans were frustrated, despondent, desperate and fed up with politicians.

"Our democracy is in a dire state, fast heading in the wrong direction. The truth is no single political party is able to drastically change the fortunes of South Africa and its people. With almost 50 political parties on the ballot paper, adding another one changes nothing," he said.

A memorandum on the Bill would be gazetted next Friday and then opened for public comment.

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