COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota has proposed the introduction of a constituency-based electoral system, which he says will boost accountability.
The veteran MP also proposes 52 multi-member constituencies based on the 44 district and eight metropolitan governments that already exist in SA.
“This is wall to wall. We will not need to go back and look at how to create constituencies,” said COPE’s Farouk Cassim, presenting on Lekota’s behalf. Cassim, a COPE councillor in Cape Town, assisted Lekota in drafting his private member’s bill — the Electoral Laws Second Amendment Bill — which was presented to the home affairs portfolio committee on Tuesday.
The committee is responsible for amending the electoral law after the Constitutional Court found in June last year that exclusive party proportional representation could no longer be used, and that independent candidates should be allowed to stand for provincial and national elections.
COPE wants to substitute the closed list proportional representation (PR) system with an open list PR system to make public representatives accountable and to allow people a greater say in the government of the country.
If it were up to the party, voters would have a right to rank candidates during the election by voting for a particular party-nominated candidate or an independent candidate, as opposed to voting for a party.
The PR system would then kick into effect on the basis that the candidate who makes the cut would be able to pass the surplus votes to like-minded and ideologically compatible candidates if they so determine before the election, said Cassim.
The bill is also proposing decreasing the number of MPs to 350, and having a smaller government in keeping with the country’s enormous fiscal difficulties.
A minimum of one-third of the seats would be reserved for women, according to Lekota’s proposals.
Lekota said the origins of his bill go back to the Freedom Charter.
“The critical thing here is that we are continuing the process of our constitution-making and we have come along with this and at a certain point, we seem to have veered off,” he said.
Some of the thinking in the bill is based on the 2003 Frederick van Zyl Slabbert electoral report which has been gathering dust.
The cabinet appointed a team under Van Zyl Slabbert’s leadership in 2002 to investigate electoral systems and report on what would best suit SA. One of the task team’s main recommendations was for SA to have a mix of proportional representation and a constituency-based system.
It was suggested that the country be divided into 69 “multi-member constituencies,” that would together directly elect 300 of the 400 members of the National Assembly.
The remaining 100 seats would be filled according to proportional representation.
MPs from across the political party spectrum appeared to be keen on Lekota’s bill.
The committee decided to hold a workshop where MPs will learn more about the technical proposals contained in the bill.