Constitutional electoral reforms is an imperative

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File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

For those who understand our electoral system, they will concede that while we exist in a democracy, we are far from democratic. For the past fifteen years, I have been screaming for a revamp of our constitution in terms of how we elect public representatives but, with little support and with alarming indifference, such screams were muffled by those whose vision and acumen – or gross lack thereof – betrayed the realism that indeed our democracy is merely a smokescreen caressed by the want of power.

How many citizens even know the names of parliamentarians representing them? Better still, how many citizens even know the name, let alone having seen, their local municipal councillor?

Also, these public officials are more often than not, conspicuous by their glaring absence and there is a complete lack of consultation with the electorate and the community in terms of accountability and delivery. Herein lies perhaps our greatest folly as the electorate, as the vote harvesting season approaches, ringing ominous bells of deja vouz..

We will be inundated – harassed, cajoled, pampered, fed and most importantly, promised the world by marauding cacophonies of chants and slogans, meant only to lure us into a forsaken belief that our “X” on the ballot paper will make all the difference for a better and prosperous life. We will be invited to become a citizen again – and to play a role of patriotic allegiance. After all, the last time we were “patriotic” was five years ago when we blindly, if not without thinking, voted for a party we thought would make all the difference.

And so began our woes for another half a decade.

Our proportional representation system of electing public representatives at national and provincial levels has long past its expiry date, whereby we, the citizens, “elect” a political party and they in turn “select” their comrades/friends/families/potential business partners/uninterested career politicians/influential party bosses and the like, which simply vitiates the true ethos of fair, just and accountable governance.

All this in the name of democracy! What a load of hogwash!

A government of, by and for the people should mean exactly that and is veritably called a democracy. Nothing more, nothing less. Yet, we yield painfully to perhaps the most unfairest means to place into position public representatives who are not chosen by the people, who lack political vision and acumen, are as pathetic an excuse for public officials and a good majority see it as an opportunity for self-enrichment.

Former president Jacob Zuma best represents the catastrophic consequences of “electing” a commander-in-chief who was not the peoples choice –  as he fiddled and fumbled with our lives with almost disastrous impunity, ridiculing accountability at will.

The farcical fact is that about 5000 delegates of the ruling party, who are constrained by many factors that create undue influences, both intrinsic and extrinsic, cannot claim to represent the wishes of 55 million people, whatever way we wish to argue the point. Our constitution, with regards to our electoral act, has exhausted many aspects which was only necessary to facilitate a transition and maintain peace on that fateful autumn day in April 1994.

Since then, we have witnessed degenerative governance, Commissions of enquiry that yields very little by way of change, corrupt and inept parliamentarians, rampant nepotism and cronyism, a declining educational and health sector, political thuggery, lack of transparency and diminishing accountability, almost treasonous conduct of public representatives and a whole plethora of acts or omissions thereof that deplete the value and worth of our burgeoning democracy.

Racism for example, which was used as a weapon in the days of apartheid, has become a weapon of choice by the current government to invoke insidious options such as job reservation, nepotism, cronyism and the like, further re-affirming a need for change. Why the reason for a constitutional revitalisation?

The reason is simple. The moment we “elect” a proxy to determine our future, we cede our rights to the imperfection of human fallibility and frailty that trumps true people power and ingratiate those unworthy of public service to echelons of power, who in turn destroy and pillage the real tenets of true democracy.

For this very reason alone, we need a system whereby public representatives are directly elected by the people so that they are directly accountable to the people and not to their party bosses or those whose internecine interests they serve. This will go a long way in alleviating lengthy and costly litigation in having such miscreants of public service removed from office, saving the taxpayer billions but more importantly, making them wholly accountable to the people.

No system is perfect but if we do not bend the arc of reason and rationality and if we continue to compensate excuses to maintain an antiquated yet failing system, we will always remain drenched in mediocrity and an autocracy that is veiled by a democracy in masquerade. The majority of the present public representatives are not the messiahs delivering to the citizenry anymore, but are people with their snouts in the pecuniary trough gobbling whatever they can get, whenever they can get.

The flimflams perpetrated against the people by nominated – not elected – public officials, have become the bane of our democracy and people power can only be restored by eradicating a system of elections that perpetuates this rot.

We need our system of elections changed, by changing our constitution to buttress the the notion that it is the people who choose those they want to be governed by and not by political parties with agendas that usurp true and functional democracy – else we will always remain victims of our own machinations that was once meant to lead us to the Promised Land – it is that simple.


Narendh Ganesh is a former member of the Democratic.Alliance. He is also a community and civic leader in KZN and a Science graduate(B.Sc) from the University of the Western-Cape.