🔒 Mmusi Maimane on court ruling set to shake up SA politics, electoral change

Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of the DA, BizNews political journalist Linda van Tilburg and BizNews webinar attendees picked up on a court ruling set to transform political governance. The first sign that the Constitutional Court finding is taking effect was the sudden move by President Cyril Ramaphosa to lift the Covid-19 lockdown. The discussion with Mmusi Maimane  follows an equally fascinating BizNews webinar on the topic, with BizNews founder Alec Hogg,  Teresa Conradie of the legal firm which drove the case – Maphalla, Mokate, Conradie – and entrepreneur and former mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba (for more, here’s the link to that webinar on the seismic shift in political governance). – Editor

The Constitutional Court has ruled that independents can stand in national and provincial elections, throwing a major spanner in the works of our electoral system. The ruling by Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga is seen by many political analysts as a defining moment that could release the iron grip that the ANC and is alliance members have on our political system. In this Biznews webinar, Mmusi Maimane, former Democratic Alliance leader who now heads the One South Africa movement, describes the ruling as an opportunity to reset the system of patronage that has led to widespread corruption in the country. Maimane says he is not interested in forming a new political party or joining Herman Mashaba to become party number 49 on a ballot paper. In a nutshell, he believes independents can hold considerable political sway in a new voting systems and the change could even lead to an independent candidate becoming president. – Linda van Tilburg

Mmusi Maimane: Suddenly, your vote is no longer the party that has decided. Suddenly, if the voters says if MP X or MP Y is not voting  in the interest of the people, then that person is betraying those who voted for them. Then they must get back to explain to the community that I came to vote to defend Jacob Zuma, President Ramaphosa or an economic policy or whatever.

So, I think that the reformation of the system empowers the voices of the citizens in a much stronger manner. Secondly, party politics are such that even though, I as a leader (of the DA) could stand up and say some of the comments that Premier Zille was making at the time were certainly things that I could not agree with and could not stand by, it became a question of party machinations, as if it wasn’t something that affected all South Africans. With a new electoral act and electoral reform; suddenly accountability does not lie with parties; it lies with the people. And I think you can mobilise society to say; now we need to stand up together to bring about the changes that we think is right.

Lastly, I think actually the future of this country requires that if you reform where accountability sits, people like President Ramaphosa can’t afford to go to Congress and say: I’ll buy so many branches and once those branches are bought. He must be reminded that if people are dissatisfied within his own party from the decisions an in a community, then suddenly that power of patronage is broken.

Therefore, I think to me, the Constitutional Court judgement that took place last week was not only a game changer for the electoral system in the country. It’s a game changer for intra-party politics. And it strengthens not only the individual, but ultimately the voice of the community. So, I certainly am looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to bringing a whole bunch of South Africans who say, no, we are not just going to vote in parliament because our loyalty is to the party. We’re going to vote in parliament because our loyalty is to the people.

What percentage of seats will be allocated to individuals and how many would go to political parties? 

Mmusi Maimane: We’re working hard to produce a new draft electoral act, that we could table in parliament. And Mr (Mosiuoa) Lekota has already tabled a draft bill and they’ll communicate more details on that. Suffice to say, I think at a preliminary level, if you went to the Van Zyl Slabbert report and took the 300-100 phenomenon; so 100 being proportional representation and 300 being constituency based, it is conceivable that the majority of members of Parliament would represent a constituency of some sort and that the remainder then gets allocated in the proportional based system. So, parties must in fact contest in whatever communities they come from, represent the people. That is a significant change.

Secondly, I think, once you have that kind of formulation going into Parliament, it then becomes possible to form a majority working with a diversity of South Africans; you can’t just arrive in parliament and just simply say it’s majoritarianism. And thirdly, I think if a grassroots based movement was to find resonance with the people on the ground, you could in a variety of communities produce candidates who would then come to parliament to represent those communities. And therefore, that’s why I think if you follow our own history of the UDF (United Democratic Front) whether you regard it as a bad example or a good example depending on which side of the fence you are; the UDF was a coalition of different people and it worked.

The limitation with the UDF is that it eventually folded or endorsed the ANC and that became the vehicle. But if you created a UDF type movement across the country; it could be possible that in Parliament you could be represented by faith based leaders, but business leaders, by a diversity of South Africans, in which instance you really, all of those 300, could create a very strong voice in parliament and out of them could emerge a strong cabinet, a strong president. All of those variables come into play.

So, I think that South Africa will undergo not only, as Covid-19 has proven, a period of reformation or deep reset, as I’d like to call it, but I think the elections are going to be equally so, a deep reset as we educate voters that the power is now back in their hands.

Do you actually think that one of these individual candidates could become the president in a new system?

Mmusi Maimane: Completely, completely. Now, the path has been drawn to allow for that to happen, given the right numbers, given the right people representing them in parliament. And I think actually it would be a dream for South Africa to be led by a president who would understand that their power is derived firstly from the citizens, not from their party, because the current system as we have it; any president knows that they could literally ignore the citizens because that becomes a secondary matter as long as they’ve got their party intact.

That’s why when people say to me, who is President Ramaphosa’s boss, I’ll say, actually, it’s the ANC. Forget what he might say to the citizens. If the ANC moves that resolution to say he’s got to expropriate land without compensation, as an argument; I’m not pronouncing on that policy at this point, but if he said that is the position he’s taken, he’s bound by that. If he said he wanted to make decisions  around issues like quantitative easing, even things around the role of the Reserve Bank, even things around legislation, he’s bound by that.

Whereas, what I’m trying to get at, is that political party’s biggest dilemma is that they’ve become dogmatic around ideology and fail the basic test of being able to produce real solutions for people.

This week’s Midweek Catch-up webinar: Justice and state capture.

The issue of state capture has been put on the back-burner as South Africa deals with the coronavirus pandemic. But, the lack of healthcare services in parts of the country and many of the other problems South Africans have had to deal with are a result of the years of looting in the Zuma era. The Zondo Commission is scheduled to re-start public hearings this week, from Monday. Join Linda van Tilburg for the Biznews Midweek Catchup webinar where the Zondo Commission and state capture will be discussed, on Wednesday, July 1, with newspaper maverick and veteran political commentator Max du Preez and legal expert Pierre de Vos.

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