It’s Parly v Concourt on reforming how SA MPs get elected – politicians, incl CR, applying ‘Stalingrad’

It’s three years since the Constitutional Court instructed Parliament to approve a new Electoral Act that will transform SA’s polity and encourage its best citizens to become MPs. Political parties, including president Cyril Ramaphosa, want none of it, and have applied ‘Stalingrad’ tactics to delay the end of a system which prevents independents from standing for election to Parliament. Dr Michael Louis’s One SA Movement is leading a group of 77 civic society bodies working to replace what was always supposed to be a temporary system. They are determined to overcome the stalling and change the system before the 2024 National Election. Dr Louis explains how to Alec Hogg of BizNews.

Timestamps for the interview below:

  • Dr Michael Louis on by-election results – 02:10
  • On what has and hasn’t happened in the Constitutional Court – 06:50
  • On constitutionalism and justice – 10:25
  • On the power of the President despite SA’s world-class constitution – 12:30
  • On the continuous extensions made by Parliament – 14:15
  • On the electoral bill and Ramaphosa’s ‘very precarious position’ – 17:20
  • On the potential of extending the 2024 elections – 18:55

Some extracts from the interview:

On constitutionalism and justice

I’m a lawyer and I’ve really become very much interested and involved for the last 25 years in constitutionalism. So from my point of view, it has nothing to do with politics. It’s only got to do with justice. In terms of section nine of the human rights bill – about equality before the law, protection of individuals and getting our system right. Truth be told, and the way the electoral bill is at the moment, come 2024 and one of the political parties doesn’t get the election result that they believe they deserve, what’s going to happen? The first thing they’re going to do is apply to the constitutional court that the elections are unconstitutional. And so our role as civil society and definitely as One South Africa movement and the movements that I chair, is to make sure that we are one hundred percent constitutional, that we test it, that we are in order and we go broader in fulfilling the values of a democracy of who we are as a nation. The power to vote is the heart of our democracy. It’s what we fought for. It’s what the Freedom Charter says. And I promise you, I don’t know why I’m so burdened about it, but I really want to fight for it – in a completely ethical, non complicated, consistent trajectory in protection of the people and to do what is right. 

Read more: Herman Mashaba’s open letter to President Ramaphosa: Take action to prevent the EFF’s threatened anarchy

On the new electoral bill and Ramaphosas ‘very precarious position’

He’s in a very precarious position because what’s happened is, if he doesn’t submit this bill to the constitutional court himself, from our legal team point of view is that we’ve already given notice that we are taking it to the ConCourt. We have already drafted papers. We are just waiting to serve. But what happens is no public entity can go directly to the Constitutional Court. You have to ask for direct access. I’ve applied for many direct access applications. It takes three months just to get permission to get direct access. Once you get direct access, you need to start serving papers, which will take another six months, which means this constitutional trajectory or legal trajectory will take us until the end of the year. Elections are supposed to be in March next year. How do the IEC, how do we, how do political parties go and start preparing for elections? So the president needs to decide – he’s going to protect his party and put the whole country and the elections in jeopardy or he’s going to do the right thing and take the public into his confidence, do what is right and fitting, apply directly and help constitutionality be determined in the right and proper way. 

Read more: Ramaphosa’s cabinet reshuffle: Delayed, bloated, and disappointing – Ivo Vegter

On the potential of extending the 2024 elections

We’re definitely going to have an election because we are a constitutional state. What it does do, even though the presumed elections are for March 2024, there is an extension period of six months that we can go until August 2024. We, as civil society, we’ve got our submissions, we’ve got a well-oiled machine where the trajectories are well planned. What we are going to do is we can get mandatory orders. We’ve got the New Nation Movement that can immediately file for remedies. We are definitely on track. And the most important thing about that is that we are going to ask the Constitutional Court to say parliament hasn’t done their job. We are going to ask Parliament to do what we call a writing in order, where the Constitutional Court says to Parliament, you failed and you haven’t done what you must do. We, as the Constitutional Court, are going to do a writing in order of how the elections will be run in 2024. And so that’s what we believe is going to happen. But in landing my plane, the way we as civil society see it, and definitely with my type of personality, I always want us to be seen as a constructive force and not a destructive force. And so we need to play with the government to be seen as their arms bearers. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t see civil society as the arms bearer. They haven’t taken us in their confidence. I’ve applied to the leaders of political parties so many times and said to them, ‘Please hear us out. Please. Let’s do a projection of how we see it. Please include us.’ And after many, many requests, not one political party has reached out to us. Government hasn’t reached out. Parliament hasn’t reached out, which really makes us feel very sad.

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