MK’s court bid for election redo is “weak” but CR’s vulnerability could imperil the GNU

In more post-election drama, former President Jacob Zuma is turning to the courts to try and have the election set aside because 9,366,000 votes are allegedly unaccounted for – and it wasn’t “fair and free”. But in this interview with BizNews, Dr. Michael Louis of the Independent Candidates Association says he has looked at the court papers, and that there are “no specialist audit reports, there’s no specialist electoral support, just a lot of speculation”. He does not believe the application will succeed. Meanwhile, he is calling for the Electoral Act to be totally revitalised, also in respect of the way the President is elected because if President Cyril Ramaphosa is impeached, it could imperil the new Government of National Unity if the GNU doesn’t accept the new President nominated by the African National Congress (ANC). Dr Louis also shares his views on how the new Cabinet might look, and explains why he sees South Africa as a “speedboat” – and not an “oil tanker” – country.

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Extended transcript of the interview    ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Chris Steyn (00:01.171)

South Africa remains in the grip of post-election drama. We speak to Dr. Michael Louis of the Independent Candidates Association. Welcome, Michael.

Michael louis (00:10.476)

Thank you, Chris. It sure is a drama, isn’t it?

Chris Steyn (00:15.219)

Never ending. What are your views on the new Government of National Unity, Michael?

Michael louis (00:22.38)

Well, Chris, I think all of us definitely from civil society point of view have been praying for this moment, you know, to see a united country, to see people joining hands. And this is not something new. We had it in 1994 and I was part of that government in 1994. And it really was an uplifting, cohesive, reaching-out period of time. And I think there’s a lot of tests. It’s definitely not going to be easy. The leaders are going to be tested, but don’t underestimate we as civil society are going to be tested. Are we going to keep on shooting missiles or are we going to see how we can join hands and be arm bearers? A wonderful time, I must say.

Chris Steyn (01:09.395)

What do you think the Cabinet composition will reflect, Michael?

Michael louis (01:16.268)

Well, I think that’s going to be really a test. As you know, there’s a lot of powers given to the President to nominate his Cabinet. And we know that it’s going to be a Cabinet made up of a Government of National Unity, which is made up at the moment of the parties, the ANC, the DA, the IFP, and GOOD’s joined them. And so has the PA. And so we definitely know that that’s what’s going to happen. 

I think the wishes of most of all of us will be that the Inkatha Freedom Party leader will be the Vice President. But I do not believe that that’s going to happen. I believe that the President will keep Paul Mashatile as the Deputy President. And the only reason for that is he has to still show his own party that they are a credible party and that there is consistency.

So I think that’s what we’re gonna see tomorrow, whenever he announces his Cabinet. But I do believe we would have seen from the KwaZulu-Natal cabinet today, where there was a nomination of a Multi-Party cabinet, that there was four MPs from Inkatha, there was three from the IFP, and the DA had two, and then they, and they split it quite nicely amongst all the different parties to show a multi-party democracy. And we’re going to definitely see that in the announcement of the Cabinet. 

I think the most important issue for me personally is that the Minister that’s nominated and the Chairperson of the Standing Committee will not be from the same political party, that there is true legitimacy, accountability and responsibility. And so I think while we’re going to see a broad nomination in that, I think it’s going to be very interesting. 

I think the last statement I wanted to make is that we all know that Naledi Pandor didn’t actually make the list to go to Parliament. And I think he’s going to bring some, maybe two outsiders coming in. Naledi Pandor in the portfolio of International Diplomacy, which she’s well versed to that portfolio.

Michael louis (03:37.324)

And then he might just bring an outside Minister of Finance that could be very interesting. So let’s hope there’s a lot of creative thinking and we all eyes on his nomination.

Chris Steyn (03:50.291)

Now you’ve described South Africa as a speedboat country, not an oil tanker country. How would you apply that to our current political situation going forward?

Michael louis (04:01.196)

Well, the whole issue about the speedboat and the oil tanker was that I was very privileged in the years of 1994 to 1999 to be part of Government. And I couldn’t believe it that in 1996, I had the privilege as a constitutionalist to help draft the Western Cape Constitution as well as contribute to the Constitution nationally, but really very intricately involved in the Western Cape Constitution.

And then I was made a Minister in 1998 of Asset Management and Public Works. And there they handed over the portfolio to me and they didn’t have an asset register. And I said, because how do you run a portfolio without an asset register? And then started creatively taking over a portfolio of new innovative ideas that I learned in the private sector. And then started winning my portfolio of Development Planning, doing biosphere reserves from UNESCO. 

And so, when you’re in a very fluid situation, like we are in South Africa, you can be so creative and innovative. And that’s what a speedboat nation can do. Because if you were in Sweden or Norway or China, to change an electoral system or to change any portfolio is impossible. And so I still believe, I honestly still believe that the new ministers coming in could be very creative, innovative and to really look at their portfolios with enthusiasm and you know a new broom can always come really and clean quite nicely. So we’re looking forward to seeing how we as civil servants and civil activists can also stand next door to them to be created.

Chris Steyn (05:50.867)

Talking about the opposition in Parliament, former president Jacob Zuma has now joined the Progressive Caucus led by the Economic Freedom Fighters. What can we expect from them in Parliament, Michael?

Michael louis (06:06.188)

Well, I think they’re going to play a very important role because Section 195 talks about a participatory democracy. And a participatory democracy, you must be able to create an environment to give a voice to everybody. And, you know, for the last 30 years that I’ve been on the playing field, I truly respect the voices of a multi-party democracy. And sometimes…

You know, I remember in my years in 1994, the individuals that taught me the most of their viewpoints were actually the Communists. And I never thought that they would actually be able to educate me. So I think this whole thing of MK and the EFF are a very important voice. I think they need to be there. Forming the Progressive Caucus, they’re now about 14% of the total capacity of our 400 members of Parliament.

And they’re going to bring an interesting dynamic. The only thing is that I think they need to be cautious about is always to be constructive in their criticism and not destructive. And I think that’s where sometimes I have, there’s a gray line to be a destructive force and not a construct.

Chris Steyn (07:25.299)

Former President Jacob Zuma’s MK Party has also lodged an application with the Electoral Court regarding the non-recording of more than nine million votes. How likely is that to succeed, Michael?

Michael louis (07:37.388)

Yes, well, I looked at the papers and I’m really just so disappointed in the sense is that it’s really extremely weak papers. So when we as legal people look at applications, we always look at the remedy first, you know, because what are they asking for? Because you could say anything, but what is the remedy? And what they’re asking for is the putting aside of the elections because they don’t believe it’s fair and free, and then also putting aside the announcement by the IEC that the elections were irregular and not fair and free. And then lastly, in terms of Section 49, asking the President to call for a new election. And looking at their papers, I actually can’t believe what I read because as we all know, there were 16 million people that went to the polls. Only 27 million voters registered to vote. So if you put the 9,366,000 votes that they say are unaccounted for, it means that it’s more than 25 million individuals that went and voted, giving over a 90% electoral outcome of voter support, which is absolutely an impossibility.

So I also looked at the papers and I can tell the viewers now there’s no speciality reports, there’s no audits. The affidavit that is supporting this application is only by virtue of the national organiser with annexures of just stipulations of how they came to the 9,366,000. But there’s no specialist audit reports, there’s no specialist electoral support, just a lot of speculation.

And so I honestly believe on all four of their accounts, for their remedy, they won’t be a success.

Chris Steyn (09:35.699)

As a system specialist, what are your views on the current state of the Electoral Act and election results?

Michael louis (09:44.972)

Well, when you talk about a systems specialist, people don’t actually understand that everything has got a system. And for instance, the banks have got a system in which they operate. Family businesses operate in a certain system. The elections and the election results operate in a certain system. I definitely still have the ardent belief that our electoral system is not right. And that we would have seen by virtue of the civil activists, organisations that have always shown that we do not believe the Electoral Act comes to the muster of one vote is equal to one seat. And also we’ve seen from the opposition parties, they didn’t vote this Electoral Act in. So we honestly believe that our Electoral Act totally needs to be revitalised, and even with the very important extra added condition that we need to get to the direct election of the President.

And let me say why that is important. Because we’re all going to work extremely hard to make this Government work. And the Parliament has now elected the President. And by the way, I still don’t believe in a system where parliament of 400 people must nominate the President on behalf of 26 million people. But that’s my personal view. But Parliament has now voted in their President. What happens now if the President has already got an impeachment application by the EFF on him, and he doesn’t hold his party in the centre, and he doesn’t hold. Now he doesn’t, he is not the President of the ANC. Now what happens to the Government of National Unity, the whole hard work that everybody’s done falls apart, because the power vests in the President to nominate his Cabinet, and the chances are that the Deputy President and the Government of National Unity, might not, I’m not saying they will, but they might not accept the new President nominated by the ANC. So this inconsistency causes inconsistency in the economic markets, the stability of the people. And so that’s why to create that stability, I think we need to get to the direct election of the President. 

And then the last thing that I still believe is that we as the voters definitely want to elect our representatives directly. And that’s why we want a constituency based system where we, the political parties, because political parties are always there to stay, but where political parties and independent candidates can stand in their constituency, we know their faces, their capabilities, and we as the electorate can directly nominate our elective representatives to Parliament and not via a political party.

So I would say the constituency-based system, I would say direct election of the President, and then last but not least, in the 400 members of Parliament, that 300 will be divided to have directly nominated to Parliament, and only 100 which will fulfill the proportional representation criteria, which is compulsory in the Constitution.

Also, just regarding the election results, even although I do not believe that the MK will be successful in their application, Chris, I do believe that a vote is sacrosanct. Every vote counts. And that it is very important that the voices of the MK are heard if they feel aggrieved. And that’s why I want to reach out to the IEC to say to them, for the credibility of these elections and yourselves, go out and personally do an internal audit or a public audit to prove that the election results are valid because we’ve done our internal audits, and I’m just wanting to say, you might know for many years about the last five years, I’ve been working with Michael Atkins, who is a well-known and respected electoral specialist. We’ve been going through a lot of numbers. And even although that is not my specialty, but he’s, but we believe in total, there’s a discrepancy only of about 200,000 seats. And it could be give and take because sometimes they over-exaggerated the seats and sometimes under-exaggerated. But we honestly believe that if we do all the hard work and they do the audit, there’s not going to be a difference of a maximum of one seat. And that the elections are fair and free, but it needs to be well-communicated, and take the people into your confidence because we cannot afford this new Government to have any grey marks on its legitimacy.

Chris Steyn (15:38.291)

Thank you. That was Dr. Michael Louis of the Independent Candidates Association taking BizNews viewers through the latest post-election drama. Thank you, Michael. And I’m Chris Steyn.

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