Surely real and effective accountability in any system, including political systems, must stem from the actual structure of the system itself.
While not directly applicable, Lyndon Johnson’s quote on legislation is apposite (mutatis mutandis);
“You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.”
The South African public have had a quarter century of being the “boiled frog” and have only lately become properly aware of the depth and spread of the corruption in the political arena. (This has been mirrored by enormous corruption in the private sector too, but this ZACP forum is concerned with the political arena.) The corruption has been enabled by the actual political structure or “ground rules”. Thus, on a national basis, which is where ZACP is concentrating its efforts;
- The legislature, the National Assembly, has not been able to hold the executive, the Presidency, to account. As the voting structure is to vote for political parties as opposed to constituency-based individuals, the loyalty of any member of the National Assembly, “our” members of parliament, is to the political party and not to the people. They are not actually “our” members of parliament, they are the political party’s members of parliament. They hold their positions as members of parliament at the grace and favour of the political party. They can be, and are, removed at the whim of the political party. In such circumstances it is simply wishful thinking that the legislature can hold the executive to account. The wishful thinking is blown away like the morning mist when the heat of the political party’s wishes are made clear.
- Similarly, the legislature, when voting on the adoption of legislation will simply follow the party line. And the “party line” is determined by the party executive and not by the members of the party whom the party has “deployed” to parliament. As we have experienced, they will vote as instructed and not according to their conscience. Indeed, under the present structure where the national voting structure requires the populace to vote only for a party (and not for an individual), this is correct.
- And so, corruption rules supreme. If the snouts are in the trough, this system will not remove them from the trough. It may permit the snout to be changed for another snout as the factions fight each other but there will still be snouts in the trough.
Wouldn’t be better if there was a proportion of the National Assembly that was elected on a direct constituency-based basis? Of course, human foibles will arise but, where the constituency is not happy with their representative’s behaviour or performance, s/he will be unlikely to be re-elected. The representative may not live up to Edmund Burke’s lofty ideal but it would be aspirational;
“Certainly, Gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasure, his satisfactions, to theirs, — and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.
But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure, — no, nor from the law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Similarly, the President of the country is currently nominated by the party and then voted on by the National Assembly with the flaws in the structure as described ensuring that the actual decision as to who is to be president is actually taken by the party executive. And, as easily as the President is appointed by the party, so they can recall her or him should they not follow party instructions, or should the party simply decide to change their view of her or him (as has already been experienced twice). The President, when appointed, is then constrained in his choice of cabinet to those persons who are acceptable to the party executive. Such persons may either have their own snouts in the trough or be in some way connected to other snouts.
A President directly elected by the people would be accountable only to the Constitution (and not to a political party) and would be so held accountable by the legislature. Such a President would be free to select his own executive cabinet and not be beholden to party diktats. Such a President would also be judged by the voting public at election time and may or may not be re-elected depending on the public’s opinion.
In the interests of ensuring that the current political mess cannot be repeated by the current ruling party or by any other future ruling party;
- What is ZACP’s position on changing the parliamentary representation structure to include constituency-based representation?
- What position has ZACP taken in connection with the current court case on constituency, as opposed to political party, based representation where the judge has suspended the case and required political parties to depose affidavits? In the interests of ensuring that the current political mess cannot be repeated; https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/could-massive-constitutional-crisis-around-the-rights-of-independent-candidates-postpone-the-elections-20190327
- What is ZACP’s position on a directly (by the people) elected president who will be the executive head of the country and who can select his own cabinet (similarly to the USA system)?
The utter and complete inability of parliament to hold the executive to account is the crisp issue to be resolved; yet no political party appears to (overtly?) recognise this, let alone be taking action to rectify it.