Reflections on the state of Electoral Democracy in South Africa Brief overview of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Conference proceedings by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (President of the United Democratic Movement (7 December 2007 ) A follow-up meeting of political parties on 8 December 2007 at the Burgers Park Hotel (Pretoria/Tshwane, Gauteng)
Secondly, I consider it imperative to at least give a brief overview of what transpired in Bryanston on 8 – 10 October 2007 as a means of refreshing our memories.
We have, since 1994, been striving to develop a system of democracy that will best address the imbalances of the past regimes that created deep divisions among societies in our country. This then meant that we should look for a democratic system that will be an embodiment of standards, ethical norms and values of our society. The adoption of any democratic system of government is therefore preceded by the identification of an electoral system that will best address the requirements of such a democratic system of government.
It is therefore upon such realisation that the imperative of constant evaluation of any electoral or system of governance is essential.
The International Conference on Sustaining Africa’s Democratic Momentum held on 5-7 March 2007 at the Sandton Convention Centre here in South Africa continuously emphasised the importance of sufficient political parties representation in all organs of the state where their direct participation, as real stakeholders, would ensure and enhance high levels of transparency and accountability with high levels of authority. It was in this same conference that the African Union (AU) Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and other international electoral commissions were identified as sources of reference for the evaluation of electoral democracy. The text of the AU Charter should therefore encompass all ethical values considered essential for the effective and efficient running of any state. This led to a conclusion that a country should not be seen to be fit for democracy but should be fit through democracy.
This conference culminated to the IEC Conference held in Bryanston on 8 – 10 October 2007 in which a multitude of topics were discussed but unfortunately no resolutions were taken there anent.
Let me then quickly give a schematic presentation of what transpired.
THEORIES, CONCEPTS, DEMOCRATIC PRACTICES OF ELECTORAL SYSTEMS
INDEPENDENCE OF THE IEC
The debates further revealed that as long as the IEC has to depend on the Ministry of Home Affairs for its budget and Cabinet approval, its independence would be compromised. The question was then how do we overcome this so as to ensure full representativity of all parties in IEC structures to guarantee transparency, as well as free and fair elections.
The other challenge which currently faces us with regards to the IEC is that it still remains vulnerable to political manipulations that may compromise its independence. The case in point is the integration of municipal electoral officials into political bodies, in the form of partisan municipalities, thus potentially compromising their independence.
Some of the political parties were equally concerned about the appointments of Cosatu affiliate, namely Sadtu, as presiding officers during elections. They made it clear that it does not need a high level of intellectual ability for one to know that Cosatu and all its affiliates support the ANC and as such have a moral obligation to safeguard their master. It was the feeling of some parties that the appointment of presiding officers and staff should be reviewed.
The independence of the IEC is therefore one of the crucial topics of today’s meeting.
The creation of platforms for participation by individuals in electoral democracy was also a subject of concern as it was felt that people on the ground are sidelined. The electoral structures seem to give instructions instead of giving guidelines and processes. It is at this level that it was suggested that multi-partism needs to be demonstrated by all political parties. This approach will ensure strict adherence to democratic principles and render the country fit through democracy and not just fit for democracy.
THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA
INTER- AND INTRA PARTY DEMOCRACY
VOTE OF THANKS