Resolutions of the MultiParty Forum as presented at the meeting between the leaders of political parties and the Independent Electorial Commission 7 April 2008

These resolutions below address issues that may need legislative changes; others would need political parties as stakeholders to meet with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), whilst others still may require the attention of the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA), or the Board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

There are issues that may as well require legal action to be taken in the courts of law, if there is a deliberate intransigence being displayed by some institutions.

1. Party funding
Whereas the promotion and development of multi-party democracy depends upon adequate party funding;

And whereas public funding can come from the taxpayer or from the private sources; the dependence of political parties' on private donors be reduced and hence the possibility of influence-peddling which puts democracy up for sale to the highest bidder;

Recognising that such funding should - in line with international benchmarks and experience, and the principles of good governance - be regulated by law;

We resolve
a) That the legislation regulating public party funding be reviewed and,
b) To bring the proper enabling legislation for the regulation of party funding before Parliament for enactment before the end of 2008.
c) That the distribution formula for public funding to be equitable and fair such that true democracy is promoted.

2. The IEC's level of independence
Whereas the IEC is by name an independent institution, in accordance with generally accepted democratic norms;

And whereas such independence can be defined as:
a) Insulation from control by the Government or any external body, and
b) Guaranteed access to adequate resources to be able to carry out its mandate;

And noting with trepidation that in South Africa both of the two abovementioned conditions for independence are not fully met;

Further noting that in 1993 the IEC commissioners were nominated by the African National Congress (ANC), the New National Party (NNP) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), and that since then the political landscape has changed with new players arriving and the NNP disappearing, yet now the commissioners of the IEC are drawn almost exclusively from the ruling party or recycled from the 1993 era;

We resolve to review the IEC's governing act, as well as any other relevant attendant legislation, with a view to reshaping the institutional environment in which the IEC operates, to ensure that it is firstly totally independent from any Government department and reports directly and only to Parliament, and secondly to secure direct funding through Parliament for the IEC, to ensure that it is not beholden to a line function department who controls its access to financial resources.

We further resolve that the Commissioners must be appointed with the involvement of all political parties in a manner that is equitable and fair.

3. Decision making level of the Political Liaison Committee (PLC)
Whereas the IEC currently tends to make unilateral decisions which are forced upon political parties;

We resolve that we will agitate that the PLC should be given decision making powers

4. Media
Whereas the media is often recognised as the "Fourth Estate", because it is such a vital component of society and the democratic state;

And whereas the free flow of news and information is the lifeblood of democracy;

And recognising the immense influence of the media to shape public opinion and be a catalyst for change or for stability;

Notes with concern that party political bias in the media could significantly affect the fairness of electoral processes, the accountability of elected public representatives and the general enthusiasm of the public to participate and contribute to democracy;

Further noting with concern in particular, the history of abuse of public broadcasting for political ends in this country by the previous regime, and the disturbing incidents such as blacklists that have raised its ugly head in recent years at the public broadcaster;

Acknowledging that the ruling party inordinately benefits from live coverage of its partisan events, above and beyond its preferential media access and exposure as Government, in total contrast to the length and quality of coverage provided to any other political party.

Further notes that history has shown time and again that moves to censor or hamstring the media is consistently the first steps of a slide into dictatorship, and should therefore be resisted at all costs.

We have noted in the past how the ruling party has gained unfair advantage because party messages were conveyed under the guise of government position/opinion.

We resolve that - distinguishing between public and private media;
a) We will resist any institutional or legislative move to censor, blacklist, boycott advertising or otherwise punish the media - outside of ombudsmen as well as the normal criminal and civil procedures relating to defamation or misrepresentation,
b) We will through Parliament and the appointment of the Board ensure
that the SABC is and remains a public broadcaster that is patriotic but independent and unshackled from Government or party political loyalties,
c) We will through legislation, or legal action if necessary, ensure that the free advertising and news coverage on the public broadcaster before, during and after elections should - in line with international best practice - be more equitably managed to give all recognised political parties a reasonable opportunity to communicate with the electorate.

5. Elections
5.1. Appointment of presiding officers
5.2. Role and treatment of party agents
5.3. Appointment of election staff
5.4. Appointment of Information Technology (IT) companies
5.5. Data capturing and announcement of results
5.6. Role of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and other security bodies
5.7. Safety of voting material in transit to voting stations and back to capturing centres
5.8. Statutorily mandated time frames for election planning and"following the agenda"
5.9. Appointment of municipal managers as Municipal Electoral Officers (MEOs)
5.10. Use of MEC7 (Sworn or affirmed statement of registration) during election

Whereas the running of a modern democratic electoral process is a complicated matter, depending upon a wide range of variables and the assistance of a large group of people;

Recognising that the actual logistical implementation of the electoral process is particularly vulnerable to abuse;

And also recognising that the people who are appointed in critical positions in the electoral process may have party political loyalties that affect their performance, and/or may also be beholden for their employment to the continued electoral success of the ruling party;

Specifically noting that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) affiliates, in particular South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) members, are employed as election staff and presiding officers whilst COSATU is openly campaigning for the ANC and is represented at national executive committee level in the ANC;

We resolve to revisit the relevant legislation with a view to tightening the prerequisites for appointment and the role of presiding officers, party agents and/or election staff, and that the political parties will approach the IEC with a view to ending the employment of politically-biased staff.

We resolve to request Government to make a clear public statement specifically committing itself to withdrawing and preventing any influence the NIA, and other security bodies, may have or may have had over any aspect of the management or logistics (especially the role of IT service providers) of the electoral process or the IEC as institution.

6. Floor-crossing
Noting that floor-crossing is immensely unpopular among the electorate;

And further noting that almost all political parties have acknowledged the floor-crossing in it's current format - if not in general - is counter-productive, prone to abuse and disproportionately favouring the ruling party;

We resolve that we will support the process the Private Members Bills currently before Parliament and enact before the end of June 2008 legislation that scraps the current form of floor-crossing.

7. Creating an enabling environment of participatory democracy
7.1. Registration system
7.2. Effectiveness of PLCs at all levels
7.3. Calculation of seats - formulae/methods
7.4. Voter education
7.5. Accessibility of the result centres to all parties
7.6. Level of accountability of all stakeholders in the election process
7.7. Role of the Demarcation Board
7.8. Time allocation to political parties in Parliament

Whereas participatory democracy means the open and equitable participation of all political parties in the overall political management of electoral and democratic processes;

And whereas South Africa is a plural society that specifically crafted its democratic Constitution around the concept of multi-party democracy to ensure that a wide range of views are expressed, heard and accommodated;

Recognises that more could be done to improve the level of participation of all political parties in the electoral and democratic processes;

Acknowledges that there is an equity disparity in the proportion of time and resources in the electoral and democratic processes in favour of the ruling party;

We resolve to
a) Amend where necessary the relevant legislation to improve the equitable and meaningful participation of political parties in the electoral process,
b) Engage at parliamentary level to devise a system that gives fair and adequate opportunity to all the political parties, and to amend the rules of Parliament accordingly, and
c) Revisit the role of the Demarcation Board and where it is held accountable

8. Intra- and Inter-party democracy
We resolve to request the IEC to develop a policy on how it will foster and advance intra- and inter-party democracy in South Africa;

We resolve that multi-party forums (such as one hosted by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD)) should serve as platforms to discuss the issue of intra- and inter-party democracy.