LETTER: Power of the people

by | Jun 4, 2024 | Chapter 9, General | 0 comments

It is comforting to observe that constitutional democracy under the rule of law is apparently alive and well in SA, despite having spent time in the ICU on life support in recent years.

Since 1948, only two political parties have governed SA at national level, the National Party until 1994 and the ANC ever since. The sins of incumbency abound for both.

A new era of coalition governance dawned on May 29, at the behest of the voters, “we the people”, rather than due to the plans of political parties. Perhaps this “people power” will be a refreshing change — the real “new dawn”?

The current proportional representation system in SA lends itself to coalition governments of the kind seen to succeed in Scandinavia and Europe, provided the politicians in the system are sufficiently pragmatic, mature and flexible enough to move with the times by making the necessary compromises that feed the good health of democracy.

The ANC is going to have to reconsider its striving for “hegemonic control of all the levers of power in society” if it is to avoid the risk of becoming a dinosaur party. Hidebound ideologues have no place in coalitions in which co-operation of the kind that is respectful of the values of the constitution is the order of the day, whether at national or provincial level.

It remains to be seen whether the ANC can read the writing on the wall and pivot in a way that accommodates constitutionalism in preference to the ideology behind its “national democratic revolution” that has hitherto motivated its cadres. The comrades have a choice: wake up and smell the coffee or be consigned to oblivion in 2029 or, possibly, at such earlier date that elections at national and provincial levels are held to give expression to the will of the people of SA.

The initial “acid test” of what needs to be adjusted in the ANC’s attitude will come when its MPs are required to vote on the establishment of the Chapter 9 Anti-Corruption Commission that the DA has already indicated will be debated within 100 days of the commencement of the seventh parliament.

Fortunately, the national executive committee of the ANC has already expressed itself in terms that accommodate this change, while the president himself regarded the idea as “refreshing” when it was first introduced to him by the IFP’s chief whip in parliament in 2019.

Paul Hoffman SC
Director, Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa
Campaigning as Accountability Now

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