PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA, SPEAKERS OF PARLIAMENT MAX SISULU AND NOMAINDIA MFEKETO, LEADERS OF POLITICAL PARTIES

MY VOTE COUNTS SAYS:

OPEN THE BOOKS!

NO SECRET FUNDS — COMPREHENSIVE PARTY FUNDING REFORM

ACCOUNTABLE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT — MIXED ELECTORAL SYSTEM

My Vote Counts is a people’s initiative that aims to improve the accountability, responsiveness, and inclusiveness of politics in South Africa to give citizens a stronger voice. It was formed on 28 July 2012 by individuals and members of civil society organisations who are concerned with democracy and social justice.

We are campaigning for electoral and comprehensive political party-funding reform. We demand that all political parties open their books, together with proportional representation and a constituency-based electoral system for members of Parliament.

During apartheid the struggle for freedom, democracy, and equal justice for all was guided by the demand that “The People Shall Govern” and the principle of “One Person One Vote”. The sacrifice of millions demands that our country realises the constitutional vision of a representative and participatory democracy. Yet, barely two decades after liberation, the political system faces a crisis of legitimacy on two fronts — secret party-funding and members of Parliament who largely disregard our people’s needs and wishes.

  • My Vote Counts wants a party-funding system that eliminates corruption made possible by a system of “One Rand, One Vote”. We demand that Parliament passes legislation to regulate party-funding through an open, fair and mainly publicly-funded system.
    • People should be able to vote out members of Parliament who are corrupt or fail to represent their interests. Therefore, My Vote Counts also demands accountable and ethical representatives. This means an electoral system where a proportion of members of Parliament are elected directly by constituencies and the rest are elected through party lists that are based on the number of votes each political party achieves.

So far, our leaders have ignored our letters and memoranda. Today we announce that lawyers for My Vote Counts have again written to Parliament, the IEC and others stating our demands.

On Saturday 16 February 2013 in Johannesburg we hosted a public meeting and on Monday 25 February in Cape Town we will host another, to discuss Parliament’s engagement with these issues and develop a plan of action to make our votes count. Please visit www.myvotecounts.org.za and follow us on twitter (@MVC_SA).

We call on all citizens and groups of citizens to join the campaign for a stronger, healthier democracy.

 Contact:

Gregory Solik
greg@myvotecounts.org.za
083 299 7717

Zukiswa Vuka
zukie@myvotecounts.org.za
072 762 5580

Axolile Notywala
axolile@myvotecounts.org.za
074 289 5220
Secret political party-funding and corruption

Firstly, the systemic nature of corruption in the state and its symbiotic relationship with business demands action. Comprehensive reform of political party-funding is an urgent question that must be addressed before the 2014 General Election. Not one ordinary member knows who funds or indeed owns any of our political parties.

Local and global corporations and public entities are known to have made donations to both the national and provincial ruling parties — the African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance.

Corrupt business people such as Sol Kerzner, Brett Kebble, Jurgen Harksen and Schabir Schaik are known to have contributed to political parties and directly to individual members and leaders of political parties. Any corrupt arms-dealer, pharmaceutical company, bank, private health companies, nuclear power dealers or parastatals from countries such as China, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Britain Israel, Iran and Malaysia could fund any political party in South Africa without the knowledge of our people.

The most recent dispute concerning the capture of parastatal advertising revenue by the Gupta family newspaper and its donations to the ANC and the DA is a serious matter that underscores the urgency of the need for reform. The secret buying of our political parties feeds peoples’ disappointment with politics and contributes directly to voters staying at home.

In 2006, political parties committed themselves to address this question before the Cape High Court when IDASA challenged secret party-funding. The High Court accepted this promise of our political parties. In July 2012, a memorandum from civil society organisations asked the Speaker of Parliament to place party-funding on the agenda. On 15 November 2012, My Vote Counts wrote to the Speaker of Parliament and all political party leaders to address comprehensive party-funding reform in 2013. The tepid response from Parliament and the fact that all political party leaders ignored our letter is a shameful blot on open, accountable and ethical governance.

Open, accountable and participatory Parliament

Today, the majority of MPs ignore the needs of their constituents. They are not at the forefront in our struggles for safe communities or against corruption; instead they push patriarchal and anti-democratic laws like the Traditional Courts Bill or the so-called Secrecy Act. Courts have had to ensure that people can access medicines, to reinstate pensions and grants which have been unlawfully stopped, ensure that learners at schools have textbooks or do not study in mud schools, and remove corrupt or dishonest public servants such as former police commissioner Jackie Selebi or Advocate Menzi Simelane from their positions. This is wrong.

Courts should be our last resort to ensure justice against corporations or the government. It is the job of our MPs, together with their constituencies, to hold the executive and private corporations accountable. MPs should help us build open, accountable, ethical and efficient government and ensure that workers in the clothing industry, on farms and in the mines have decent work and a living wage.

In our current system, MPs are not accountable to people but parties. Our electoral system gives political parties and their leaders (some of whom have led their parties for 20-40 years) absolute control over lists and therefore individual MPs. Sadly, the ANC is one of the only parties that has an open selection process and an elective conference to select MPs. Selection of MPs in other parties is less open and democratic. MPs who step out of line can be removed and many fear for their jobs. In the end voters elect parties rather than honest representatives of the people.

Every adult citizen has the right to stand for office

The Constitution guarantees every adult citizen the right to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office. However, our electoral system — a closed-list, proportional representation system — does not give people power to participate in democracy directly and hold those who we elect to account.

In 2002, Cabinet appointed an Electoral Task Team headed by the late Frederik van Zyl Slabbert to examine whether the closed party-list system enhanced or limited accountability. In 2003 the Slabbert Commission reported back; a majority recommended that Parliament should be composed mainly by MPs who are directly elected at constituency level and MPs who are elected on party lists based on the number of votes won by that party. Parliament has done little or nothing about the Slabbert Commission report; it has not even debated it.

The time has now come for Parliament to debate this issue publically and openly, make a clear commitment to reform the electoral system, and to declare the sources of their funding. Parliament and individual MPs must commit themselves to an electoral system that combines individual members of Parliament elected directly by constituencies and those elected through party lists