A couple of weeks ago (This Democracy thing) I had a rant against the concept of democracy, especially in the context of the African continent. Latest news merely re-inforces my view. The Times reports that Premiers and MP’s will in future be taking their instructions directly from ANC Headquarters, Luthuli House.
Now let’s think slowly and deliberately about this piece of news. At election time, we voters go to the polls and vote for a political party. Because of our ludicrous proportional representation system, the parties then carve up the “power cake” in proportion to the number of votes they received. Exit voters. Our further participation is no longer required (until the next election).
The ruling party (the one with the majority of votes) then just does exactly what it likes until the next election at which time the “sheep” (that’s you and me) just meekly put our cross in the block again. The concept of elected officials just doesn’t exist. The MP’s are chosen from a “list”. Heaven only knows how this list is compiled, because us voters certainly have no say in it’s composition.
The proportional representation system is a bastard child of the negotiations between the ANC and the National Party in the early 90’s and should be replaced immediately with a proper electoral process whereby I, as a voter, choose a member of parliament who represents MY interests, regardless of political affiliation. If he does his job, I will re-elect him, if not, he’s gone. I want feedback, I want results, and most importantly I want MY VOICE AND MY VIEWS expressed in each and every decision he/she makes in Parliament.
So where do we start? Because this is, after all, Africa, a slightly more novel and home-grown system is called for. I call this Tribal Democracy.
I live in a suburb called Old Place (Ouplaas) in Knysna. We probably have a couple of thousand souls in our suburb. Under my system, we would elect a representative (chief) to speak on our behalf in local council meetings (ie Knysna Town Council). Because ours is a reasonably affluent community, with access to the Internet, I would like access to all council decisions that have to be made. My representative (chief) would summarise these items on the agenda, give his view and how he suggest we vote. I will consider the matter, possibly express my views by email, and then vote on this item. My representative (chief) would then tally up the votes received, decide whether the votes received are representative, and then vote accordingly.
The same could easily be applied to a Member of Parliament.
Now let’s stop here, look at the reality, and list the objections.
1) Very few of us have access to the Internet.
Yes, I know, but 95% of us have cell phones. It could be cell phone driven.
2) Very few of us have a clue what goes on in Council or Parliament, shouldn’t we just leave the big decisions to the “chiefs”?
Yes, but some of us do have a clue (and a view). Must our views be suppressed because we’re too clever? Do you think, for a minute, that the MP’s who are sitting (sleeping) in Parliament have suddenly acquired divine wisdom because they featured on some ANC “list”. They are ordinary people (probably less qualified, and more corrupt) than you or me. IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE ISSUES THAT ARE BEING CONSIDERED IN COUNCIL AND PARLIAMENT, WHY SHOULD YOU EVEN HAVE A VOTE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
3) The system is too complicated and cumbersome with constant public participation. Decisions would take ages to make.
Ages? Do you think they would be any slower than at present? Would you rather leave these important decisions (like not building more power stations, or voting themselves a fat increase) to Luthuli House?
4) Who’s got time to read all this information?
You don’t need to. Your representative, who is being very well paid, is going to summarise it, analyse it, and present it to you in a simple one-page format that is easy to understand, and addresses all of the issues. You just have to consider the issue, request more information (if required) and then make your decision. If you don’t have the time to make these decisions, then where are you finding the time to complain, when decisions that where made without your participation, go horribly wrong?
It’ll work, but do you know what? It just doesn’t fit in with the ANC’s vision of a complete monopoly on power (the political kind). In our current scenario, with the massive centralisation of power, I would not be at all surprised if every important decision in our country of 45 million people is made by a maximum of 100 people at the very top of the ANC structure.
And we call this DEMOCRACY? It’s a dictatorship, whichever way you dress it up.
Go and think it over.