Convener of the Save South Africa Campaign and chair of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) Sipho Pityana described the practice of voting according to party lines as a “major handicap of Parliament”.
He said the idea that Members of Parliament (MPs) could risk losing their seats if they defied their party’s voting position was a “major drawback for our democracy” and took the opportunity to recall that South Africa was supposed to come up with a “reconfigured electoral system” many years ago.
South Africa’s electoral system, in place since democracy began, was not meant to be permanent. It was understood from the start as a transitional arrangement that was supposed to have been revised after the first term of ANC rule.
The current practice, says Pityana, “undermines Parliament” because Members cannot act according to their conscience and “what their political judgement tells them is the right thing to do”. This procedure may not ensure that the outcome is in the best interests of the country. “It was always understood that the parliamentary system that we have has limitations, but it was [meant to be] a transitional one.”
Asked about how South Africa was going to find a way out of its current crisis, his response was that