Voting power must be given back to the people

Bantu Holomisa

Bantu Holomisa

The history of our country, in particular the apartheid era, has meant that one political party is viewed by a wide range of South Africans as the ideal rulers.

Under democracy this widespread support has translated into an undeniable mandate to govern being given to the ANC during each national election; at provincial and local level things are not always that clear-cut for the ANC.

For many ruling party members and supporters the ANC's mandate seems a fait accompli. Some - including their current party president - have gone as far as saying that the ANC's mandate is eternal and ordained from above.

In this scenario the need for other political parties is directly and implicitly questioned by the ANC on a continuous basis.

Although the ANC argued as strongly as many others during the Codesa and Constitutional negotiations for multi-party democracy, the actual experience of political competition has been problematic for the ruling party.

Therefore over the years the question about the need for "opposition" has often been raised by the ruling party and its supporters, as if multi-party democracy is not a fundamental principle that lies at the core of our Constitution.

The many valid reasons for the existence of parties other than the ruling party have never been acceptable to this crowd. Until now.

Now all of us are faced with the spectacle of a ruling party that has become too powerful and too arrogant. The ruling party is feeding on itself, comrade fighting comrade.

This is why no democratic nation, least of all South Africa, should ever entrust its existence to one single political party.

It is exactly because of their overwhelming belief in the power that control of the ANC will give them, that the comrades are fighting it out so bitterly.

This is nothing but an unseemly power struggle for who will get to loot the resources of the state and the nation.

This nation has already seen what the long-term folly is of being ruled by one party for decades; look what the National Party did with that consistent access to power.

The ANC was the architect of the floor-crossing legislation, and as a result of that it gained a two-thirds majority.

It would be interesting to see how the laws will be changed now that floor-crossing is being scrapped again.

This should be a chance to strengthen our democracy. The opposition parties in this country - small as we may seem - have played a very important watchdog role.

To cite but one example, if not for our consistent pressure the arms deal would have been swept quietly under the carpet and Jacob Zuma would still be occupying his office in the Union Buildings.

In this context the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and a wide spectrum of political parties have been meeting regularly among ourselves and with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), with a view to improving the electoral system and levelling the playing field.

We have adopted among ourselves a series of resolutions and set various short and long-term goals to achieve a more equitable and fair electoral system that will ensure the strengthening of multi-party democracy.

Our goal is not to attack any single party, but to create a system of democracy where power truly resides with the voters, and is merely assigned from time to time to one party, or alliance, to rule.

lBantu Holomisa is president of the UDM.