DA federal executive chairman James Selfe. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
DA federal executive chairman James Selfe. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE African National Congress (ANC) has rejected an initiative launched by the Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday to reform South Africa’s electoral system, describing it as ill-advised and dishonest.

The ANC’s dismissive response to the DA’s proposed Electoral Amendment Bill, which it will submit as a private member’s bill to Parliament’s home affairs committee, means there is little chance of its being adopted. DA federal executive chairman James Selfe expressed hope the bill will be dealt with positively.

The DA’s proposal aims to combine the proportional representation with a form of constituency-based elections to ensure greater accountability of those elected to the electorate. This is in line with the recommendations of two previous studies — the Slabbert commission in 2003 and Parliament’s independent panel of assessment.

The DA did not propose a traditional constituency-based system as its critics seemed to believe.

The DA’s private member’s bill shares the same aim as the newly formed political organisation Agang, whose leader Mamphela Ramphele wants to introduce more accountability into the electoral system. It further aims to do away with the power that party bosses wield under the proportional representation system.

The African Christian Democratic Party suggested that the mixed representation model the DA proposes "may not be best suited for South Africa" as it might not "find the right balance".

ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said a false impression had been created "that a change of an electoral system is a panacea to the challenge of accountability which some believe our constitutional democracy … faces". The proportional representation system was an inclusive and representative of minority views, and accommodated small parties.

The DA’s bill provides for 100 constituencies that would elect three MPs each. It further proposes the allocation of 100 representatives from the national lists of political parties on the basis of the proportion of total votes they obtained in the election. The three MPs representing constituencies would be elected through a system of proportional representation within those constituencies. This means that, as at present, voters would vote for political parties but the parties would have to declare upfront the specific individuals who would represent a particular constituency.

Individuals from various political parties could be voted in depending on the outcome of the vote. "In practice this means that voters will vote for the political party of their choice, and the three members who obtain the requisite quota of votes or largest surpluses will be elected as the MPs for that constituency," Mr Selfe said.