Constitutional Reform

The South African parliamentary model is loosely patterned after the Westminster Model with an elected legislature and a second house intended to moderate the acts of the legislature (in UK a House of Lords and in SA a House of Provinces)

The Westminster model has largely been regarded with some respect and has been more or less emulated around the world.  Ok this is probably because Britain was a prolific colonizer and left its stamp on many aspects of the life and politics of its former colonies.  But the Westminster model is under scrutiny, indeed perhaps even under attack, particularly from those who want devolution from a centrist authority.  The most recent attack on Westminster itself came from the Scottish referendum of September 18 2014 on the issue of Scottish independence from Britain, but was defeated by a 10% margin (45% for and 55% against secession).  

None the less, the vote has sparked a great deal of debate about the Westminster style of government.  The sentiment for a greater and closer say in the process of government is developing a groundswell in Britain and elsewhere in the world.  A recent manifestation of this groundswell comes from a group of the world’s mayors, who are pushing for a parliament of mayors.  See Will mayors one day rule the world?

The Direct Democracy Forum might support such a move provided the mayors were directly elected but wonder if mayors would then have the time to also act as members of a national or international legislative body and how would that work?

The idea is interesting but DDF believe that any parliamentary model that does not include elements of direct democracy in it would basically usurp the rights recognized by the DDF, for a population to approve all laws and regulations by which it is governed.  

This is the core of the DDF‘s Senate model, that a legislature can be appointed in any manner provided it is directly answerable either to the electorate as a whole, by referendum, or to a senate representing that electorate, such as suggested in the DDF‘s proposal for a Senate.

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Budget Debates or Rubber Stamps

The fortnight covering 15th to 24th July 2014 saw a perfunctory parliamentary program of budget debates, 24 debates in 5 parliamentary days over the period.  See here and here.

That would work out at roughly 5 debates a day or 24 debates in a 40 hour week, an average of 1 hour 40 minutes per debate.

Do you think that is adequate to properly debate any single portfolio?  We don’t think so.  It is a thinly disguised rubber stamp and smacks of indecent haste.  Makes one wonder what the ANC don’t want to be revealed by adequate debate and disclosure.  No wonder the Nkandla fiasco was possible.  Nkandla in itself warranted a 40 hour debate (and then needed to be thrown out), let alone the time needed to properly investigate and sign off on the rest of public works and or the president’s budget.

The Direct Democracy Forum doesn’t have a specific policy on budget debates but would expect all budget debates to be allocated an adequate time for proper assimilation, debate and approval by both the legislative assembly and the Senate.  That would not be less than the time needed for adequate debate in committee and in a plenary session of the legislative assembly, for each budget, at the very least a two day process, and then each budget would have to go forward to the Senate for its approval.  That would be nothing like the indecent haste of the rubber stamps dished out by the current ANC led parliament.  Those minimum requirements would be Constitutional requirements.

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Secrecy Bill attacks Chapter 9 integrity

Protection of State Information Bill – the so-called secrecy Bill – attacks the integrity of Chapter 9 of the constitution and is probably unconstitutional and therefor in itself, illegal.  Chapter 9 institutions are intended to strengthen and support the democratic process of South Africa.  An attack on a Chapter 9 institution is an attack on democracy in South Africa and therefor an attack on the constitution and whatever doubts one has had about the intention of the ANC in that regard are pretty much dispelled by the actions of government against against Thuli Madonsela.

No act of parliament can overturn the constitution or any provision thereof except and if it is also a constitutional amendment, and the ANC do not have the necessary parliamentary support for that.

A Direct Democracy Forum administration  will restore the integrity of Chapter 9 institutions, and restore their invulnerability and superiority to all agents of government, as was patently the intent of the drafters of the constitution, and may well bring criminal action against those involved in this attack on the constitution, if that is appropriate.

See DDF judicial policies and judge for yourself the DDF‘s intent to uphold the constitution.

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The buck stops at the ballot box 

More heroic acts from the Public Protector

It has become a truism that almost the only breath of fresh air and hope in South Africa today, comes from the office of the Public Protector.

Her long awaited report on Nkandla Gate is being repressed by every male in the so-called security cluster, all in the name of security, and in a manner which is patently unconstitutional and illegal.  This is not the first time Thuli Madonsela has stood against the united fire-power of government and the ANC.

So, our wish for her is that she continues to stand in defiance of yet another assault on her integrity, the integrity of her office, the integrity of the constitution and the very fibre of freedom and transparency in South Africa.

There is little we can do except add our voice and opinion to all those other voices and opinions that have come out in support of her, yet again.  However, it goes without saying that a Direct Democracy Forum administration will do all in its power to strengthen her independence, and support and co-operate with her wherever her duties lead her.  A skim through DDF policies and other posts on this site will affirm our commitment to the ongoing success of the office of the Public Protector and our support of the very concept of the protection afforded by Chapter 9 of the constitution.

The DDF has identified as heroes and heroines just three people we regarded as inspirational in the struggle for justice in South Africa. Thuli Madonsela was one of them.  That was not an empty accolade.  Ms. Madonsela earns it over and over again.

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The buck stops at the ballot box

Police In-Fighting – political interference at work?

It seems that if you are prepared to be a professional bureaucrat at whatever level in whatever field, that is, you are prepared to do your duty without picking sides and indulging in favouritism, you are going to be attacked by people whose political agendas you threaten by simply doing your job.  This happens wherever you are.  It happened and is happening to Glynnis Breytenbach, it happened to Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela and now it seems to be happening to Shadrack Sibiya and Anwa Dramat of the Hawks (our elite crime fighting unit), for apparently doing too good a job and endangering politically protected persons.

A Direct Democracy Forum administration would empower the likes of Breytenbach, Ndleli, Sibiya and Dramat and anyone else who is doing their jobs without fear or favour and however possible would free them from unjustified political interference.  DDF policies speak for themselves, particularly those on the Judiciary, Security and Local Government.

The buck stops at the ballot box

IEC Impartiality?

The Direct Democracy Forum have always chosen to believe in the impartiality of the Independent Electoral Commission in the electoral processes of South Africa.  The DDF have always willed that impartiality into the forefront of its consciousness in the belief that if we cannot depend on IEC impartiality we cannot depend on the entire political process in South Africa.   Sadly, it seems we were naive in that belief and guilty of some wishful thinking.  It seems that even the IEC are capable of politically manipulating the electoral process, this according to the M&G on-line report IEC credibility questioned after Tlokwe judgment.

In a nutshell, an IEC official, John Mokodi, disqualified independent candidates for a number of Tlokwe by-elections without just cause.  They met the minimum requirements and should have been registered without question, instead they were disqualified, presumably because they were ANC opponents in highly controversial by-elections.  The Electoral Court found for the independent candidates who took the matter before the court. So far as we know there is a process involving a number of IEC officials in registration decisions.  How can they all have agreed on this matter?

Clearly there needs to be an urgent investigation into the facts of the disqualifications and in the registration verification process, and any involved in deliberate wrongdoing need to be removed from the registration process, indeed from the IEC itself.  That the IEC should investigate this publicly and urgently should go without saying, but it needs to be said.  The IEC need to act swiftly and unambiguously to restore the confidence of both the electorate and the political establishment, in the institution and its processes.  Surely heads must role and fixes be made.

A DDF administration would ensure that all the activities of the IEC are beyond reproach and that any incidents that damage its credibility would be responded to impartially and swiftly, in line with the DDF‘s approach to all administrative matters in South Africa.  The DDF believe in constitutionality, within the party and within South Africa as a whole.  This belief is reflected in DDF policies.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

Something is rotten in the State…..

Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.  Shakespeare could have been writing about South Africa:

All involve politicians diverting or stonewalling investigations into their activities.  There is indeed something rotten in the state of South Africa that a Direct Democracy Forum administration will take the wraps off and let the law prevail.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

Secrecy and lip-service to the PAIA

The Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (or PAIA; Act No. 2 of 2000) is a South African freedom of information law intended to impose compliance with section 32 of SA’s Constitution. It allows access to any information held by the State or by private bodies required for the exercise and protection of any rights. 

Why is it, then, that requests for information in accordance with the act are so often met with silence, obfuscation and delaying tactics that force committed appellants to court in order to obtain compliance?  This behaviour is so endemic and systemic that clearly government can only  be trying to impose a general acceptance of secrecy regarding its affairs so when it acts unlawfully or unwisely it’s misbehaviour is simply buried amongst all other of its dealings.  In short, civilians must simply “put up and shut up”.  What SA’s government and politicians get up to is simply not any of our business.  This tale, “finding-truth-in-a-culture-of-secrecy” expresses the frustration experienced by anyone trying to obtain information from government, particularly about contentious events, such as but not limited to Nkandlagate.

The Direct Democracy Forum have news for anyone taking advantage of this sort of behaviour.  As a body which respects constitutional compliance, the DDF  find this sort of behaviour unacceptable from government institutions and  undertake to enforce strict compliance with the constitution by all branches of government and to prosecute recalcitrants to the full extent of the law.  That should bring about a sea-change in bureaucratic attitudes and probably also in bureaucratic behaviour.

The buck stops at the ballot box.

Politicians and the Public Protector

The current spat over the jurisdiction of the Public Protector and Parliament’s influence over the Public Protector raises some difficult questions with no easy answers.

The problems can probably be summarised by asking the question, “who watches the watch dogs?”.  In a constitutional context, the short answer is, everybody watches them.

South Africa has a constitution that makes specific provision for various institutions to promote and further the cause of democracy under the protection of the Constitution.  The Direct Democracy Forum feel that the Constitutional Court should fall under those provisions, viz, the Constitutional Court should be a chapter 9 institution, tasked with protecting the Constitution, Democracy and the Rule of Law.  It should be the senior constitutional body in the land and particularly it should watch over Parliament, which, if some of the legislation Parliament produces is anything to go by, would dearly like to subvert the constitution and democracy.  

The Constitutional Court protects the constitution from the machinations of parliament quite effectively.  It also watches over government and its tendencies to subvert or ignore constitutional demands and does that quite well, too. But the DDF feel there would be a clearer line of accountability if the Constitutional Court were only subject to the dictates of the constitution and were protected from political influence in the same manner as chapter 9 institutions.  In a DDF wish-list, that sort of accountability is just about tops, followed closely by all other chapter 9 institutions being responsible to the constitution, through the offices of the Constitutional Court.  So the Public Protector would not be directly accountable to Parliament, which could then only be able to interfere with the Public Protector’s actions and investigations and modus operandi by means of a constitutional amendment with all the high profile effort and political support needed to achieve that.  It would not be easy for parliamentarians or members of government to interfere in the affairs of any section 9 institution, and that would be the aim.

For anyone interested, the Judiciary would continue to be accountable to the Constitutional Court.  Lower, but not much lower on the wish list, would be the removal of the president or any other political person or institution from the process of appointments of any judicial officer, from the highest to the lowest appointment.  We need a better system than we have at present, a system which makes the constitution, the Constitutional Court, all chapter 9 institutions and all lower courts practically invulnerable to the whims of the body politic.

The DDF think that is a good thing to wish for and any DDF administration would do all in its power to achieve those ends.

As a caveat, the DDF believe that the Public Protector must investigate where and how it feels it should, without interference from parliament.

The buck stops at the ballot box.