The Power of Direct Democracy.

On 17th March 1992, “White South Africa” voted overwhelmingly in a Referendum, to scrap apartheid and to negotiate a new inclusive constitution. In a turnout of 85 % of the registered voters, 69% voted for the proposed negotiations (ie to scrap apartheid) and 31% voted against the proposal.

We believe that this reflected the overwhelming sentiment of the majority of the white population which had prevailed for decades, probably ever since the introduction of apartheid following the 1948 general elections, which delivered a parliamentary majority to white South African nationalists.

On 25th May 2018 the Irish people voted overwhelmingly in a Referendum, to scrap the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, which in a referendum in 1983, driven largely by the Catholic Church in the guise of a visit to Ireland by the Pope, largely banned abortion in Ireland under most circumstances. This time around, some 35 years later, in a 64% turnout, 66% voted in favour of scrapping the eighth amendment and 34% voted against the proposal.

As part of the Irish ballot, the question was asked for how long had the sentiment expressed in the vote cast existed. Many answered, for decades.

And then, of course, there was Brexit! Yet another example of the will of the people expressed in an act of direct democracy in 2016 which went counter to the wishes, expectations and hopes of the establishment.

The point of this is to illustrate the power of voters exerted in the direct expression of their democratic will by means of a referendum, by the application of direct democracy. Few parliamentary elections generate such high voter turnout and fewer still deliver parliamentary results which express the will of the people so directly and so accurately and very few parliamentary elections deliver such landslide results, except in totalitarian stares where opposition opinion is excluded from the process.

Without the application of the will of the people expressed in acts of direct democracy, apartheid in South Africa and the almost blanket ban on abortion in Ireland and Britain’s membership of the EU, could well have continued ad nauseum.

What these three examples ably demonstrate is that the world’s parliamentary systems are not always aligned with the wishes of their voters so much as being aligned with the will of the prevailing establishment.  This does need to change, here in South Africa, and elsewhere.

Then of course there was the recent US Presidential elections where the will of the people (a substantial absolute majority for Hillary Clinton) was ignored by the establishment in favour of President Donald Trump. It may be argued that the one candidate is no better than the other, but in that instance it was clearly shown that the will of the people was not expressed in the election results.

It can and will be argued that direct democracy also demonstrates the fickleness of the voter population.  But we would argue that it is perfectly legitimate for a voter population to try out a particular political strategy or process and when finding the strategy or process to be wanting, to ditch it.  That is not being fickle, that is being responsible. 

The establishment are largely in fear of direct democracy because they fear populist government and they are less able to control the outcomes of political sentiment expressed by direct democracy, than by influencing the party political system, by various means, including but not limited to the buying of political favour in political parties.

The Direct Democracy Forum’s sentiment is illustrated by the proposed application of direct democracy in the DDF’s proposed SENATE and MUNICIPAL FORUMS and in the use of referendums to resolve political deadlocks, much like occurred in South Africa in the apartheid years and in Ireland since 1983 and in Britain since the 1970s.

DDF SENATE PROPOSALS VINDICATED

There is a saying that all will come to those who wait. Being proactive I am not sure I agree with the sentiment. But recently something happened illustrating it’s relevance.

Some 60 years back in the 1960s, when I was about 15, I was pondering how a political process whereby a political fringe had managed to capture a perfectly adequate dual house parliamentary system and impose a largely unwelcome and undesirable system (the apartheid system) on the masses of the population of a country (SA), could have come about. From that came a proposal for an upper house of parliament (I called it a house of censure) which was drawn from the streets rather than the political establishment, and through which all legislation and regulation must be passed for approval. Of course I was 15 or so, and nothing came of it beyond it being a proposal.

Over the years, the proposal became more sophisticated and concrete and I stopped calling the house one of censure, and identified it as a Senate.

In the 1990s, when the CODESA was in process I submitted my Senate proposal to CODESA l and ll, as many did. The proposal was ignored. I happened at the time to be living across the road from Mac Maharaj, then the ANC’s spin doctor. I challenged him on the fact that my proposal had not even been acknowledged. He stood on the other side of his gate and held his hand about chest high above the ground and said, what did I expect them to do with a pile of proposals that high. The inference being that CODESA was a farce and was merely a vehicle to impose the opinions of the few on the many and is merely a sop to consultation. I learned this form of consultation is typical of the ANC.

Time moved on. In 2012 the Direct Democracy Forum was formed using TEAL and the Senate proposals as the foundation of DDF policies. These policies have since been added to by a Basic Income Grant and a Sovereign Wealth Fund (amongst other policies).

Now in 2018, I read an article published June 2016 in the Guardian’s long read series, by David Van Reybrouck titled “Why elections are bad for democracy” arguing very persuasively that representative democracy and elected politicians are failing us, their constituents, where “common interest lose out to short term and party interests”, and where “winning the next election has become more important than fulfilling the promises made in the last”, and that in it’s place was needed something like “the central principle of Athenian democracy, drafting by lot, or sortition”, where those drafted were immersed in the details of every legislative and regulatory proposal and so could vote from an informed position on the issues. Thus ” a cross-section of society that is informed can act more coherently than an entire society that is uninformed”.

How does that vindicate the DDF Senate policies? It does so because sortition describes exactly what the DDF Senate policy is about.

It is significant that sortition is being used more and more to resolve issues that party-political electioneering and periodic visits to voting stations have been unable to resolve. This has occurred “in the US, Australia and the Netherlands” and most innovatively in Ireland. In December 2012, a constitutional convention began, drawing on “33 elected politicians and 66 citizens, drafted by lot, from both Ireland and Northern Ireland” .. who .. “met one weekend per month for more than a year”.

In this, the Irish approach, the convention drew up proposals to go before parliament. In the DDF approach, the Senate would be required to approve or reject legislation or regulation emanating from Parliament or Cabinet. So one is doing it one way, the other is doing it the other way. But the same essential principle is being applied. Get the approval of ordinary opinion, first or last in the process, but getting that approval is essential, which ever way you do it.

I believe all of this vindicates the DDF’s Senate policy and proposals and although it is a 60 year old story for me, the story still has some chapters to be written. Those chapters cover implementing a sortition Senate and the many more chapters thereafter where sortition builds a better South Africa for all.

DDF : Overview

The Direct Democracy Forum (DDF) is a registered South African political party (IEC registration number 936). The DDF is a party of policies, not personalities.

The DDF believe in Capitalism (the private ownership of Capital, Property and the Means of Production and unrestricted access to the Market Place). The DDF believe in Democracy. But the DDF also believe that both systems need tweaking to better serve all in our society. So the DDF want both Capitalism and Democracy to succeed and to serve all in South Africa.

The DDF have four core policies which differentiates them from all other political parties. They are; 1) tax reform (TEAL or Total Economic Activity Levy), 2) Basic Income and Advancement Grants, 3) Sovereign Wealth Fund and 4) a People’s Senate and Municipal Forums.

Central to DDF economic policies is the replacement of conventional taxes (30% or so of the GDP) with a single levy of 1/2% on the broader economy, to fund the fiscus. We call this Total Economic Activity Levy (TEAL). This is possible because there is a general relationship in South Africa of 1:30 for the GDP : money flowing through the Banking System. Thus a R3 Trillion GDP will mean about 90 Trillion flows through the banks in that year. Each Rand is both a deposit and a payment which sums to R180 Trillion. 37% added for settlements within single banks pushes this to R246.6 Trillion.

OUT: 30% tax of the GDP of R3 Trillion (R0.9 Trillion).

IN:    1/2% TEAL on 246,6 Trillion (R1.233 Trillion).

This would effectively replace a 30% tax burden on profits and income (which penalises success) with a 1% TEAL on the economic activity (½% into + ½ % out of bank accounts) which is more like a rent than a tax. The 1% assumes you spend all that you earn. The banks collect TEAL from their clients and pay it to the revenue service, much like they do with VAT.

This same process can be used to fund a Basic Income Grant (BIG) (aka UBI or Universal Basic Income) of say R5000 per month for every adult South African Citizen, while a once in a lifetime Advancement Grant of about R200000 for each member of the same population can pay for tertiary education or other advancement expenditure. We see these grants as a joint investment in the demand side of the economy and in SA’s population, giving them opportunities and choices they would not otherwise have, which will also stimulate the supply side to pursue the increased demand. A BIG will also fund a National Health Insurance Scheme and help fund a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). The BIG and the Fiscus can be funded from a 2.165% TEAL (see Teal the Big Picture). The DDF expect the SWF will eventually fund the BIG from profits earned.

A policy to help redress the problems of Democracy is for a Senate, populated independently of party politics. This Senate has a rolling population (50% are replaced annually) drawn by a random process (called sortition) from a cross-section of a volunteer population, identified for example, by Age, Income, Education, Cultural Affiliation, Religion, Gender & etcetera, and arranged into peer groups. Thus far some 40 peer groups have been identified. At 10 senators per peer group this equals 400 senators. The legislative assembly and cabinet would legislate and regulate, and the Senate would approve or reject that legislation and regulation. This includes the possibility of a minority veto to block discriminatory legislation or regulation. The cost savings from replacing tax with TEAL will more than pay for the Senate. A similar structure and process is proposed on a smaller scale for Municipal Forums at local government levels.

We do not think these proposals are a total solution for all SA’s woes. There needs to be a framework of sound government policy and administration. In that sense, Cabinet and the Executive will be the executors of the will of parliament and SA’s population, as delivered through the exercise of direct democracy in the Senate and Municipal Forums, but we think the proposals sketched above will contribute to a more prosperous and happy South Africa.

These are the core policies of the DDF.

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.

See how you can benefit from DDF policies.     
View videos on the main DDF policies 
Support the DDF 

 

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Who we are
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The DDF or DIRECT DEMOCRACY FORUM   is a South African political party registered with the IEC (reference 936). The DDF has two main agendas that go beyond normal political party undertakings.    They are:
  1. Create an UPPER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT or SENATE, populated by random selection from volunteers from the streets.
  2. Adopt TEAL (Total Economic Activity Levy) as the only source of state revenue, replacing all other taxes and levies.

These two agendas will restore politics to the people and tax all participants in SA’s economy fairly and equitably

Publications:

OTHER PUBLICATIONS:

Basic Income Grants:

Interview with SAFM 07/03/2019: 

Podcasts: Part 1 and Part 2 

PDF Transcripts: BIGPodcast1 and BIGPodcast2

DDF PDF Response:  BIGPodcastResponse

  DDF PUBLICATIONS:

Volunteer Questionnaire:   volunteer_questionnaire.pdf
         MS Word format:   volunteer_questionnaire.doc
   Sample Questionnaire:   questionnaire_sample.pdf
DDF 2014 Annual Report:    2014_DDF_Annual_Report.pdf
Principle DDF Policies:    One-Pager.pdf 
Principle DDF Policies:    One-Third-Pager.pdf

Facebook video clips
Youtube video clips
Introduction to the Direct Democracy Forum 
The Senate
Senate Selection Process
Functions of the Senate
Senate Management
Deliberative Democracy
The Senate and Referendums
The Purpose and Cost of the Senate
Electoral reform and Municipal Forums
TEAL: Total Economic Activity Levy
1% TEAL: How is that possible?
Implementation and regulation of TEAL
E-Tolls


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SA Government Covid19 Portal:  sacoronavirus.co.za

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The DDF or DIRECT DEMOCRACY FORUM  is a South African political party registered with the IEC (reference 936).     The DDF has four main agendas that will ensure FAIR TAX,  FAIR GOVERNMENT, SOCIAL JUSTICE  & COMMERCIAL PARTICIPATION in the economy for all South African Citizens. (See DDF in a NutshellHave Your Say,   FAQs, GOALS, Change.org Petition)  

They are:

  1. Create an UPPER HOUSE OF PARLIAMENT or SENATE, populated directly from the streets, bypassing Party Political processes & structures in a process called Sortition.
  2. Adopt TEAL (Total Economic Activity Levy) as the only source of state revenue, replacing all other taxes and levies.
  3. Initiate a Basic Income Grant (BIG) and Advancement Grant (AGfor ALL ADULT SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS
  4. Create a Sovereign Wealth Fund to invest in SA and the world at large and in which every adult South African Citizen has an equal share (SWF)

These four agendas will 1) restore politics to the people, 2) tax all participants in SA’s economy fairly and equitably,  3) invest in the demand side of the economy by engaging all adult South African citizens in the demand side economy and 4) ensure that every adult South African has a stake in the economy. 

The direct effect this will have on poverty is less important than the effect on wealth creation opportunities for all sectors of the economy but particularly for those who will not previously have had such opportunities, both in  the formal and informal sectors, this arising from an expanded economy.

(See  Have Your Say,  DDF in a Nutshell, FAQs, GOALS, Change.org Petition

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