Mr Glen Mashinini
Chair of the Electoral Commission
Private Bag X112

Dear Mr Mashinini

Call on the IEC to host a meeting for political parties to debate South Africa’s democratic ideals, electoral reform and the impact of Covid-19 on elections

1. The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has had in-depth internal discussions around two critical matters that have already impacted on, and will still impact, the way that South Africa practices democracy and runs elections.

One is of course the Constitutional Court’s judgment that the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 (‘the Electoral Act’) is unconstitutional in so far as it requires candidates to contest national and provincial elections only as members of political parties and, the other, the impact that Covid-19 is having, and will have, on future elections.

2. We have also noted the opinions of some political parties on electoral reform, as well as that of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), expressed in the media.

3. One such item is the notion of combining national, provincial and local government elections, especially given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the IEC’s preparations for the 2021 Local Government Elections and what an election would look like – in a little more than a year from now – with the uncertainty around our continued journey with the Coronavirus.

Combining our elections will require constitutional changes and the practicality of somehow altering the five-year election cycles to achieve synchronicity, and the impact it will have on democracy, must be carefully considered.

4. The UDM has long been of the view that changes to our electoral system is indeed needed and the opportunity has presented itself, no matter how it was precipitated, to have earnest debate around public representatives’ accountability to the electorate and whether South Africa’s purely proportional system is the right tool to ensure that.

5. But to our minds, the most important change necessary is the need to have voters directly elect their president of the country, as is the case in many established democracies across the globe. The UDM believes that South Africa’s president should be directly elected by her people, and be held accountable to them, instead of the around 3,000 delegates at a party congress choosing a party president to be foisted onto an entire nation.

6. It is necessary to have a structured debate around these issues and it is imperative that we, as political parties, must formally engage as primary stakeholders of the IEC and South Africa’s democratic processes.

7. Given the complexities of the matters on the table, we must start the debate now in order to (if there is consensus that changes to our electoral systems are necessary and will achieve greater democracy) amend the Constitution, the Electoral Act and the Municipal Electoral Act 27 of 2000 and