OPINION: Cyril’s list of hits and misses

Norman McFarlane

The outrage that followed the publishing of the ANC’s election list last week was little short of comical.

Social media airwaves lit up and President Cyril Ramaphosa went instantly from compromised hero to absolute zero, in the eyes of (mostly) white middle class voters.

Upper class voters don’t give a toss, because they have the economic wherewithal to ride out pretty much any storm that might result from a future caucus and cabinet peppered with deeply compromised individuals.

The rest of the voting population that supports the ANC, equally doesn’t give a toss, but for different reasons.

It beggars belief that anybody could have expected the ANC election list to look materially different, considering our political system, and how the ANC list process works.

The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) and its successor, the Multi-Party Negotiation Process (MPNP), laid the foundation for our electoral system that was signed into law after the Constituent Assembly settled on what is essentially a compromise.

Western-style democracy is postulated on the Westminster first-past-the-post system, the electoral system that prevailed under the apartheid regime.

It was this system that allowed the National Party to dominate our politics for half a century, and the result is self-evident.

Had that system prevailed after 1994, the make up of the National Assembly would have been very different.

Instead of 13 parties represented in Parliament, chances are there would be no more than three or four, and the seat distribution would have been even more skewed than it is.

Back in the day of CODESA and the MPNP, the conversation around the average white South African dinner table about our democratic future, revolved around “one man one vote once”. The ANC was seen to be the dominant party that would sweep aside all challengers, and turn the country into a one-party state, a perception fostered by the ANC’s cozy relationship with the only recently dismantled Soviet regime.

White South Africa was staring down the gun barrel of “Swart gevaar”, which led to some interesting reactions: the Coke and brandy brigade “invasion” of Bophuthatswana by the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB), its violent attempt to derail CODESA in Kempton Park, and FW De Klerk’s hasty destruction of South Africa’s not inconsiderable nuclear arsenal, among others.

The solution? A proportional representation electoral system that would guarantee minorities a seat at the legislative table. Like any negotiated outcome, it required compromise.

The result is the party list system that we have, whereby party structures get to decide who ends up in our various legislatures. We vote for a party, not for people.

Party bosses do have some degree of influence over who gets deployed to which portfolio, but they do not decide who sits where in the hierarchy of a party list. That is entirely in the hands of party structures, through the list process.

It is this system which allows the likes of Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba, both found by the Constitutional Court to have lied under oath, to be in the top thirty of the ANC’s election list, and headed for Parliament, and if we’re terribly unlucky, a seat on the executive.

As much as Mr Ramaphosa might like to have it work out differently, he is powerless. If he attempts to circumvent the outcome of the ANC’s list process, he will be dragged into court immediately. Not even the ANC’s toothless integrity commission can intervene in the list process.

The bigger question is what the ANC’s election list says about the moral compass of the ANC cadres who made this happen.