Our democracy needs a major acccountability service

Published in Informanté, November 2012

ImageYou’ve probably heard it said a hundred times that South Africa has one of the world’s best constitutions. But do we have the world’s best parliament? Hm…

So what would a really great parliament look like?

Well, we’d probably have members of parliament (MPs) who run strong constituency offices and are visible in the communities they represent. They would be standing up regularly for the rights of the vulnerable. Like MPs in the UK and members of congress in the US, they’d have no hesitation in criticising the leaders of their own parties or big businesses that abuse their power and influence. But unlike US congresspeople, they would not be receiving enormous amounts of money from special interests and handing out endless favours in return. Unlike the British government, they would not be giving more attention to the needs of bankers than to those of ordinary people.

We have good people in our parliament, but who knows of a South African MP like that? Anyone? So why don’t we have a parliament like that?

A big problem is that our current institutions Continue reading Our democracy needs a major acccountability service

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A footnote on electoral systems

In today’s Observer, columnist Nick Cohen describes closed-list electoral systems in rather unflattering terms: “Straw wants a modified version of the closed list system, the neatest swindle ever dreamt up by machine politicians.”

While I think there were good reasons for introducing a closed-list system in South Africa in 1994, the time has come to revamp it. The flood of talent that entered Parliament then has now largely departed, and measures to renew standards are urgently needed.