A Gauteng civic in Alberton is being quite forthright in its approach to the 2011 Municipal Elections and has asked people standing for office to sign a letter of commitment. The intention is that voters have a level of accountability over their Ward Councillors after the 2011 elections.
In the light of recent actions taken by the City of Cape Town (The withdrawal of the Court Action to oppose Province approval of development on Dassenberg & policies in the Spatial Development Framework which impact negatively on the character, infrastructural capacity and sustainability of the far South Peninsula) it is essential that all ward councilors understand that they are the employees of the local voters.
Direct Democracy in Action
The current party political dominated dispensation makes it more difficult for council candidates to be effective representatives of the people. Voters therefore have to be clear and determined about voting for candidates who understand the needs of the community and who have demonstrated and given a commitment to being accountable to the voters first. We, in the South Peninsula, should also be asking our councillor candidates taking part in the 2011 municipal elections to sign a social contract as a commitment to direct and measurable democracy. (see the example from Alberton below).
Jim Powell has put together a thought provoking assessment of the current South African democracy. The similarities with many `democracies’ throughout the world, does not give the flaws in the system legitimacy. Considering the many challenges facing communities today including the end of cheap energy, the ongoing recession and continued degradation of the environment (our natural capital) we need informed, committed and accountable leadership now more than ever.
Politicians are the employees of the voters – by Jim Powell (abbreviated version)
Our current system in South Africa is so much better than pre 1994 but it lacks accountability. The primary allegiance the proportional representatives have is to their own political party. The 50% of the local government councillors that have a constituency can at least be identified by the electorate but still are not accountable. We, the electorate, are the shareholders of the South African government and employers of our politicians. We choose the politicians who are employed, pay their salaries and we must be able to directly control them.
“The difference between a democracy (as normally practiced) and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.” Charles Bukowski
Our current system can be called a 5 year dictatorship.
An employment advert for a politician in South Africa under the current system (and generally throughout the world) should read as follows:
1. Applicants are requested to submit their CV’s for the position of politician. If they are elected, they will not be challenged regarding the accuracy of their CV.
2. The interview will last for a number of months.
3. Many thousands, or even millions, of the politicians’ potential employers (voters) will decide whether their application will be successful.
4. Should the politician be successful, the politician is guaranteed employment for 5 years unless the politician resigns, dies, upsets the group of people (political party) that the politician chooses to be employed with or is found guilty of a serious crime (we can talk about this one).
5. The voters (employers) would like the politicians to listen to the voters all the time, not just play lip service for a month and then disappear for 5 years. It is the politicians’ choice to do so or not.
6. The politicians’ employers are relying on the goodwill and integrity of the politicians, to act honestly and with dignity. But if the politicians choose not to, there is nothing that the employers (the voters), can do about it.
7. Voters recognise that many politicians, from 1994, have done sterling jobs and others have done a terrible job but the voters (employers) will not able to remove those politicians from the voters’ employment or payroll who either do not perform or perform badly.
8. The politicians collectively could change the basic rules (the constitution) so that the individual politicians (employees) would then have to operate in the voters’ interest. History tells us that politicians are not likely give the power to the voters (employers).
9. The voters would like a system which has an accountable individual at every level of government that we can go to, i.e. to have constituencies at Central, Provincial and Local levels.
10. According to the current system “politician” should be renamed to “5 year dictator” since this more accurately describes the position on offer. When the politicians give the power to the voters (employers), the voters will rename the position to “representative”.
There is a long road to travel so that the community is in control of its destination! We can take the journey together with accountable representatives.
Makes you think!!
Commitment Form to be signed by candidate councilor – Local Elections – 18 May 2011
I, (candidate councillor ID), acknowledge that I will effectively be an employee of the voters of ward (number, Council) if elected as a ward councilor during the 18 May 2011 local elections by the said voters of the ward in question, and that it is the voters of the said ward who, through payment of their rates and taxes, pay my salary.
I therefore commit myself to direct democracy in the following ways:
1. I commit to regular and effective consultation with the voting public through public meetings and continuous communication with local residents’ associations and community groups via the local press, local radio stations or in person.
2. I agree to vote in Council in accordance to the best interest of the voters who elected me, who may from time to time be polled by means of a referendum similar in format to that used for Council petitions.
3. I am committed to ensure that the wishes of my constituency are effectively communicated and advocated for in Council and at all levels of local government.
4. I am also committed in doing everything within my power to ensuring that the by-laws are upheld and that service delivery is efficient and effective in the ward elected.
5. I commit to being held accountable for my performance by the voters.
I further agree that the registered voters in the ward in question should be able to remove me from office. Should 51% or more of the number of voters who voted in the previous election of the said the said ward sign an open petition I will comply with their wishes and resign. The petition must however adhere to the following rules and regulations:
o The petition must have a proper heading stating the reason of the petition on every page of the petition;
o The petition must be completed within a 30 day period showing the date the petition was drawn up in the heading;
o The following information must on the petition per voter:
o the full names of the voter & valid id number of the voter;
o the date signed by the voter & the signature of the voter.
o The petition must be an original document and no photocopies will be accepted.
o A petition of this nature may not, however, be initiated within 6 months of me taking office or when an election date has been set and may not continue once an election
date has been set.
Should I not follow the results of a recall petition or should I refuse to resign as required by the recall process, I will donate R100.000 to the community, for use in the community in a way to be decided by the voters in my ward at a public meeting with at least 50 registered voters attending the public meeting.
Read more at:
Look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy,