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Congress of the People applauds Winnie Madikizela-Mandela for requesting an amendment to the electoral system we are using at the national and provincial level. She recognises clearly, after having participated in the struggle, that lack of accountability is the bane of society. That is why she resisted the apartheid government so resolutely. Today she perceives, once again, that communities must have the means to hold their political leaders accountable so that they can achieve service delivery and and find relief from lingering poverty and unemployment.

She is correct, therefore, in observing: “Our problem, of course, will always be this proportional representation.” While she has identified the problem she has an even steeper hurdle to overcome: the egotistic behaviour of leaders at present and their single-minded pursuit of power and self-enrichment. The present electoral system suits their purpose perfectly. Anyone who pleads for a change is labelled anti-revolutionary.

However, we must not forget that it was President Nelson Mandela who raised this very in the last sitting of the first democratically elected Parliament, in 1999. President Nelson Mandela told the National Assembly –

“…we do need to ask whether we need to re-examine our electoral system, so as to improve the nature of our relationship, as public representatives, with voters.

The question of electoral reform was left hanging from 1996. In 2009, however, COPE made itself very clear on this point in its manifesto. Therein, we committed ourselves to the direct election of the President, Premiers and Mayors. Furthermore, we said in our manifesto that “the people (should) directly elect their public representatives to the national and provincial legislatures in such a manner as to achieve a mixture of direct election and proportional representation”. We recommended to the voters to model the general election on the local government election.

Now that comrade Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has made her call for electoral reform public, we urge South Africans to rally behind her. We also urge young people to take to social media and whip up support for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s call for electoral reform. Young people have no idea how big and enormous a debt burden this government has transferred to them to clear on their own. If they understood the extent of the burden they are required to carry, young people will insist on electoral reform to achieve greater responsiveness and accountability.

The time for electoral reform is here. Let us answer that call so that we can return South Africa to the rule of law and international respectability. If we do not do that, great misfortune will over take us.

COPE supports Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s call for electoral reform and salutes her for her bravery.

Issued by Mosiuoa Lekota, COPE President

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