Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

SA is in a situation: the citizens and the president may be on the same page, but much of the governing party is on a different page, holding back necessary reform as a result. 

The last time we were in this situation, the president was FW de Klerk and the governing party was the National Party. In 1991, the leader needed a strong mandate for change to negate those in his party stopping him from implementing “the will of the people”. 

In that situation, De Klerk took the plunge and called for a plebiscite: the “Yes-No” referendum of March 17 1992, where a subset of the population was asked: “Do you support continuation of the reform process which the state president began on 2 February 1990 and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiation?”

By March 18 1992, De Klerk’s mandate was crystal clear, even in conservative strongholds. Almost 69% of the votes were in favour, advocating for change, and with this clear mandate negotiations continued and we had free and fair elections in April 1994.

President Cyril Ramaphosa could hold a plebiscite with the question: “Do you support continuation of the reform process the president began on February 15 2018, which is aimed at rooting out corruption, implementing the National Development Plan and implementing structural reform aimed at economic growth?”

In the 1992 referendum, participation was not fair and without universal franchise. This could be the case this time as well: the vote could be limited to paid-up members of the ANC. The membership hurdle is only R20, and the election infrastructure could easily be crowdfunded.

Ramaphosa, the ANC leadership, ANC members, all South Africans and the world would finally know what mandate the president has. Hopefully this would remove some stumbling blocks to reform.

Greg Becker 
Via e-mail

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