The announcement in parliament by home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi that the electoral system is to be reformed is to be welcomed.

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) has been calling for an overhaul of our electoral system for some time, so as to allow at least some representatives to be directly elected while ensuring a proportional element remains as a means of ensuring overall vote shares are reflected in the number of seats won.

Allowing some representatives to be elected directly will allow independents to stand for provincial and national elections, make representatives more responsive to their constituents, as well as break the power of party bosses. The power party bosses have over MPs and MPLs often means they act in their party’s interests rather than those of SA or their constituents.

Of course, electoral reform is not a silver bullet that will magically revitalise SA politics, but it will go some way to strengthening and consolidating our democracy. 

That said, South Africans must remain vigilant and ensure any proposals for electoral reform by the government do, indeed, strengthen democracy — and not weaken it. The policy document on electoral reform the department is due to release must be studied carefully, and any changes that could weaken democracy should be flagged and resisted.

A well-run, trustworthy system of elections is a cornerstone of democracy and we must work hard to fortify this institution and ensure it is beyond reproach.

Marius Roodt, Institute of Race Relations

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