There are many valid reasons for calling for a deepening of democracy in SA, despite the fact that it has regular free elections and constitutional mechanisms designed to promote public participation in lawmaking.

The major flaw in its system of government is often said to be the manner in which the electoral system — uninhibited open list proportional representation — has shaped its party system.

The usual complaint is that individual members of parliament or provincial legislatures are accountable to party bosses, rather than to the electors. Accordingly, there are often demands that the electoral system should be reformed via the introduction of constituencies. In that way, public representatives would need to be sensitive to the concerns of constituents, as well as to the demands of those above them in the party hierarchy. But the call for electoral reform has constantly stalled, largely because list system proportional representation has guaranteed the ANC — which has governed the country since 1994 — majorities at national and most provincial levels. Thus, it is not in the party’s interests to change the system.

One danger of this is that there may be a populist call for the introduction of referendums. For instance, if down the road, the Constitutional Court were to rule that any proposed amendment to the constitution regarding the expropriation of land without c...

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