Disc Dem

Disc Dem

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Proportionally Disconnected

At the last local government elections the ANC won an outright majority of Ward Councillors in 189 out of 226 Local Councils (84%), excluding the 8 Metro Councils and 44 District Councils which are stories on their own.

These 189 Councils provided 2779 Ward seats for the ANC, which was over 8 times the combined total of 345 Ward seats won by all other parties, and 1.7 times the 1609 combined Ward and Proportional seats of all other parties. In 69 of them, the ANC actually won every single Ward – a complete whitewash of the opposition.

Even though they had absolute control of the 189 Councils with Ward Councillors alone, our electoral system provided the ANC with an additional 1775 proportional representation seats. 

The result of this gift from the system to the ANC was that their proportional seat allocation alone exceeded the 1609 combined total of ALL seats for ALL other parties. Not forgetting that the other parties were also “gifted” 1264 or 3.7 times more seats than they actually won, which made not even the smallest ripple in the pond of ANC dominance.

So what was gained by adding a total of 3039 proportional seats to 84% of our local councils? The simple answer is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! But read on......

The DA won an outright majority of Ward Councillors in 18 of the 226 Local Councils (8%) These 18 Councils provided 167 Ward seats for the DA, against the 74 Ward seats won by all other parties.  Once again, our electoral system provided the DA with an additional 86 proportional seats, while at the same time providing other parties with a combined additional 137 proportional seats.  Did the proportional allocations change anything at all? Answer, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! 

We now have 3244 completely pointless and unproductive proportional seats allocated across 92% of Local Councils, but read on.....

Other parties, such as the Inkatha Freedom Party and National Freedom Party in KZN also had their successes, but suffice it to say that over the remaining 19 Local Councils (8%), our electoral system rewarded political parties with a combined total of 190 additional proportional seats over and above the 203 Ward seats actually won by them.

What these numbers tell us is patently obvious. Political parties have been blithely scamming the electorate for the last 20 years, without even a blink of shame.  They know very well that proportional seats make no difference to the balance of power. They also know very well that proportional seat allocations, from party lists, are the only mechanism they have for rewarding the party faithful with overpaid sheltered employment, at the expense of the public purse.

Now I’m getting really angry, not only because of the political manipulation surrounding the whole process of local government, but also because we, the electorate have allowed this fundamentally corrupt system to continue for so long. 

Political parties will argue that proportional representation at local government level is written into the Constitution, which it is. But they are also fully aware that Local Councils are struggling to deliver basic services under the weight of salaries for councillors and officials, so why have they made no effort to amend the Constitutional clause relating to local government elections?

Again the answer is obvious.  If proportional representation is canned at local government level then 3,452 party faithful politicians will be out of a job, and then what is the party leadership going to do with them?  They can’t employ them all, and many of them are in any event unemployable. It is a predicament that they want to avoid, and one that we need to make unavoidable.

The benefits for the electorate to force this issue are many.  First of all we will save around R1 billion in pointless salaries that can be used for service delivery. The main benefit, though, is that it will bring much needed accountability back to a constituency level.  We will vote them in, and we will vote them out again if they do not perform. With no political party override as presently provided for by the dual candidacy proportional party list system, Ward Councillors will have to up their constituency-based game.

In my next post I will cover the situation with Metro Councils, although I think the outcome will be much the same, just on a larger scale.  District Councils are something else altogether and will take a little longer to dissect, but watch this space!

In the mean time, let’s work on getting changes made to this despicable political system that puts the employment of unnecessary politicians ahead of service delivery and constituency accountability.

In conclusion, the best argument against proportional representation is a five minute conversation with your local councillor (with apologies to Winston Churchill).
Just completed the Metro Council analysis, with results as I thought.  The ANC won absolute control of 7 Metro Councils with 416 Ward seats which was 2.3 times more than the 182 Ward seats won by all other parties.  Proportional seats numbering 305 for the ANC and 291 for all other parties combined were awarded.

The DA won absolute control of 1 Metro with 78 Ward seats which was 2.4 times more than the 33 Ward seats won by all other parties. Proportional seats numbering 57 for the DA and 53 for all other parties combined were awarded.

This analysis has added another 706 pointless proportional representatives at an additional cost of around R340m

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