The country’s proportional representation system is dangerous and gives political parties too much power, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.
“If your political party has factions and you come with a list of MPs which is factional, that is a danger and a threat. That is why we should open the debate on whether we need a mixed system,” Nzimande told the Congress of South African Trade Union's (Cosatu’s) Gauteng shop stewards council at the Johannesburg city hall.
The electoral system should combine PR, which allows parties to select its Members of Parliament, with a constituency-based system that allows voters to directly elect MPs.
Nzimande’s comments come ahead of the vote of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma. Opposition parties, led by the United Democratic Movement, have asked the Constitutional Court to allow MPs to vote by secret ballot. This would protect African National Congress (ANC) members who want to vote against the party line. The ANC had already warned its members against voting for Zuma to go.
The SACP has called for Zuma to step down. Several ANC MPs are SACP members. Opposition parties and civil society have called on ANC MPs to defy the party and vote with their conscience.
Nzimande lamented that while the SACP and trade union federation Cosatu and the ANC campaigned for votes together ahead of the elections, ANC leaders left them out of key decisions, including deployments.
He said the alliance was incoherent and unable to lead.
“Our revolution is on trial. If we don’t correct wrong things that are happening now it will come completely off the rails,” Nzimande said.
The relationship between ANC and SACP worsened after Zuma changed his executive on March 30 without consulting them.
The SACP criticised Zuma for firing competent ministers, including Pravin Gordhan, but keeping incompetent ones. It then called for Zuma to step down, a decision Nzimande said had not been easy.
The SACP was fiercely critical of then president Thabo Mbeki and led the campaign for Zuma to replace him in 2008.
Nzimande warned against an anti-Zuma campaign and said it was a mistake to believe that removing Mbeki and replacing him with Zuma would solve the problems of the Mbeki presidency. These included failure to consult the movement, abuse of state resources, and “parasites looting the state”. All of this had re-emerged under Zuma’s presidency.
"We are back where we were 10 years ago. We dealt with the symptoms and not fundamental problems.”