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OPINION: Sharpeville struggle continues to haunt South Africa

It was on 21 March 1960 under the leadership of Pan African Congress leader Robert Sobukwe that the people of South Africa - in particular, the people of Sharpeville - marched against the pass laws, the laws that denied us human rights. People died struggling for the right to vote and to be represented by the leaders of their choice in Parliament.

Under the 100% proportional representation electoral laws in the Constitution since 1993, that goal is still far-fetched.

We still do not have the right to choose our Members of Parliament. In this sense, the white minority regime has been replaced by another minority regime. Under apartheid, the white minority had the right to directly elect their Members of Parliament, each of them by name as a known individual. Today under a black government, blacks still do not have the right to directly elect a single Member of Parliament.

The law-makers of our supposedly liberated society are still beyond our control, as the people of South Africa.

Let us be clear. We, as the voters of South Africa, did not choose by name a single one of those government MPs who sat silent while Jacob Zuma, his friends the Guptas, the Bosasa magnates, the VBS Bank robbers and a whole army of directors of state facilities looted the public funds which we, our children and our grandchildren depend on. We are all poorer, except for those who enriched themselves at our expense while government MPs collected their salaries and kept silent.

Just as under apartheid, we were powerless. We did not choose by name any one of those MPs who let us down, and we had no power to threaten any of them - we will not vote for that individual again.

Just as all power was in the hands of the white minority in the days of apartheid; all power in Parliament is now in the hands of party headquarters. A tiny number of very powerful party officials choose who will be an MP and who will not. If anyone of their MPs steps out of line, they can kick that person out of Parliament at a moment's notice and replace that person with another one of their children's puppets.

This is the undemocratic fatal flaw in our Constitution, which takes away our power. That is why brave Makhosi Khoza was forced out of Parliament when she stood up for us, and why Julius Malema was able to sack three EFF MPs when they disagreed with him.

The heroes of Sharpeville fought to have the right to elect their own Members of Parliament, which is still elusive even today.

As we mark Sharpeville Day, let us remember what they died for, let us fight to achieve that which they fought and died for.

We have to ask: Where are we, 59 years from the Sharpeville massacre day? We have the worst corruption since 1994, with Cabinet ministers deployed by the merchant family from India, the Guptas, taking instruction on who to appoint as director-generals of ministries, directors of parastatals such Transnet, Eskom, Denel, PetroSA, Prasa etc.

We have the Watsons from the Eastern Cape formerly running Bosasa Security, when they monopolised most contracts from the Department of Correctional Services, with ministers of Justice, Correctional Services, and President Zuma in their payroll. Bosasa Security has been running a money laundering scheme in the country, using bottle stores, restaurants etc, to launder money so as to avoid paying tax.

In a very major sense, our situation now is worse than under apartheid. The terrible reality is that under apartheid, the economy grew while the electricity supply, the railways, and employment expanded. Today, state capture has wiped out a third of South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP), failures of electricity supply are normal and unemployment is increasing. The worst of its effects are still to come.

Our country is under a full-blown commissions avalanche.

We know more and more details from the state capture inquiry under deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo; the Sars Commission under Judge Robert Nugent, which dealt with shenanigans under Tom Moyane; Advocate Terry Motau's report "The Great Bank Heist" into VBS in Limpopo and lastly the commission under retired Justice Yvonne Mokgoro into the suitability of Advocates Nomcobo Jiba and Lawrence Morwebi to hold office as directors of public prosecutions.

Why have we fallen so low? The fundamental reality is Members of Parliament colluding in corruption, allowing it to take place in front of their eyes, instead of protecting our interests. We have to ask: What happened to the ANC, after getting access to the state coffers? To the Treasury?

Why did elected MPs not stop it?

With SA's budget standing at R1.3 trillion, the control of state resources has been too tempting for most ANC leaders. They have completely lost control, running loose in all directions. Under our current electoral system, the voters are helpless, with no way of controlling rampant politicians except every 5 years when we get a chance to vote for a particular party, but no choice over individual MPs.

The answer is electoral reform, through a change in the Constitution. Apartheid-style deprivation of free choice of MPs by voters must stop.

Instead of the whole of South Africa being one huge constituency with party headquarters appointing all MPs, we are proposing that the parliamentary electoral laws be changed to create large, multi-member constituencies. We are proposing to have a hybrid electoral system of constituency-based MPs and proportional representation, where 75% (300) of Members of Parliament will be elected directly by local communities in their constituencies and 25% (100) of Members of Parliament will be appointed nationally by party headquarters through proportional representation, like now. These reforms will allow black people the right to directly elect their own Members of Parliament for the first time since the Union of South Africa was constituted as a unitary state in 1910.

For the first time, we will have representative democracy for all the people.

Creating for ourselves as full citizens; as somebody with the right to elect his or her Member of Parliament, accountable to ourselves as voters. Somebody with the power to withdraw a delinquent, truant, fraudulent Member of Parliament. Establishing a representative Parliament which does not depend on internal party politics but accountable solely to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

Almost 60 years since the massacre at Sharpeville, let us honour the memory of our fallen ones by creating a proper and not a sham democracy.

It is our duty and responsibility.

Omry Makgoale is a rank and file member of the ANC; these are his personal views.

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