The Presidential Years

The second [issue] had to do with the electoral system. He started saying to people that we needed to change our position, partly may be from pressures that were coming from other quarters like the media, but partly it might have come, I thought also, from the fact that Madiba had a great respect for British political institutions - you can tell that from his speech in the dock - and questioned whether or not a system akin to a first past the post system would be necessary. He was very keen at least that we needed to have a system whereby your MPs were more accountable to a defined electorate and constituency

This was after 1994, when you will remember that there was a lot of pressure on us to change. Maduna and I were part of the ANC team that helped draft that part of the constitution. But remember that was the interim constitution and we were now drafting the final constitution. I said to Maduna, ‘Let’s go and see Madiba because we can’t have the situation where the president takes the position that is going to be different from ours.’ We went to see him and said we wanted to discuss this matter with him. He said, ‘I know, talk.’

I took him through why I thought that the proportional system is the fairest in the world. He listened and asked many questions about accountability and that. But I also said, ‘You see Comrade President, we are not going to give effect to our policy on the empowerment of women because these men are not going to put women on the list.’ Joel will remember that for the 1994 election, we had taken the position that 30 percent of the people on our list would be women. Fortunately the women were smarter than we were. They came back and fought and said, ‘No, we won’t put 30 percent for all 400 names, you will put the 30 percent in the first 200 names.’ That’s why we were able to have the 30 percent representation. I said, ‘If we don’t have this system, the representation of women is going to be very low because I’m afraid our men are still very backward even in the ANC, so we really need this thing.’

Secondly I said, ‘You always told us, and that’s how you worked, because you went and saw Betsie Verwoerd and then you saw these NP people, and then you saw these coloured communities. If you go for another system we can get into a situation in which it’s a two-party system, or at best a three party system, and we are going to exclude the PAC,’ - remember the black consciousness people had decided not to participate in the election - ‘whereas the proportional system is going to allow us to have a greater variety of parties in Parliament.’

He listened and Maduna spoke and he asked questions and at the end he agreed, ‘All right, I agree but it doesn’t mean that this must be for ever.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is left open in the constitution for us to change the system as long as it is broadly proportional.’

… If you want to look at his qualities of leadership, that’s what I would call the highest quality, this capacity to listen, this capacity to learn, this capacity to agree with decisions even where you yourself are not fully convinced about the correctness of that position. That’s a very important quality that great leaders have and others who are leaders don’t necessarily have.

Essop Pahad