Crossing-of-the-floor—Freedom Front summary and perspective.
Dr Pieter Mulder, Leader Freedom Front.
31 October 2002
“Keep the Western Cape out of the hands of the ANC”, Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk said according to the front pages of newspapers, 12 days before the Local Government Elections in 2000. He said this during a meeting at Mosselbaai where he also provided five reasons why municipalities in the Western Cape must be kept out of the hands of the ANC. His most important reason was that ANC-control in municipalities leads to bankruptcy.
I know of voters who actually changed their holiday plans so that they could first vote on 5 December 2000 to prevent the ANC from controlling the Western Cape, as Mr. Van Schalkwyk requested. These voters were very satisfied with the result. The ANC only obtained 39% of all the votes. The DA governed Cape Town and most of the towns in the Western Cape. Newspapers reported on 8 December 2000 on how champagne was enjoyed in the office of Mr. Van Schalkwyk to celebrate the DA victory.
Last week voters once again saw Mr. Van Schalkwyk pouring champagne. The ANC still only have 39% of the votes. No Election had taken place. But this time champagne is enjoyed because Cape Town now has an ANC Mayor and the ANC controls most of the towns in the Western Cape. The crossing-of-the-floor by Council Members to the NNP and the new ANC/NNP-alliance made this possible. The NNP is in no city or town alone in control and is in most places the lesser partner of the ANC. What amazes me is that Mr. Van Schalkwyk is surprised by the fact that voters feel deceived.
The proportional system of election is the most reliable method to ensure that the will of the voters is directly transferred, in exactly the same relation as they voted, to Parliament or a City Council – a 40% party have 40% of the representatives. Elected Members defecting to other parties destroy this relationship and frustrate the will of the voters. For that very reason the Freedom Front voted against the Crossing-of-the-Floor-Legislation and also supported the case against it in the Constitutional Court. The DA voted for this Legislation but is still complaining about the immorality of crossing-the-floor!
Both the DA and the NNP alleged that they emerged from this circus as the victors. I think we were all losers. The DA lost the control of most Town Councils. The NNP lost more than 300 Council Members who did not return to the NNP. The voters lost Cape Town and many other towns and they feel deceived. Democracy also lost because voters are now more sceptical and apathetic towards elections and politics than ever before. All politicians lost because our image is so badly tarnished that people contacted radio programmes to compare politicians with prostitutes.
The only party who won is the ANC. The ANC for the first time governs Cape Town and the Western Cape. This provides the ANC with the necessary foot-hold and credibility it needs to win the next election in the Western Cape without help from other parties. Where the ANC controlled only 7 of the 9 provinces before the defections, it would probably control all 9 provinces after the exercise.
What is this fight all about? It has to do with the best strategy for opposition parties. The NNP argues that co-operation with the ANC would be the best strategy to achieve something. The DA argues that the actions of the NNP played into the hands of the ANC and that stronger opposition is necessary to limit the power of the ANC. The Freedom Front argues – they are both right. Good strong opposition, as proposed by the DA, is necessary and right. But to refuse to negotiate with the ANC or to refuse co-operation, is wrong. In the foreseeable future no party will be able to oust the ANC. Therefore NNP is right in assuming that one should negotiate with the ANC as the ANC will still have the position of power for many years. But it is naïve for the NNP to jump into bed with the ANC, without any guarantees or any true political leverage. This will also lead to nothing. The NNP abandoned the Government of National Unity in 1996 because, according to them, they could not achieve anything. Why are they now repeating that unsuccessful recipe? At that time they had a Deputy President, some posts in Cabinet and entrenched clauses in the Constitution.
There is a third and better way. The Freedom Front proposes this better way. Mr Leon is wrong if he claims that the choice is only between the DA and the ANC. That is old Westminster British thinking, in a two-party system. A system where the opposition permanently confronts the Government and is every now and then rewarded by becoming the Government themselves. The DA will not become the Government in the very near future.
In European proportional systems, most political parties are interest parties; i.e. a party propagating and representing a certain interest of the voters. That could be environmental affairs, Christian principles, the free-market system etc. These parties then formulate co-operation agreements that suit their own agendas. The Freedom Front regards itself as such a party. A party which keeps the Government on its toes with criticism, but who also negotiates with the government as far as it concerns the interest of its voters. The DA’s permanent conflict with the Government will not solve problems. The NNP joining the ANC and handing over all the towns and provinces to the ANC is helping us towards one-party politics and is not good for our democracy. The Freedom Front’s third way is the answer.