A fair and sensitive voting system

Voting is vitally important, for it remains the only way that “We the People” self-govern. The ability to self-govern is a privilege that men and women of Mthwakazi must not take lightly and must honour through participation in elections. But elections have to be credible and their purpose morally justified. We believe of all political systems at our disposal, the Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) Representation system provides the best opportunity for self-governance.

Elections must not be a charade that exists to legitimise the appropriation of power by political parties and the elite. The political function of elections must be to safeguard the rights of the minority and avoid the tyranny of the majority.

It is for this reason that we propose a combination of the Germany style MMP representation with a Swiss hint of the party list PR as a voting system. We believe the MMP system brings the electorate as closest to power as possible by giving the public much more control over the process and that in turn makes the political system representative of the inner soul of the people.

Fig. 1 A typical ballot paper in an MMP

We place greater emphasis on the importance of the electoral system to afford the electorate the best opportunity to choose leaders with close local ties; leaders who can relate to and prioritise local needs.

The Mthwakazi parliament will have two chambers, the National Council (lower house) and the Senate (upper house). In the National Council, the states will be represented according to population size and votes gained by each party while in the Senate each state will provide two representatives. PR system electoral rules will apply for the National Council seats and the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system will apply to determine the two senators.

The members of the Mthwakazi government will be elected by the parliament. Parliament will also elect the non-executive President, the Attorney General and the judges of the Supreme Court and courts of first instance.

Senate will have 66 members, two representatives per state irrespective of population size. Election to the senate will be a straight winners take all, two candidates who gain the highest number of votes in a state take positions in the senate.

The National Council will have 200 members elected in the 33 electoral districts, corresponding to the 33 Mthwakazi states (13 each from Matabeleland North and South, Bulawayo will be a single state and the Midlands providing 6 states).

Parties will submit candidate lists in each state for available seats and results will be locally counted for each state.

The candidates on the party lists will be ranked by the voters and not by political parties. The latter will only submit a list of names that does not exceed the number of seats to be filled from the respective state. In ranking the individual candidates, voters will have three options:

  • Leave the candidate unchanged a single time on the list,
  • Put the candidate on the list a second time, or
  • Drop the candidate from the list.

The only condition is that the overall number of names does not exceed the number of seats to be filled in the state. A voter can also decide to take the list as is; no preference is given to any of the candidates, but the ballot counts for the number of seats attributed to the party.

On the party list, a voter will be able to write in a candidate from another party, thus splitting the vote between two parties. Voters will also have the right to write in candidates from as many parties as they wish, but, again, the total number of names is not to exceed the number of seats in the state.

Results will be counted this way: first, for each state, the number of seats each party receives is determined on the basis of the total votes for candidates of a party. Second, candidates win these seats in order of their ranking. Ranking is to be based on the number of times a candidate’s name appears on all the lists, including write-ins on other parties’ lists.

It is essential for democracy that the electoral system allows the electorate more power over political parties in the election process. We believe too, it is important that elections take place in local areas where they are comfortable and relations between voters and candidates can be personalised.

Leaders must not be afraid of the people; we shall increase the capacity for our people to govern themselves. As such elections will not be the only way Mthwakazi voters influence decisions, they will have a further say through the referendum. Voters will have the right to call for a popular referendum on every bill decided by parliament provided they acquire 50,000 signatures.

The voters will also have the final say on constitutional amendments. It would be requirement that all constitutional amendments decided by parliament be submitted to the voters. A minimum of 100,000 voters would also be able to submit a constitutional amendment of their own, which will first be debated by parliament but finally decided in a popular referendum.

Elections will take place every 4 years and we believe MMP representation allows the electorate better and greater control of the politics that impacts their lives. However, we also have a responsibility to safeguard democracy; the electorate will need education for the quality of choices to be responsible, vote policy not tribe.


a progressive politics and policy researcher and author with an interest in Mthwakazi (Matabeleland) human rights, liberties, safety and security.

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