/ 21 February 2008

Death knell for floor-crossing

Floor-crossing will finally be scrapped, the Star reported on Thursday.

Following on a decision by the African National Congress’s Polokwane conference, Parliament’s committee on private members’ legislative proposals on Wednesday agreed to a draft Bill that will lead to the scrapping of the practice.

It came after the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Koos van der Merwe first proposed the idea in 2006 and finally got the unanimous support of his fellow committee members on Wednesday.

”I am going to bed with a wonderful conscience. I feel like a cricketer who has scored a century,” said Van der Merwe.

The decision means that once the legislation is repealed, political office-bearers will no longer be able to cross the floor to another party and take their seat with them.

Van der Merwe said democracy would now be restored and ”seat stealing” would come to an end.

The committee’s chairperson, Vytjie Mentor, said they would be sending their recommendations to the speaker’s office, from where the Bill would be referred to the portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development for repeal.

Restoration of integrity

Jonathan Faull from the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, which had opposed the practice since its inception, said the decision would restore the integrity of the country’s electoral system.

Political commentator Steven Friedman said that even within the ruling party there had been unhappiness with the Bill, because some comrades who had worked their way through the ranks found they were bumped off lists in favour of those who had crossed the floor.

Arguments into one pot

Speaking before the Polokwane conference, President Thabo Mbeki said the ANC had been opposed to floor-crossing when the issue was first raised by opposition parties.

”The original position of the ANC was, as I say, opposed. But I must also say part of the argument that arose was that you had a very fluid political situation in the country.”

There had been people who were brought up to fear the ANC as a terrorist organisation, and for that reason voted against it.

But after they had watched the party in government for two or three years, they had realised they had been told lies, and decided they wanted to vote for the ANC.

”We are saying, it might also be incorrect to freeze the political situation in the country and not allow people to move as they get more exposed to one another,” he said.

”But let’s put all of those arguments into one pot, whether in Parliament or in the ANC national conference, and see what comes out of it.” – Sapa