The ANC in the Western Cape has agreed, in principle, to discuss a move to call for the increase in the number of seats for elected public representatives.
Following an interim provincial leadership committee meeting last weekend, the party said it is willing to discuss the matter, and raise it with the party’s national leadership.
The proposal was first mooted by the Democratic Alliance in 2019.
The legislature currently has 42 seats, a number it has had since 1994. The 1996 National Census indicates that the provincial population at that time was about 3.9-million people.
Since then, the province has seen a population explosion, largely brought on by the migration of people from other provinces. According to the latest statistics, the province has a population of about six million people. Some politicians say it’s now necessary to increase the number of seats to reflect the increase in population.
The ANC’s caucus leader in the legislature, Cameron Dugmore, said an increase in population means the oversight work of government functions, as well as the responsibilities of Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) to interact with constituents, has intensified.
“In the last administration the DA raised this matter and they are now raising it again. It is true that the population in the province has grown since the initial decision of about 42 seats were made, placing greater pressure on MPLs,” he said.
But Dugmore said more economically prudent measures could be used to lighten the load for overworked MPLs.
“The current financial environment facing our country needs to be considered. There also needs to be a specific discussion on supporting current MPLs with greater research capacity.
“The ANC interim provincial committee has resolved that the matter be discussed and that we also engage our national leadership. This we will do before making a final decision on the matter,” Dugmore said.
The head of government business in the legislature, Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela, has welcomed the ANC’s willingness to debate the issue.
He said the province has seen a mass migration of people from other parts of the country and believes it should be allocated more seats in Parliament to represent the growing number of Western Cape residents.
“We are now talking about a population of more than six million people. And the tragedy is that part of the problem is because of in-migration from other provinces because of what is happening there. And it is unfair to the Western Cape because the capacity of MPLs to serve constituencies is stretched too thin to do their parliamentary work.”
Madikizela said the proposed increase in seats is not just to give more politicians jobs, but because there is a need for the legislature to hear the views of more citizens.
“When you are a constituency head serving 100000 people, it is completely different serving 200000 people. It’s about the quality [of the interactions]. We are a Parliament for the people and the decisions that we make must be based on the views of the people on the ground.”
He said increasing the number of seats in the provincial legislature would require a constitutional amendment, a process that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“Ideally we should have about 60 MPLs. But, given our financial position, the proposal was that there be about 52 or 54.”
This would mean the Constitution has to be amended each time the population grows by about threee million people, so leaving the number at 60 now would be good for 20 more years of growth, he said.
The MEC said the provincial government has already started cutting costs when it comes to the benefits and perks for provincial Cabinet members to mitigate arguments that an enlarged legislature is unaffordable.
Madikizela said more seats in the provincial legislature would also mean smaller political parties would be better represented.
Currently, seven political parties are represented in the Western Cape: the Democratic Alliance, ANC, Economic Freedom Fighters, Good, African Christian Democratic Party, Freedom Front Plus and Al Jama-ah.