The Municipal Councils that rule us sometimes have little to do with democracy and everything to do with a minority having too much power.
Imagine 19 politicians on a Council. To keep it simple, let’s say that 10 are DA and 9 are ANC.
On the hypothetical agenda is a proposal to award a tender to a company that will plan the future of the town.
9 ANC vote against he proposal whilst behind the scenes 4 DA members also vote against it. 9 + 4 = 13.
Theoretically, 13 opposing councillors defeat the 6 supporting councillors…
…BUT in our constitutional democracy, major parties rule as one vote. By that, here, i mean that the majority in the DA rule the DA, the 6 supporters defeating the 4 opposers so that they become 10 supporters before the politicians get to Council.
I say “before” because large issues will be discussed in private. The public never gets to know how their Ward Councillor or PR Councillor voted. That makes them unaccountable.
The result is that the public witnesses 10 DA councillors voting to award the tender and 9 ANC voting against. The proposal is approved even though the majority, behind the scenes, were against it.
The situation can be made more complex if party infighting has caused factions so that reality is there being two DA parties and two ANC parties.
That creates a situation ripe for exploitation. A politician can gain a majority for their faction if they are in the position to offer a smaller politician something more e.g. a Mayor can promote a councillor to the Mayoral Committee (MAYCO), a position offering a much bigger salary i.e.their vote gets bought.
Instead of the MAYCO having the best and brightest, it can simply be filled by fools who obey the political positions and desires of the Mayor. Alternatively, the opposition councillors can seek favouritism by gaining the approval of their Chief Whip.
In the bigger context, we don’t vote for individual politicians but rather for the political parties who then choose who gets which position. Again, it’s a situation encouraging abuse. It can explain how, through friendships and associates, a small suburb can provide more councillors to a town than a big suburb can.
“Democracy is the freedom to choose our own dictator,” is an old saying.
It isn’t democracy, it’s frighteningly insane.