New bill wants a big shake-up for politics in South Africa – including the end of poor service delivery

 ·14 Jun 2021

The opposition Democratic Alliance says it is finalising a private members bill to allow premiers to call a provincial referendum.

Section 84 of the Constitution provides for the president to call a national referendum. Section 127 provides for premiers to call a provincial referendum, in terms of national legislation – however, this is not stated in the Referendums Act.

The DA’s bill aims to bring the Act in line with the Constitution.

“In its current form, the Referendums Act only allows for the president to call a referendum and does not provide for a premier to call for a referendum in a province,” the DA said.

“The draft Bill, therefore, seeks to address this omission by an amendment enabling a premier to exercise their Constitutional powers to call a provincial referendum, to ensure that provincial residents can make their voices heard on important issues.”

Through the draft bill, the DA said it seeks to advance the Party’s principle of federalism by strengthening the devolution of power to provinces.

“The DA’s bill seeks to bring power closer to the people by giving elected Premiers the mechanism to use their constitutional powers to call referendums on crucial service delivery issues, where the dysfunctional national government has failed, such as railways, the police, and electricity generation,” it said.

Cape independence?

While the state goal of the bill is service delivery, some civil groups have said that a provincial referendum could also be made to make more drastic changes – including a possible push for independence in the Western Cape.

This was highlighted in a joint statement by the Cape Independence Advocacy Group (CIAG), CapeXit, the Cape Party, and the VryheidsfrontPlus (VF+).

“The current Referendums Act is unconstitutional because it currently does not allow the premier to call a referendum, despite the fact that (they are) empowered to do so by both clause 37(2)(f) of the Western Cape constitution, and clause 127(2)(f) of the national constitution.

“Bringing the Referendums Act in line with the constitution is a critical step in the path towards an independent Western Cape and would ultimately allow ordinary Western Cape voters the opportunity to make their views known,” the group said.

The group said that once the bill is before parliament, it will ask supporters of independence to express their support for the bill during the public participation process to help ensure that this bill is passed into law as soon as possible.

“We call upon the African National Congress (ANC) to support this bill, ensuring that the constitutional rights of the people of the Western Cape are respected and upheld.”

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