The impact of the multi-party system in a democratic South Africa

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Zamokuhle Mbandlwa, Nirmala Dorasamy


After the apartheid regime in South Africa, the electoral system was only favouring white people. Black people were not allowed to vote for the government in all spheres of government. On 31 May 1910, the South Africa Act 1909, an act of the British Parliament, established the Union of South Africa. By first-past-the-post voting in single-member electoral districts, the House of Assembly (the lower house of the newly formed Parliament of South Africa) and provincial councils were chosen. Initially, the franchise in these elections was the same as the franchise for the lower houses in the four colonies that formed the Union, so in different provinces, there were different requirements. The vote was restricted by law to white men over the age of 21 in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. In Natal, the vote was limited to men over 21 who met requirements in property and literacy; in principle, this could include non-white men, but only very small numbers were able to apply in practice: over 99 percent of the electorate was white in 1910. In the Cape Province, the franchise was also limited to men over 21 who met requirements in property and literacy, and non-white men eligible in large numbers, making up about 15 percent of the 1910 electorate. A large number of poorer white men were also exempt from the Cape and Natal qualifications. Only white men, also from the Cape constituencies, will stand for election to the House of Assembly. In the South Africa Act, the franchise rights of non-white citizens in the Cape (but not in Natal) were enshrined by a clause that they could be diminished only by an act of Parliament passed by a two-thirds majority of the two legislative houses sitting in a joint session. The objective of this article is to show how the electoral system influences the outcomes of the electoral process. Further, the article shows the impact of the multi-party system on the democracy of South Africa and service delivery. The findings of this research paper indicate that there is no relationship between a multi-party system and the safeguarding of democracy. A secondary research methodology was applied to this study. This study seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge that addresses the electoral systems in democratic countries.

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