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Elections 2024: What The Independent Candidates Have To Say

Not-for-profit news agency GroundUp put five questions to the independent candidates who will stand in the 2024 Elections. Below are the questions answered by Zackie Achmat, the only independent in the Western Cape.

Zackie Achmat - Western Cape

Zackie Achmat worked within the ANC during apartheid. Since 1994 he has co-founded and led movements such as the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education, the Social Justice Coalition, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Reclaim the City, and #UniteBehind. These movements focused on political education, research, mobilisation, and litigation.

1) Why are you standing as an independent rather than with a party?

The Constitution requires Parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils to build a participatory democracy where all people have the right to participate directly in their work. Elections and representation in Parliament are a very small part of democracy.

Participatory democracy is essential to ensure accountability, transparency and public involvement in Parliament’s work. Only 29% of people trust Parliament, only 22% trust political parties and only 42% of those eligible voted in our last national election. As an independent, I will have only two duties: to represent people rather than parties and to act on the basis of the Constitution.

2) What is the main policy issue you will address if elected?

My primary priority is the need to fix the state by building a professional, ethical, open, accountable, efficient and effective public service that uses all resources economically to put social development and the needs of the people first.

Section 195 demands this of the entire state. I have four priority areas:

  • Fix PRASA. Trains will only be fixed when every municipality holds PRASA legally accountable through service level plans as required by the National Land Transport Act. #UniteBehind has gone to court to ensure that PRASA signs and implements the immediate devolution of the rail agency to the City of Cape Town and the Gauteng Transport Authority.

  • Fix SASSA. Income security for the most vulnerable people can only be guaranteed when SASSA works and it serves people living with disabilities, the elderly and other marginalised people with dignity.

  • Fix energy. We must prioritise getting green renewable energy to all working-class households over the next ten years. Every province and municipality can achieve this if we follow the example of City Power in Johannesburg without delay. In Alexandra township, City Power, the municipality and provincial government installed solar panels and a mini-grid to electrify 500 households in an informal settlement.

  • Improve primary health and mental health care services with a focus on alcohol substance use disorder and harm reduction. I will immediately bring amendments to the Liquor Act which ban alcohol advertising and its sale in the vicinity of schools.

Parliament’s rules require every MP to undertake constituency work every Monday and every day during constituency periods. I will do so to realise these priorities.

3) Based on their manifestos and track records, where applicable, which party or parties would you consider entering a coalition with?

If elected to Parliament, I do not intend to enter any coalition of existing parties. I will, however, use my vote to elect as President whichever candidate seems most likely to uphold constitutional values including the rule of law, to resist state capture and corruption, and to advance a progressive agenda.

Party coalitions may prove unstable, readily succumbing to rival ambitions. I will not vote to bring down a President elected by the new Parliament unless there is good cause and a better alternative appears.

I will be ready to co-operate with other MPs irrespective of party in proposing and supporting legislative measures that promote equality and serve the interest of working-class people.

4) How is your campaign being funded?

The majority of donors have been working-class and middle-class people. They have given less than R500 on average but big donors have given the most money. We have raised R5.8-million to date and I have loaned more than R1.1-million to the Zackie2024 campaign.

5) Is your funding publicly declared?

At the moment, I am still not obliged to follow the Party Political Funding Act until the President signs the amendments to include independent candidates. My funding is declared on my website and I will submit it to the IEC when the law comes into force. I have also opened my books for scrutiny by any auditor, the IEC and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests when I am elected. Finally, I have engaged an independent forensic auditor to conduct a lifestyle audit for the last five years. I will declare my lifestyle audit to the IEC, the Ethics Committee in Parliament and on my website before the election.

This interview was first published on GroundUp on 15 April 2024.

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