To reclaim local democracy and shift power down we need to have enough Councillors from wards across the city to drive change from the inside.This is only possible if we form coalitions or federations with other Ward Platforms which have the same goal.
A Coalition of Ward Platforms
A coalition is possible where a number of Ward Platforms come together to support each other. Each Ward Platform would self organise and function independently maintaining its unique character and local teams while sharing common values and ways of working.
A coalition of Ward Platforms is especially useful in a city as divided as ours and would provide opportunities for solidarity across historical and spatial divides. Community members in Ward Platforms across the city can share learning, knowledge, skills and tactics.
If Independent Councillors are elected to represent the Ward, they can take mandates from Ward Assemblies and act together in Council to achieve shared objectives.
A federation of Ward Platforms
In ward elections, the candidate with a plurality of votes is elected Ward Councillor. This means that they need to win more votes than any other candidate.
It is extremely difficult to win a seat in this way because most wards across the city have historically been won by either the Democratic Alliance or the African National Congress with a vast majority – often by many thousands of votes.
It’s possible to run a very good campaign as a Ward Platform but lose the election by one or two votes. As votes for Independent candidates cannot be counted towards the Proportional Representation election, these votes are effectively lost.
There is one alternative to maximise the impact of every voter. Some Ward Platforms might choose to collaborate with other Ward Platforms across the city to form a federation.
There are a few benefits to forming a federation. A federation could be registered with the IEC. This would allow Ward Platforms in the Federation to contest seats in the Proportional Representative elections in addition to Ward Councillor seats. All votes cast for Ward Councillors in the federation would also count towards the PR list maximising the chances of winning a seat. We might pick up the PR votes of residents from across the city who are inspired by the campaigns – even where Ward Platforms are not contesting.
It is possible for a federation to have different candidates on the PR list to the Ward Councillors. This could be a list of candidates who do not represent Ward issues but cross-cutting thematic issues such as housing or safety across the region or city. These could be determined through a radical citywide nominating process.
However, this creates a whole new set of problems including the need for a much larger central administration in the federation to manage the nomination of a central list. The centralising of power and decision making would inevitably lead to hierarchies and undermine the self-organising spirit and independence of Ward Platforms. It would also require central fundraising which would inevitably lead to contestation and factionalism. Pretty soon the federation would start behaving much like a political party.
It would be most effective to register all of the Ward Candidates on the PR list. This would mean that Ward Platforms could focus on one campaign to secure the vote for their candidate. Depending on how the Ward Platform performs in the election, the federation can adjust their place on the PR list.
The IEC determines which voting districts and wards constitute what proportion of the PR vote and a PR seat is allocated in the subcouncil where the minimum quota is reached in that subcouncil. In the 2016 elections this was around 11,000 votes in the first round. That is easier to secure across a subcouncil or citywide than it is in a single ward.
All Ward Platforms in the federation would need to work out a fair and transparent mechanism for allocating any seats that may be won in the PR election. For example, a federation could agree that:
- Where a Ward Platform secures enough total votes to meet the quota then they should secure a PR seat outright to represent their ward (and in solidarity all the Ward Platforms in the area) on the subcouncil.
- If a PR seat is secured by the federation but no one Ward Platform has met the quota, then the seat could go to the Ward Platform which secured the highest numbers of votes in their campaign.
A federation would only require a small coordinating structure and a simple constitution. For example, each Ward Platform could delegate one volunteer to sit unpaid on a co-ordinating committee and the delegation could be rotated every few months. This would need to be as light touch as possible to ensure basic coordination and encourage mutual support and solidarity between independent Ward Platforms.