As former President Thabo Mbeki continues to hint on the supremacy of the constitution and its role in the nation’s democratic growth, he proposed a new process which will test and elect a president for fitness to hold the highest office.
With his reference to the Nkandla judgment by the Constitutional Court, former President Mbeki charged the parliament to find ways to satisfy itself that the person it elects is capable of fulfilling the obligations imposed by the constitution.
“One way of looking at that is to have the candidate answer questions in parliament prior to being voted for so that parliamentarian representatives of the people can say, this one has failed the test,” Mbeki said. “They can say, for instance, when he came to the interview, the chap was drunk. Before you say you vote for this person, a new process of assessment is done,” he explained.
Mbeki who has been raising his concern over the increasing violation of the constitution by political leaders, hinted on the importance of upholding the country’s constitutional rulings and the need for leaders to identify with it.
Mbeki described the duties of the president as an “onerous package” that requires a presidential candidate whose capacity needs to be checked in advance.
Explaining further on the importance of his proposed new process and its role in electing a better leader, the iconic leader said: “Once you say [party A] proposes [candidate X] as president, first of all [party A] must really ascertain that this person is capable of discharging all these responsibilities that the court spelt out.
“And when parliament says we agree, we elect him as president, parliament itself must be able to say we are satisfied that this nominee is the person capable of doing the following…” Mbeki added as he points out that parliament could set aside time to question the presidential nominee to avoid electing an incompetent person.
“For instance, after a party has proposed [candidate X] as candidate, why shouldn’t parliamentarians, say that, okay, for the next week, this candidate must appear before us to answer a number of questions because we want to satisfy ourselves that this person is capable of discharging these responsibilities?
“So that you don’t simply say because my party is in the majority therefore my candidate obviously will have the majority votes, and therefore will be elected, [but] might be thoroughly incompetent.
According to him, the South African constitution does not spell out this process but it leaves it to parliamentarians as representatives of the people to ensure they elect the right persons.
“The people who decide on who is going to be president is not the ruling party; it is parliament. It’s for parliament to satisfy itself that this person meets the requirements….and if citizens understood the full duties and responsibilities of a president, they would then be able to decipher whether or not parliament did well in choosing a president.”