Written by: Benito Vergotine
When is South Africa going to grow up? When are we going to take our democracy forward and stop using it as a scapegoat for the woes facing our country? Will this achieve anything? On Human Rights Day KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala suggested we do away with our Constitution; implying that our Constitution is a weak and feeble ‘being’ and in some way is to blame for the poor state of our democracy. I am surprised that there wasn’t more of a push back around his statements, especially as he uttered those missives on Human Rights Day. The Premier is suggesting that Parliament should be the overriding body of our democracy and policy. A body that has yet to step up and deliver the oversight it is mandated to do. On paper the design is for all to see; whether its implementation is effective is doubtful given what we tolerate in South Africa.
The Premier’s comments are another sign for me that the ANC is under the cosh and are bereft of ideas and a vision to take this country into the 21st Century. What we are witnessing is a fight for political survival using society’s fragility as a lever for populist utterances and behaviour. It is a dangerous game as Operation Dudula has shown. Social justice activist at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Irfaan Mangera joined us on THT recently to share insight on where and how to strengthen our democracy.
In light of Zikalala’s comments it is encouraging that Irfaan says the future of our democracy lies with our youth. It lies with the youth recognizing and using their agency to improve accountability at a local level.
Two of the key parts which Irfaan highlights to me in our chat is that active citizenry and using that to demand accountability of local government, is a way forward to build trust. Moreover this agency has the potential to strengthen community organisations. Local government is key and it is where we citizens see our democracy in action; but if local government is ineffective and poorly run are we surprised that citizens lose faith in the system? It is easy to blame it on our democratic system. It is far more sustainable to build community organisations that address the politics we want to see in action that serves the people and holds leaders to account! Strengthening our community organisations will develop agency and by developing agency we can shape politics to the benefit of all of society, and ensure that the politicians who we elect serve us, the people of South Africa!
Lets not get distracted by self serving leaders desperate to avoid accountability