Is Our Democracy in Decay?

By: Lindelani Mnisi

They say there’s a light at the end of every tunnel, but no one could blame you if you were having a little bit of a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel considering what we’re currently going through as a country. It seems that the start of the 2020 pandemic has not only brought about a difficult lockdown that has warped the way we live, but has also left the country vulnerable to political instability and economic turmoil.

It may be the second largest economy on the African continent (after Nigeria) boasting a wealth of natural resources and a wonderful tourism ecosystem, but South Africa has its fair share of issues as a developing nation that’s known strife and struggle for years. It has been battling all manner of social ills such as poverty, high unemployment rates, and corrupt political dealings, to then only have an already critical condition exacerbated by a global pandemic that has ravaged nations across the planet. This country has had the strong potential to rise in economical heights and stand on par with some of the largest global contenders out there, from factors such as it’s raw natural resources and world class tourist attractions, but unfortunately things seem to have only taken a turn for the worst since the pandemic. Its subsequent lockdowns have driven its economy into a corner. Much like anything spiraling out of control, the situation in this country appears to be worsening bit by bit as one political disaster follows after another – a most notable example being the not too distant Jacob Zuma related lootings that shook up local markets.

Very likely driven by frustrations that were building up in the people all throughout the many tough months of the lockdown, what initially began as a political protest against the incarceration of former President Zuma, quickly turned into juvenile destruction and indifferent looting throughout several parts of the country. The incident was chaotic, and unfortunate, but sadly not the last political disaster to occur as Parliament in Cape Town was set ablaze, just as we had started the year, on the 2nd of January. The details of the fire still seem to be unclear at the moment, but a suspect has been arrested, whose motives have yet to be determined as well. Although no one was caught in the fire, that Parliament could be so easily burned down feels as though our country is just rife for political instability and that another incident could occur soon, driven by how easily disaster seems to befall our beloved country. Could the recent frequency of chaotic incidences be due to ineffective leaders? Restless citizens? Or the devastating situation we find ourselves in at the moment? More likely than not, it would seem that all three factors play a role in our current disarray, however one group has chosen to step up to the burning situation and suggest an economical remediation.

The burning of Parliament in Cape Town has resurfaced an age old debate the country has been having: “whether or not to move the parliament to Pretoria”, and seeing this as a golden opportunity to strike, stakeholders in the Mamelodi community led by the SA National Civic Organisation (SANCO) say that parliament should be moved to their community. There were a number of reasons to reinforce the decision, such as the fact that two sites in Mamelodi had already been earmarked as possible locations from a feasibility study on Parliament’s relocation that was previously commissioned during the tenure of Thulas Nxesi as the Minister of Public Works and former speaker of Baleka Mbete. The other fact is that Parliament relocating to the township would mean a crucial cash injection into the community which would improve the lives of many of it’s residents, according to statements by local SANCO Branch Secretary, Vusi Masemola. The idea seems sound in logic, but naturally has a few parties in opposition so it may have a hard time getting the right push.

It’s quite clear to see that the state of the country has been vulnerable to instability – the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns threw the whole system into  mayhem. This is the same country that once hosted the World Cup in 2010 that is now oscillating between the delicate balance of collapsing into ruin like its neighbor, Zimbabwe. Perhaps it might miraculously flourish against the many challenges it continues to face. One would think that relocating Parliament to a prominent township such as Mamelodi would be beneficial for the community in many ways, and provide a much needed economic boost in the dark times that have been post-pandemic.

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