The coming of age of SA’s democracy

‘’It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity, or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.’’ – Nelson Mandela.

Political analysts, activists, economists and millions of citizens have over the years shared fascinating views about the coming of age of South Africa’s 23 year old democracy. Activators from all over the country also shared their views about what is working, what needs to change and the role of the youth in South Africa’s democracy.

What is working in our democracy?

Free State based community development practitioner and social change driver, Kabelo Mokoena says gender, race and social tolerance are some of the things that are working well in South Africa’s democracy.

“South Africans place too much emphasis on political and economic issues that aren’t going right in the country, which by the way is correct but that should be done in such a way that it strengthens social issues that are still keeping us going. Our country’s democratic tolerance levels, more especial for minority groups like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities keep growing. For me, that is a sign of a growing democracy that should be celebrated in our 23 year old democracy,” says Mokoena.

What needs to change in our democracy?

Johannesburg based activist and social change driver Lesego Cruzemania Mokobodi finds it difficult to pin point exactly what is going right with our country’s democracy.

‘’I can’t think of any good thing to mention about South Africa’s democracy. I mean, I find it very sad that in this day and age, young people who constitute the majority of the population, continue to be censored by spineless and visionless old sell-out political leaders. Maybe the fact that we can still express our displeasure, even though no one seems to care is still the only good safety guarantee our soon to be gone democracy can boast about,’’ says Mokobodi

The role of the youth in our democracy

Cape town based activist and social change driver Asavela Peko sighted what he referred to as “anti-poor capitalism and business as usual approach” from three pillars of government (judiciary, legislature and executive) as the main aspects that need to change in South Africa’s democracy.

“The current leadership has abused powers and maintains a disregard for democratic processes. So they must go. The capitalist system that promotes corruption and safeguards the elite economic power must change. Most importantly, in order to avert further nationwide action like a revolution, young people need to be integrated into influential positions of power. I dare say purely because we (as young people) will soon inherit it. We are more interested in the future of this country (rather than being too conflicted by the shenanigans of the current self-serving aging leaders) says Peko.

Independent political analyst and Centre for Politics and Research Executive director Prince Mashele warned all patriotic South Africans to be careful of what he referred to as, “systematic dictatorship” which might destroy the very few remaining key pillars of South Africa’s democracy.

“Some of the things that need to change quickly are the judiciary and treasury’s complete independence. Things like transparent and a fair voting system that gives citizens direct power to choose the right people to lead instead of political parties making those decisions. The most important thing that needs to change very quickly (and by the way the country has been downgraded) is getting rid of the political party and its cadre deployment syndrome who have handed our country over to “malevolent Gupta mafias.”

South Africa’s democratic economic outlook 

According to Wits University Associate Professor of Economics Christopher Malikane, South Africa’s democracy is at a “volatile stage” where anything can happen and results can either be prolific or severe. In an interview with Power FM, Malikane sighted the country’s vibrant political election system as one of the major strengths that the country can build on. Malikane also noted the ongoing directionless governance as a serious threat that needs to be addressed as matter of agency. 

“South Africa’s democracy has hit a stagnant stage. This of course is based on the 9th edition of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index which classified South Africa as a “flawed democracy,” after dropping two places to 39 on the democracy index. The report entitled Revenge of the “deplorables” might commend our country’s free and fair election system but the most worrying part of that report is the fact that it sights functioning of government and political culture as the major challenges to South Africa’s democracy. Now that sounds like a volatile economic stage of our country. So, the big question is, can we fix those challenges sooner or is the country going down the drain?” asks Malikane. 

Photo credit: CETRI

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