Active citizenry is the only way to bring change
1994. 2016. I believe that these are the two most important years in South Africa’s post-apartheid election history. Not since 1994 has an election been more important; not since 1994 has your vote been more important. I am a firm believer that, as a hard-won right – a constitutionally guaranteed right – the right to vote is sacrosanct and must not be taken for granted.
On August 3, South Africans will go to the polls to make their mark for the party that they believe is best qualified to run their municipalities.
I have taken my civic duty a big step further by standing for the position of mayor of the City of Johannesburg, our country’s economic hub.
I believe that I can bring about the changes that will reignite voters’ hopes for the future of this city.
I also believe that the citizens in Johannesburg need to vote for the person who they believe can create a city they want to live in.
I have called on this city’s residents and heard their desperate cries about rampant unemployment and inferior housing; their frustration at sporadic water or electricity supply; their annoyance with potholes that never get repaired.
These are problems that can be resolved by being active citizens and holding local government to account.
Johannesburg’s citizens are entitled to challenge laws, rules and existing structures within the democratic processes. As active citizens poised to cast our votes, we must be demanding. Above all, we must avoid being indifferent.
I have encountered people who have said that they will not participate in the municipal elections because their votes will be stolen, because change will not be forthcoming. These are pessimistic and indifferent attitudes towards the future of our city.
I urge Johannesburg residents not to behave this way. Indifference sets a dangerous precedent for a government to work in isolation.
Prior to 1994, most South Africans were marginalised by government policies that undermined their human rights.
Post-1994, the country has experienced a transition from apartheid to a constitutional democracy. However, the transition has not been accompanied by initiatives to educate communities about democratic processes and the benefits of active citizenship that can accrue to these communities.
As a result, many people remain uninformed about their right to participate in government processes, and hence remain passive citizens.
The subjugation of South Africans during apartheid has carried over into our democracy, resulting in government having exclusive control and discretion over strategies on transformation and development.
This is often to the detriment of communities as strategies are implemented under the guise of government acting in their best interests.
Other South Africans believe that the hard-won democracy wasn’t their fight – possibly because they were born into privilege – and therefore feel that they have no role to play in civic affairs.
This failure from various quarters to be active citizens widens the chasm between government and communities, allowing the state to avoid accountability and turn a blind eye to their subjects’ concerns and demands. It also condones governmental dysfunction.
Every citizen of Johannesburg has rights and responsibilities in a democracy. I urge all voters to realise the important role they have to play in developing local democratic structures.
Understand that every vote counts. On August 3, you can begin to realise the change you vote for.
Mashaba is DA mayoral candidate for Johannesburg
BRICKS AND MORTAR Scores of people who previously lived in squalor in townships now live in Cosmo City, situated outside Randburg in Johannesburg