Ac­tive cit­i­zenry is the only way to bring change

CityPress - - Voices - Herman Mashaba voices@city­press.co.za

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

PHO­TOS: TE­BOGO LETSIE

BRICKS AND MOR­TAR Scores of peo­ple who pre­vi­ously lived in squalor in town­ships now live in Cosmo City, sit­u­ated out­side Rand­burg in Johannesburg

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