Give power to the peo­ple

CityPress - - Voices - Than­di­s­izwe Mgudlwa voices@city­

Af­ter a hec­tic 22 years’ rule by a demo­crat­i­cally elected ANC gov­ern­ment, South Africa’s post1994 dis­pen­sa­tion has proved too much to bear for many cit­i­zens.

There was a time when the world re­garded our coun­try as a bea­con of hope. This oc­curred af­ter we suc­ceeded in nar­rowly avoid­ing a racially charged civil war in the 1994 build-up to our new democ­racy.

When elec­tions and the trans­fer of power proved to be a rel­a­tively peace­ful process, global ob­servers called South Africa “the great­est racial mir­a­cle the world as ever seen”.

Fast-for­ward to to­day, and South Africa has been pegged as a coun­try to avoid. One rea­son is the high crime rate which con­tin­ues to plague our na­tion.

This con­tin­u­ing curse is de­fined by vi­o­lence in its many and var­ied forms.

For ex­am­ple, to­wards the end of 2003, South Africa ex­pe­ri­enced its first wave of ser­vice-de­liv­ery protests.

At the time of the out­break, many dis­missed it as tem­po­rary, and part and par­cel of the coun­try’s tran­si­tion from apartheid to democ­racy. It would not be long be­fore mat­ters re­turned to nor­mal, they said.

We all know how wrong they were. The flames of vi­o­lent protests have been vig­or­ously fanned, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Marikana mas­sacre of Au­gust 2012 – de­scribed on­line as “the sin­gle most lethal use of force by South African se­cu­rity forces against civil­ians since 1960”.

Ear­lier, in 2006, the trade union move­ment ex­pe­ri­enced its dark­est hour post democ­racy when a se­ries of killings – the bru­tal byprod­uct of trade union ri­valry – brought the coun­try to the brink of in­sta­bil­ity.

And re­cently, the higher ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor has been brought to a standstill by stu­dents call­ing for eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and a change in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Hav­ing seen what has hap­pened since democ­racy, it is safe to as­sume that the coun­try can­not de­pend on lead­ers who were in­volved in bring­ing about the new dis­pen­sa­tion to turn things around and in­stil or­der.

Where did it all go wrong for South Africa? How did we get here? Let us go back to the early 1990s, dur­ing the se­ries of ne­go­ti­a­tions for a new South Africa. Th­ese took place un­der the ban­ner of the Con­ven­tion for a Demo­cratic SA (Codesa).

A ma­jor over­sight then was that not all com­mu­ni­ties, or­gan­i­sa­tions and other South African stake­hold­ers were present at those talks.

The po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions which took part in the dis­cus­sions were more con­cerned about their own agen­das than what was best for the coun­try.

If they had placed South Africa’s in­ter­ests first, we would not still be call­ing for an elec­toral sys­tem favour­ing the masses, who re­main as voice­less and marginalised as they were dur­ing Codesa.

The po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions which dom­i­nated the Codesa talks en­gi­neered a party-based democ­racy.

It looked good on pa­per, but th­ese days has come to re­fer to a gov­ern­ing party which calls the shots. Its cadres have to toe the party line or risk be­ing pun­ished for dis­loy­alty.

Codesa proved to be flawed as the elec­torate have now be­come mere vot­ers dur­ing elec­tion time. At other times, they have no say in how and what the party they vote for does, in­clud­ing how they elect their pres­i­dent.

Ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency from party lead­ers and elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives are nonex­is­tent.

What’s more dis­turb­ing is that the op­po­si­tion par­ties do not ap­pear to bother much about the masses ei­ther.

If the coun­try has a cred­i­ble civil so­ci­ety, it must cam­paign for pres­i­den­tial elec­toral re­form to re­store power to the peo­ple – and do so now. Mgudlwa is a jour­nal­ist and writer of the best­selling

chil­dren’s book Kid­dies World

Do you think the coun­try would be man­aged bet­ter if vot­ers di­rectly elected the pres­i­dent?

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