Our MPs must lead by example
WHEN you open your newspaper each day and read about the climate of political intolerance and violence pervading the country, don’t ever pretend it’s none of your business.
Don’t look the other way and kid yourself that the bloodshed and polarising rhetoric that nurtures it is taking place far away from your comfort zone and is therefore only something the ruling ANC needs to worry about.
It should be a matter of great concern to all citizens of the country because it is fundamental to our understanding of what a pluralistic democracy is all about.
Recent weeks have witnessed a troubling upsurge in political violence, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, the latest victim being Sindiso Magaqa, a former ANC Youth League secretary-general, who died in hospital last Monday. He is the 11th person to die through politicallyinspired violence in the province since the beginning of the year.
The upsurge in violence is not entirely unexpected, coming as it does at a time of growing factionalism within the ruling party just months before its all-important elective conference in December. But it needs to be taken seriously. The time has come for all South Africans to take stock and realise that democracy can only work if we are prepared to promote political tolerance in our society.
No single individual or community or political party has the copyright to the truth. We come from a diversity of life experiences, social backgrounds and political affiliations. So it is only to be expected that we may hold differing views and put forth different suggestions on how to resolve our problems.
But just as we are entitled to our views, we have a responsibility to extend that same right to others whose viewpoint may differ from ours.
In fact, it is that very diversity that allows for a rich variety of viewpoints to flourish and enhance our democratic tradition.
Nowhere else could this have been better exemplified than in the House of Assembly in Cape Town – that august chamber where our public representatives meet regularly to debate and deliberate over laws and policies to govern the people.
However, debates in that House have become a national embarrassment, characterised by constant displays of threats, name-calling and polarising behaviour that are poor advertisements for political tolerance.
Our public representatives are expected to lead by example.
South Africans need to adopt an attitude best epitomised by Voltaire’s famous dictum: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”