If mul­ti­party sys­tem fails we must re­think con­sti­tu­tion

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - MAHLODI SAM MUOFHE

PER­HAPS I am a pes­simist. The oomph I had just be­fore the dawn of our hard-fought democ­racy, checked against my own barom­e­ter of eval­u­at­ing our democ­racy, is dis­si­pat­ing.

To­gether with other young lions in our teens in the 1970s, our youth was for­saken solely be­cause of our hunger to fight and lib­er­ate South Africa from the yoke of the apartheid govern­ment which saw black South Africans only as hew­ers of wood and draw­ers of wa­ter.

We wanted lib­er­a­tion and to con­struct a democ­racy recog­nis­ing that we are all equal be­fore the law and we are all hu­man be­ings who de­serve to be treated hu­manely ir­re­spec­tive of our colour.

On April 27, 1994 we ef­fected our in­terim con­sti­tu­tion – the pre­cur­sor to the fi­nal 1996 con­sti­tu­tion. The in­terim con­sti­tu­tion was not too per­fect in my barom­e­ter. But we were at least mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion, in that I got my fran­chise to vote on a non-dis­crim­i­na­tory vot­ers roll.

Our democ­racy recog­nised var­i­ous forms of demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tions which we could adopt to com­mence the process of re­con­struc­tion. The mul­ti­party sys­tem, with el­e­ments of par­tic­i­pa­tory and rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy em­bed­ded in it, be­came our pathfinder which guided all of us.

Na­tions of the world ap­plauded us and wel­comed us back. Not only did we re­gain our seat in the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly, but our full mem­ber­ship to the var­i­ous UN Agen­cies was also re­stored.

Our labour move­ments par­tic­i­pated in the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­gan­i­sa­tion, World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion and sim­i­lar UN agen­cies.

Within 10 years of democ­racy, the UN ac­corded us a rare op­por­tu­nity to host in Septem­ber 2001 in Dur­ban a Con­fer­ence against Racism and Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion, and our con­ti­nent, Africa, in­au­gu­rated the AU in South Africa on July 9, 2002.

The Fifa World Cup 2010 was suc­cess­fully hosted by us. We were on a roll.

Could it be that the suc­cesses we achieved in show­cas­ing our worth on the global stage lulled us into slum­ber, and by com­mis­sion or omis­sion, we re­lin­quished our con­sti­tu­tional duty to build the var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal par­ties we be­long to and voted for since 1994.

In­stead of cit­i­zens join­ing branches of po­lit­i­cal par­ties in num­bers to en­sure an op­ti­mal work­ing mul­ti­party demo­cratic SA In­cor­po­rated, we saw many cit­i­zens los­ing in­ter­est and par­tic­i­pat­ing less.

His­tory in­forms us that po­lit­i­cal par­ties, es­pe­cially those rul­ing govern­ments, wane af­ter 20 years of rul­ing. I op­ti­misti­cally be­lieved that, in the same way we showed the world we had the ca­pac­ity to hold com­plex UN con­fer­ences within a decade of our democ­racy, or­di­nary cit­i­zens could swell the branches of our po­lit­i­cal par­ties and par­tic­i­pate mean­ing­fully in them, for our mul­ti­party democ­racy to con­tinue thriving.

Fast-for­ward to SA In­cor­po­rated to­day, with cit­i­zens out­side the mul­ti­party sys­tem cry­ing at reg­u­lar intervals for “hash­tag this or that must fall” with­out due con­sid­er­a­tion of the pro­vi­sions con­tained in their own con­sti­tu­tions; a phe­nom­e­non that im­pacts neg­a­tively on the mul­ti­party 1996 con­sti­tu­tion.

Where is the mul­ti­party cit­i­zens’ ac­tivism as out­lined by our con­sti­tu­tion? Do we re­mem­ber or have we opted to for­get about peo­ple power in their po­lit­i­cal par­ties of choice?

Of the mil­lions of cit­i­zens el­i­gi­ble to be­long to po­lit­i­cal par­ties of their choice, less than 3 mil­lion be­long to par­ties; yet we opted in 1994 for a mul­ti­party sys­tem.

How then do we hope to hold the po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives we sent to the three spheres of govern­ment ac­count­able when, in our mil­lions, we opt not to par­tic­i­pate in the mul­ti­party demo­cratic sys­tem we worked for in 1994?

Cit­i­zens’ ac­tivism pre-1994 was crit­i­cal to bring­ing the il­le­gal apartheid govern­ment down. What plau­si­ble and rea­son­able ex­pla­na­tion do we have to­day which will jus­tify re­viv­ing the mass demo­cratic protest move­ments of yes­ter­year to cor­rect the prob­lems we face now? In large num­bers in the po­lit­i­cal par­ties of our choice we can con­tinue to hold our po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives ac­count­able.

I can­not es­cape the con­clu­sion that we no longer be­lieve in our mul­ti­party sys­tem. If my sub­mis­sion is cor­rect, the flip-side is that we will have to re­think the value of the con­sti­tu­tion.

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