If multiparty system fails we must rethink constitution
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.