There is power in the numbers
SOUTH Africans have become more demanding for results and accountability, which is a good sign for democracy.
But the pattern of demands has become increasingly common among voluntary organisations, where members sometimes resort to violence to vent their anger and frustration at the lack of results.
For example, the coach and players of Kaizer Chiefs Football Club recently had to run for cover when frustrated supporters went on the rampage against them.
What is interesting about the behaviour for demanding results is that the supporters are not necessarily irrational. They have certain expectations. The highest of these expectations is winning trophies.
But even if the club brings no silverware, at the minimum there is an expectation that they should end in the top four in the league.
But when a club, the stature of Kaizer Chiefs, slides to lower rungs of the ladder, then sure the supporters find a strong justification to rebel against both the players, the coach and the leadership of the club, demanding results.
The Orlando Pirates supporters have reacted similarly, while also damaging infrastructure.
The world of sports, especially that of soccer, teaches us a lesson about democracy, accountability and the powerful voice of the volunteering supporters. Like sports, the culture of demanding results and pressing for accountability has always been visibly articulated in municipalities through service delivery protests and increasingly within political parties where matters often get to the courts.
Even there the path regrettably is often violent and limb and life sadly are not spared.
What then are the lessons for politics?
In preparing for Census 2011 the community of Silvertown refused to participate in the census. Their demands were for housing and better services. What took the crown for me was when they demanded that I should go and fetch their councillor from Port Elizabeth. I pointed out that I had no power to do so.
The negotiations for a count continued unabated until a week into the census and the residents of Silvertown would not budge and participate in the process. This was not the first time that I made this unequivocal demand on communities who were hell bent towards not participating.
In the Census 1996 the community of Chief Ramopodi in Nebo took us on in similar fashion and I informed them that in no uncertain terms would I back down and not count them.
This was non-negotiable and we finally included them in the exercise.
Another community that gave us a run was that of Hanckey in Jeffreys Bay, there too we counted them.
Back to Silvertown, we had deadlocked for the whole day with multiple bi-laterals and multilateral discussions taking place.
Two deadlock breakers were as follows: First we committed to sponsoring high school matriculants into higher education and, second, that when the results were out, I promised that I would personally be in Silvertown to deliver the results.
So the first hurdle we had was Silvertown did not have a matriculant with university exemption nor with other tertiary entry scores. So the promise was not implementable.
I am pleased that this first commitment was met through tutoring Silvertown lads and lasses through exams into higher education.
Some of these students completed their programmes.
Twelve months after the census, my team and I were back at the MK Hall with the census results. An ox was slaughtered and it was festivities all round.
The premier of the province, the mayor of Port Elizabeth and councillors could no longer ignore the plight of residents of Silvertown.
The numbers had spoken.
There is indeed power in evidence and even more so active citizenry is crucial to lead the change required.
Soccer fans have shown how accountability can be demanded and how results can be achieved. Without active demand for results and citizenry led accountability democracy becomes an endeavour in futility.
At the FNB Stadium in Nasrec where Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates met the wrath of their supporters, under protracted pressure from opposition benches, citizenry and business, in December 2017 the ANC was forced ultimately to undertake the changes when it met at Nasrec.
There is power in numbers and there is rationality in scientific evidence. Let these instruments be used on a sustained basis beyond the politicking of next year and elections.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former StatisticianGeneral of South Africa and the former head of Statistics South Africa.