How to consolidate our precious democracy? There are…


Why does the Empire still determine our path? While the nation is constantly being reminded that it must avoid a scenario in Zimbabwe, it seems rather that it is telling us, if you don’t watch it, we will make sure you end up like Zimbabwe. As with South Africans, Zimbabweans were also not responsible for their path and their destiny.

Oscar van Heerden

Oscar van Heerden is an International Relations (IR) Specialist, where he focuses on international political economy, with a particular focus on Africa and SADC in particular. He completed his doctoral and master’s studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). His undergraduate studies were at Turfloop and Wits. He is currently Assistant Vice Chancellor at the University of Fort Hare and writes in his personal capacity.

As we approach another local government election and participate freely and fairly in the ritual of participatory democracy, we are fully aware that we have fought so hard for this privilege. But in doing so, we must ask ourselves the question: is this enough to consolidate our democracy or do we need to do more? It certainly sounds like a pretty difficult undertaking. After all, we don’t have the power to determine our own destiny, ever. What I mean by that is that our future, socio-economically, is determined by others and not by ourselves as South Africans.

International investors, rating agencies, foreign financial institutions and, it seems, foreign governments too – these are the people who can and who determine our future. Just as they were the ones who decided when apartheid might end, that we cannot own nuclear bombs, sophisticated satellite technology, and certainly no advanced missile technology. They destroyed all of the above in the early 1990s before entering into negotiations with the liberation organization, the ANC.

I would like to believe that they must have had a plan when they decided to take this bold step. After all, we are told in detail how Mandela was courted and ultimately brought to a point where he agreed that even though he couldn’t speak for the ANC, we were ready to talk about talks. We are not content to negotiate a new constitution without having taken stock of the fundamentals and the non-negotiable.

How can we protect the rights of minorities now that we have agreed to hand over political power to the black majority? What about private property rights, inheritance, state asset base, pension funds and more? Surely there must have been a plan by which Roelf Meyer and Co. were guided? Where’s the plan for this plan, I wonder? Perhaps then we will understand why certain questions of State are not within our competence. Why some issues like our fate as a country do not reside with us, but with others.

Why does the Empire always determine our path? We are constantly reminded that we must avoid a scenario in Zimbabwe. Looks awfully like they are telling us, if you don’t watch it we’ll make sure you end up like Zimbabwe. Because like us, Zimbabweans were also not masters of their path and their destiny. So when Mugabe made the fatal mistake of thinking that he could determine the fate of this country and set it on his own by seizing land from farmers and supposedly returning it to the people, he and his people have certainly had to suffer the consequences of their stupidity. Until today, 20 years later, they still suffer from their very bad decision. Thinking that they might determine their own future path? Gall, I tell you.

Obviously, we have to avoid such a fate at all costs and that really means not playing with private property rights and the land issue in South Africa, among other non-negotiable I imagine.

And when some of us try to raise these questions, it comes up against a smothering of honest criticism, as WEB du Bois puts it. The alone The narrative that needs to find expression is that the terrible plight of our country’s poor and black majority is largely due to inept governance and the corruption of our largely black government over the past 27 years. We must not talk about the last 300 years of colonialism and apartheid. No, should we dwell on the past, can’t we already move forward? Always blame apartheid!

This argument is tantamount to saying to the Jews, really, do you have to continually remind us of your pain and suffering during the Holocaust? Do you have to remind us year after year of the past 70 years? Wouldn’t it be so reckless, so callous and even denying this very important historical atrocity? We must never forget what the Germans did to the Jews, so why would you want us Africans to accept such a superficial argument as agreeing to go through 300 years of oppression, exploitation and death?

Stop trying to change and / or divert the narrative from critical issues and instead work together to try to resolve them. Hence the following question: what must we do to consolidate our democracy?

Maybe someone from the old National Party can provide us with this still elusive blueprint to shed some light on these issues. I mean, let’s take the first phase of such a plan. The decision to bring the country back to a majority vote. It’s huge! The Americans and the British would certainly have been consulted and they would have asked what the real plan would be, surely? And I don’t think the answer would have been simply to negotiate for democratic elections, to ensure a good constitution and to leave the rest in the air and to pray that these blacks, who just yesterday came down from the trees , according to many whites in South Africa at the time, will govern properly. That was certainly not the answer to such a pertinent question: what is the plan?

We now know that the so-called black-on-black violence in the years leading up to the 1994 election was certainly part of a plan, hence the involvement of a third force made up of police and military; training of Inkatha Freedom Party members in parts of KZN to fuel violence, killings and massacres. This initiative to destabilize the liberation parties during the negotiation period not only fell from the sky, it was planned in a room somewhere.

It was part of a bigger plan – where is it?

We observe the audacity with which some in our country advocate the privatization of basic services at the municipal level, the construction of a private Afrikaans university, the secessionist demands of one of our provinces. Is all this just the natural evolution of our democracy or is it a form of consolidation of our democracy? Isn’t that playing into the hands of an identity policy that is certainly not good for us as a nation?

It’s good that we can go and participate in a democratic process by voting in the next local elections, but what good is it not to be able to determine our own future as a country? We are not allowed to take radical and bold decisions to tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality in any meaningful way.

Perhaps that was still the grand plan, the stagnation, so that the status quo could remain.

I wonder… DM

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