Ordinary citizens in Africa, are bearers of their own democracy

October 9, 2016
Mandela’s voice featured in 2016 South African elections: a democracy with a lost legacy?
November 9, 2016

Ordinary citizens in Africa, are bearers of their own democracy

The African National Congress (ANC) came to power in 1994; to lead the first democratic dispensation in South Africa. But in just a matter of two decades, this popular movement lost control of critical metropolitan municipalities it previously governed, since 1994. The strategic municipalities given away to the opposition in the 2016 local government elections include the City of Tshwane, the City of Joburg, and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality. Amongst the reasons advanced in public spaces for this poor performance, is the leadership squabbles that had been brewing inside the ANC. These squabbles, including any other plausible cause, had a negative bearing on the work of the ruling party.  And so, the delivery of essential services; to address the housing backlog; provision of clean and running water;  availability of chronic medication; making rural roads accessible; and creating job opportunities, all became enormously compromised. And so, ordinary citizens responded with a ‘vote of no confidence’ to the ANC. They made it clear that they did not want to see the ANC continuing to govern the municipalities mentioned-above. This heroic democratic experience is a reminder to all of Africa that ordinary citizens do no longer want to be taken for granted by suspect politicians.

We can all agree, that the democracy that we so much want in Africa, must be such that it’s  not designed to serve the interests of one party states, arrogant politicians, autocrats, despots, state capturers and those who are corrupt. It must be an African democracy that is there, to serve and safe-guard the rights and interests, of ordinary citizens. Here, we talk about citizens that deserve to be respected, irrespective of their worth and standing in society. They must be citizens who are always consulted by their governments, and enabled to participate adequately in relevant political, economic, social, and developmental processes in their communities. Thus making sure, and without any shadow of doubt, that every governmental policy outcome, impacts directly on their diverse needs and aspirations. They should be able to find expression, in their own country’s constitutions; feeling free to contribute to their country’s democratic visioning. In simple terms, ordinary citizens in Africa should be allowed, to have the final say in all matters that affect, not only them, but also their country and future generations.

So, any attempt by any government to want to oppress its citizens, even during peaceful demonstrations, marches, and protests, is a grave cause for concern for Africa. The state oppression that is currently going on in countries such as in Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, Swaziland, DRC Congo, Zimbabwe, and others, should be condemned in the strongest terms. These are the kind of practices that continue to stand on the path of an African democracy. And that is why ordinary citizens in these countries, should be encouraged to steadfastly stand up against undemocratic tendencies; anyone that seeks to extend their term of office as a president, one party states, political arrogance, autocracy, despotism, state capturing, the rigging of elections, and corruption in general. Thus, any form of government that take advantage of them in the name of democracy, should be replied with a ballot paper, and never with a bullet, violence and destruction of property. There must be no place for anyone, to take up arms against what needs to be defeated in bloodless manner.

The South African experience has shown, that ordinary citizens are better placed to stand up; express their dissatisfaction, and ultimately vote anyone who fails to serve their diverse interests, out of power. And such a civic duty must never be delegated to anyone with suspicious intentions.  There is there-fore, a need for ordinary citizens to be always vigilant of politicians whose ultimate purpose, is that of instilling confusion among the people. These include, war mongers, military guntas, and suspicious international organizations; they are all bent on ensuring that there is no sustainable peace and development, in Africa.

And so, these and many other terrible experiences not mentioned in this blog, should never be allowed to root themselves. It is therefore, ordinary citizens who can be the bearers or destructors of democracy in Africa.

picPlaatjie Mashego is an analyst on unemployment and social justice.