This year I want to put into practise my belief that democracy must be a living process.

2011-02-02 15:12

This year I want to put into practise my belief that democracy must

be a living process.

As much as I love making my X once every four years or so,

I’d like to be a more engaged citizen.

This means going to as many public

meetings as possible, helping where I can and ensuring that having a voice means

more than sitting in an armchair and whining at the TV.

So, last Sunday I

attended an ANC community meeting to hear the platforms of the candidates who

want to stand for election in my Ward 117 in Johannesburg.

It was a well-organised meeting and the young chairperson had

clearly been well schooled by the ANC.

He explained to us that because certain councillors had proved to

be less than adept at their tasks (and some even downright useless, suggested

his subtext), the party headquarters at Luthuli House now wanted candidates to

present themselves publicly and to be given the thumbs-up by the community and

not by branch leaders, as had happened ­before.

In addition, they were screened by independent members of the

branch who had no vested interest in their candidature.

The process seemed rock-solid and the transparency was impressive.

Both candidates were impressive and could win my vote. The two

other candidates who could not be there last Sunday were disqualified by their

absence. This decision was mooted and taken from the floor.

The two candidates were frank about shortcomings, promised action

and I particularly liked one candidate’s view that the suburbs are often run by

less than democratic ratepayers’ associations, where racial diversity remains a

somewhat foreign concept.

This being Parkhurst, the ANC meeting was 99% black since it is

Democratic Alliance territory.

The meeting was comprised of domestic workers,

entrepreneurs, professionals and business people from the area.

The two most prominent attendees were Atul Gupta, the proprietor of

the New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers, and Dali Mpofu, the erstwhile chief

executive of the SABC.

Questions were real. One attendee asked what chance the ANC stood,

given that the northern suburbs were traditional DA strongholds.

Another wanted to know why small businesses were not allowed to

operate from home.

And Gupta told us that he did not think apartheid had ended.

Where

he lived, his neighbours gawked at his 24/7 white bodyguards and seemed to have

a problem with black people with money. They continually put false ­hurdles in

his way.

I remembered reading that residents of Saxonwold had complained

when he tried to land a helicopter at Zoo Lake.

While the ANC’s grassroots

democratic traditions appear to have weathered the years well, its membership

has clearly also changed.

 

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