“South Africa is a democratic country” thousands of ‘wanna be liberal democrats’ utter these words every day. Though assessing and clearly articulating the tenants of democracy, one runs the risk of being labelled a demagogue who is anti-revolutionary (whatever that means). Even defining democracy, a bitter taste can be left in one’s mouth when attempting to relate the definition to its practicality sense. Winston Churchhill, in his Speech at the UK House of Commons in 1947 said “Democracy is the worst form of government except all other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Indeed the obvious is being stated that we are living in a country whereby liberal democracy is embraced, whereby political office is gained through success in regular elections that are conducted on the basis of formal political equality. Though endeavouring to define political equality can unclutter a can of worms and that is the foremost reason I will quote Heywood for safety reasons: Heywood 2007: 73-74 maintains that Political Equality means the ‘EQUAL’ distribution of political power and influence. It is equally misleading and a bit deceptive to agree with the broader definition of political equality when it is thought as the core principle of democracy, also in that it ensures that however the people; each individual member carries the same weight: all voices are equally loud…
In the further study of political equality, Individualism implies a belief in the foundation of equality: those individuals are ‘born equal’, at least in terms of moral worth. This is reflected in liberal commitment to equal rights, equal opportunities for all, entitlements, equal before the law etc. HOWEVER; Individuals do not possess the same talent, or willingness to work, skills, determination, and thus is the basis of liberals not believing in social equality or an equality of outcome. In government or other administration systems, meritocracy, in an administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration (such as business administration) wherein appointments and responsibilities are assigned to individuals based upon their "merits", namely intelligence, credentials, and education, determined through evaluations or examinations.
The society may feel betrayed by the proclamation of equality of opportunity though such is meant to give all individuals an equal chance to realize their unequal potential. True liberals support the principle of ‘MERITOCRACY’, with merit reflecting, crudely, talent plus hard work. Supporters of meritocracies do not necessarily agree on the nature of "merit", however, they do tend to agree that "merit", itself should be a primary consideration during evaluation. Meritocracy can simply be defined as the rule by the talented, the principle that rewards and positions should be distributed on the basis of ability. The practicality of practicing liberal democracy will remain questionable until it is practised and until it is fully practiced.
I will not be doing justice to this semi-article by not indicating what the great philosophers thought about Meritocracy. Both Plato and Aristotle advocated meritocracy, Plato in his The Republic, arguing that the most wise should rule, and hence the rulers should be philosopher kings. The concept originates, at least by the sixth century BC, when it was advocated by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, who "invented the notion that those who govern should do so because of merit, not of inherited status. This sets in motion the creation of the imperial examinations and bureaucracies open only to those who passed tests."
The burning question is that how did we (South Africans) arrive at a situation whereby we have to lobby for everything; lobby for employment, tenders, good marks, VIP access to parties etc.? Could it be really true that we are living in rotten country characterized by a moral decay of its citizens and its leaders? A country whereby we must bow to politicians in order to participate in economic activities? Are responsibilities, administration, jobs, tenders awarded on merit????
Andrew Heywood, 3rd Ed; 2007: Politics