We want accounting, not co-government

2013-04-07 10:00

Not for the first time, President Jacob Zuma’s grasp of what it means to be a democratic state founded on openness and will of the people seems to have deserted him.

His attempt to shut down criticism of South Africa’s disastrous Central African Republic adventure by accusing those who question it of wanting to co-govern the country and not giving the government “a chance”, sails close to not understanding what it means to be a participatory democracy.

President Zuma is at best disingenuous to suggest that “the problem in South Africa is that everybody wants to run the country” when questions are raised about the reasons for South Africa’s presence in CAR or the plausibility of the answers to the questions.

To seek answers of state actions is not to want to undermine the will of the majority.

It is a patriotic duty of keeping the state accountable for every decision it takes in the name of the citizen.

To insinuate that demanding that the state account is to seek to co-govern has the effect of portraying those who have voted for the governing party as men and women who reduce democracy to the once in five years ritual of ticking a box and giving the ruling elites carte blanche.

By asking the citizenry “to know which lines not to cross” he has inadvertently reminding us why the Secrecy Bill is such a bad idea if enacted in the manner that the governing party desired.

Participatory democracy and an opaque government are mutually exclusive enterprises.

Contrary to what the president would want us to believe, an alert and vocal civil society is better for a democracy in the long run.

If for no other reasons, it eliminates “we did not know” element when history demands answers from those who were around when the state took the decisions it did in the name of citizens.

We owe a duty of patriotism to our state and we execute this by holding the government of the day accountable.

Government and the governing party are free to correct errors by political opposition parties and the media.

It is part of their rights in a participatory democracy.

President Zuma and the government however oversteps the mark of democratic engagement with those who voted them in power when they demand that some questions are beneath the state to answer.

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