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We need to go back to value based politics

20 November 2012, 07:16
We need to go back to value based politics

By Matthews Bantsijang, Pretoria

I am certain that I am echoing the views of many fellow citizens calling for restoration of value based politics in this country.

When we can take stock of our democracy, we will discover that we lost Mandela’s moral impact. We need to move from Class-Based to Value-Based Politics, unlike now Politicians fighting for power, instead of being service oriented. Presently people are tense as they are after money, property and are always trying to fulfill their material needs. In this context it is important for young people to read holy books Ideal politics talks of some ideals like truthfulness, welfare of the people, faithfulness and oppose individual benefit. When the political parties or political leaders follow the above- mentioned policies then their politics will be called value based politics.

But these days there is a negligence regarding the value-based politics is generally avoided. To acquire power, the political parties and political leaders do not mind ignoring the value-based politics. Corruption, forceful politics and the presence of force, money and crime in politics are really harming the whole political system. There is a strong need to end the dirty politics. It should be noted that by following the value-based politics only the democratic aims can be fulfilled and by doing this, the establishment of human welfare will also be possible. I would argue that the corrosive impact of this conflict has destroyed our institutions, affected our values and ideals and torn our society apart, instead of a well balanced and functioning democracy, we have an angry society where hatred, jealousy, greed and selfishness are all too common. Our society has undergone this transformation incrementally, almost imperceptibly.

In this post apartheid period which offers unlimited opportunities and every reason for people and parties to come together to work towards a better future, we appear to be having to contend with the residual impact of the trauma we have collectively endured. Maybe politics in this country today is following some of those countries where a blood sport-governed by the rules of the slum — where the criminal underworld rules and where the scum of our society predominate. Politicians were for some years the patrons of the scum but the wheel appears to have turned and the scum from the slums, with their values, have begun to lord it over the politicians. Some have even become politicians. The form of politics that is found in the West, and which we have had in this country until 1977 appears to have gone out of the window with the Constitution of 1978, which created a constitutional dictatorship, but I hope that this is not forever. Political Parties in this country represent organised hatred.

The blood sport could result in a blood bath at the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections unless we do something about it. We need to create a framework for a just society, a compassionate society. The most urgent and important need today is to usher in an age of cooperation and leave behind us the age of confrontation which has done immeasurable harm to this country; whilst other countries are galloping ahead we are moving backwards. The disease of confrontation has spread to all levels of our society.

The politician is at the bottom of this; we must pull back from the abyss in our national interest. Our political parties must learn to coexist and make political cooperation an art form. Our political culture has become more and more based upon materialistic values, prior commitment to supporting progressive social policies, has also diminished. Social policies to transformed the societies into a model progressive “participatory democracy” are disappearing. There was a certain value placed on the community. Addressing the poverty situation that prevailed was the first priority; to support the quality-of-living of our citizens inclusive of education, health care and food irrespective of personal access to financial resources.

Maybe that we created a dependent society and in the process the people lost their self confidence and also a sense of responsibility; it is conceded that the people unfortunately came to depend on politicians for hand-outs and elections became auctions, the party that offered the most was elected. The people did not feel, as a new age politician has stated, “that they could work positively towards changing their own lives and the lives of their children and the community.”

This nurse-maiding of the people killed their spirit, though it was a fundamentally humane approach to development and human security. Our Democratic country was intended to be a progressive, participatory democracy, but we have lost our way somewhere along the road even though we talk of developmental state. The cancer of corruption is all pervasive. Politician could only contest at any level if they are prepared to spend millions. Yes they spend millions to get elected and after that use their power to recoup their expenditure and to build a nest egg for the next election and also for their generations to come. They have no compunction about using their office to make money. The pith and substance of politics is no doubt the acquisition and exercise of power, but those who wield power and those who aspire to power must understand that there are written and unwritten rules and common decency that must be adhered to at all times. The political culture of this country has been built on adversarial, confrontational politics without regard to the national interest. Our politicians have missed the wood for the trees.

This is the unfortunate tradition which we seem to want to perpetuate. The cement that has held this form of confrontational politics together has been, the vulgar pursuit of political power, for with it goes the opportunity to mount the gravy train and get rich quickly. In the process have we not become a morally degenerated society? The future of all political parties should decide by the four main factors being politics without corruption, rooting out the hate culture, and promoting communal amity and good governance. Our political leaders must come to terms with the fact that no political party or group of politicians are forever and it is in their interest to think in terms of the generations to come; in this regard they need to perhaps refine and implement the principles that gave rise to the 17th Amendment and create independent statutory institutions to enthrone good governance, democracy and the rule of law in this country.

The two main political parties are both pledged to furthering a multi ethnic, multi-cultural, democratic political system. They both profess to pursuing ‘Free Market’ economic policies; their foreign policies are identical though this government lost its way on the international circuit in recent years through clumsy handling of our international relations and certain domestic incidents, that were exploited by certain members of the international community; the social policies of the two main political parties are the same; both parties are pledged to safeguarding our territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country — they both accept the concept of devolution of power though there may be differences regarding the extent of ‘devolution’; both parties have accepted that the minority communities should have a say in the deciding on their destiny and in the destiny of the country which is theirs too. If he only seizes this opportunity he would certainly be remembered as one of the greatest leaders this country has produced and not only because he saved this country from being divided.

As stated earlier, politics in the early years of our democracy was more value driven; the politician valued his self respect. That was a time when our politicians both of the ‘left ‘and the ‘right’ would stand-up and defend unswerving commitments to civic commitments. Such a cadre of politicians would stand-up for a core of such progressive convictions; defending areas of national sovereignty in general, irrespective of personal self-aggrandizement considerations. South Africa needs these values once again
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