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Is democracy disappearing?

28 October 2009, 13:16  - Mark
It doesn't take a subtle eye to see that democracy is slowing being dissolved in this country. One thinks to the analogy of the frog that is thrown into hot water and immediately jumps out. However, if he is put in cold water and slowly heated, he will sit there and eventually boil to death. An objective external observer would easily be able to spot the slow but steady corrosion of South African society at the hands of the powers that drive it.

The problem stems from the total lack of accountability present in our society. Democracy is not merely a government of elected officials who represent a country's populace. It is a government that is fully and constantly accountable to the people, a government that permanently has to validate their position and prove that they deserve to hold the power that commands so many lives.

So how does accountability get lost? All that is necessary for this to happen is for the leader to declare that criticism is unwarranted, or for the leader to establish a power base that makes accountability meaningless even if it is present. In South Africa, both are widely present.

South Africa's democracy stems from a fierce desire to eradicate the evil of racism and give governance to the majority who were oppressed by the minority. This creates the silent rule that if you criticise the new government, you are not supportive of the new good in the country, and by default are evil. This unpleasant association is the initial loophole which provided an almost free reign on the country for over a decade, and silenced all critics.

Like all tyrants, they declare that if you are not one of us, you are one of them - thus creating a polarized two-world view of the state of things. What they conveniently forgot was that criticism is one of the most essential pillars that support a democracy. It regulates corruption, excess and deficiencies and provides a true voice to everyone. With relative ease, the ANC made criticism undesirable, and the hallmark of a racist or supporter of the previous regime, and thus they ran and continue to run, unchecked.

Julius Malema applies the same tactic; a tactic used by tyrants from as far back as can be remembered. He makes statements which openly state that people who are not on his side are enemies of the State. Those who do not support Zuma should be killed. Blacks who are not in the ANC are not blacks. Once again he works on the fear in people's minds that they will be categorised as the unhelpful, evil opposition because according to him, you are either one of us, or one of them. The idea that debate can occur between people and contain disagreements and agreements not contained by party banners is utterly incomprehensible to him.

The end result is the silence of criticism. This has led to the degradation of every facet of our society, which is grossly mismanaged, either by incompetence or corruption to the point that all departments without exception are bordering on collapse. Almost every sector of the country has been on strike this year, and riots due to poor service delivery are higher than they have ever been.

Corruption levels are amongst the highest in the world, once again due to the lack of accountability. Politicians, the least accountable of all, openly lead extravagant lifestyles and spent enormous amounts of public money on private luxuries. Very few people ever see justice for these crimes, and this further reinforces the untouchable culture already infecting our society.

Danger signs abound in our country - subtle changes by the ruling party that undermine the most basic principles of democracy. The precept that an opposing thought is the characteristic of an enemy is one of the most offensive scenarios in an established democracy, but is commonplace here. Without accountability, and with a greater chasm between leaders and the regulation of their power, the next logical step is the subversion of the Constitution, and then its annihilation.

Famous tyrants ruthlessly enslave their countries by performing all of this in a short period of time, and the world gasps and remembers them with scorn. It is, however, the devious tyrant that slowly alters, slowly subverts and slowly corrupts. That way instead of a great chorus of protest that would blast them away, they are left with a multitude of whispers and very little protest. We are frogs sitting in water... the question is, how hot is the water?

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