Take pride in the right to vote

2016-08-03 06:00
DR SETHULEGO MATEBESI, social observer.

DR SETHULEGO MATEBESI, social observer.

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THE local government system is an inherent part of representative democratic countries.

A major premise of representative democracy concerns the proper role of the voters in a political society: to choose those who will govern for a term and to hold them accountable for the manner in which they govern.

Municipalities are viewed both as political arenas and institutional systems for democracy.

We also know that at a very basic level, the word “municipality” conjures up different images.

In the context of South Africa the image of a municipality, portrayed in the media and academic discourses, is one of failure or diminished capacity to represent and respond to the needs of local communities.

Conversely, many South Africans would agree that some strides have been made in the local government realm over the past two decades.

It started with, among others, the transformation of racially-based local authorities, followed by improved access to basic services, and deepening citizen participation in local governance.

Local government continues to evolve and respond to the dynamic socio-political environment, but the negative stereotypes about municipalities thrive unabated.

I contend that such negative accounts reflect and contribute to the ways in which the debate over the performance of municipalities in particular and representative democracy in general are processed and understood.

A quick survey of Facebook posts aptly captures the mood of increasingly disheartened and politically frustrated citizens on the eve of the local government elections.

One message reads: “It is election fever; some will try to milk chickens, or even build bridges where there are no rivers”.

The most striking and surprising revelation to emerge from the media and acade-mic accounts is the ignorance of the voice of municipalities.

I believe, as captured in my forthcoming scholarly book, Civil strife against local governance: The dynamics of community protests in contemporary South Africa, that municipalities is the heartbeat.

I acknowledge that representative democracy is a messy business. It is a system riddled with patronage and the constant fear among political aspirants to power of being banished to the “political mortuary”. Nevertheless, representative local democracy remains the best possible political system globally.

Similarly, amidst all the challenges, local government remains the key to the success of representative democracy as well as enhancing the welfare of local citizens in South Africa.

  • Therefore, we should take pride in the right to vote as enshrined in the Constitution by going out in numbers to exercise our voice and elect our local representatives. Express Qwaqwa welcomes anyone interested in contributing to the weekly column as social observers or citizen journalists. There is no payment for writers. Send your opinion piece (not exceeding 500 words in Sesotho or English) via email to tladi.moloi@­volksblad.com. Church leaders or members of the public are welcome to send spiritual articles too.

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