How SA leapfrogged into democracy

2017-02-01 06:01

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I CAN give you a million reasons why I think SA leapfrogged into a democracy, however, this article is inclined to delve into the how aspect of my topic. Decidedly, pre-1994 South Africa had had enough of the apartheid system, its separatists and dehumanising laws, rules and regulations.

However, the same cannot be said about SA’s readiness for democracy. Allow me to draw your attention to three critical periods any previously repressed “multiracial” nation ought to employ honestly and orderly to lay foundations for a new Democratic dispensation, namely articulation, negotiations and incorporation.

This article talks about political liberation of the previously oppressed racial group/s within a multiracial state, such as South Africa and many other African and European states.

The first stage I would like to zoom into is articulation - this is whereby a new dispensation, one that aspires for an authentic multiracialism lays convivial environment for small ethnic groups to make demands and proclaims its value system.

Further, this proclamation affirms two things, firstly, is that the ethnic group does exist and exists among other ethnic groups and secondly it develops its own identity to which its members could easily identify.

The foregoing assertion denotes our immediate failure into democracy. As a consequence of some of the country’s failures early into democracy one only understands a few ethnic groups arguable those who fought wars against white settlers, like the Zulu, etc.

Conversely, those ethnic groups who never fought any wars we tend to know less of them. Articulation, understood in a literal sense is “voice for difference”.

This brings us to the second stage of politically emancipating a previously repressed group/s, called negotiations. This is an equally pivotal period where all previously repressed groups should make legal claims and entitlements to preclude the possibility of future oppression, be it by same perpetrator or a new one. Unfortunately, in our South African context the negotiations period brought more entitlements and legal status for some ethnic groups and not for others.

Needless to say this engendered what John Stuart Mill terms “the tyranny of the majority”. This means that the ethnic groups with greater size, popular customs, traditions and value systems would want to claim more for itself at the expense of smaller ethnic groups. Thus subjecting smaller ethnic groups to values, traditions and customs of some hegemonic ethnic groups.

The failed application of the negotiations process is costing the country immensely, for example, look at tribalism. Tribalism is all about one ethnic group trying to make a statement that “we are here” and “we do exist”. This has unfortunately permeated and tarnished our voting behaviour and patterns.

This country seems to be wriggling to create a modus-vivendi on which a pluralist society can be realised. We have not done well in creating what John Rawls calls a “social union of social unions”.

Lastly, is incorporation period, here too South Africa has not done very well. One may argue and say, but South Africa has introduced various measures to incorporate the bits and pieces that were previously repressed.

To this end, I would argue and say South Africa’s over-emphasis of this period is also its biggest and gravest flaw.

As I have defended elsewhere above both articulation and negotiations processes were never adequately applied in our South African context. Why do we keep trying to marry bits and pieces that were never a whole in the first place? Why do we incorporate bits and pieces that were never conferred the opportunity to articulate their values, traditions and customs.

Concepts, such as, “Rainbow Nations”, “Born Frees” - I am afraid to say these are cowardly attempts towards incorporation since they are not backed by genuine political and economic emancipation of the previously repressed ethnic groups. Now, every person’s biggest worry is how many more years is it going to take for this country to rectify these mistakes.

Notwithstanding the above extrapolations most of the mistakes we have made just prior the advent of democracy. Most can be pardoned on the basis that, in part, we lacked the acumen of administrating the everyday running of the country, we had only mastered the art of ousting the enemy which was the apartheid regime.

• Zipho Makhoba is and author, advisor, social commentator and research consultant at Makhoba Consultants Group (PTY) Ltd.

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