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Give learned leaders a try

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Dr Mafole Mokalobe
Dr Mafole Mokalobe

Along with the allure of equality and freedom, nothing defines the essence of democracy like the elections.

With just an X, tables are turned, and the scale tipped in favour of voters. Choices are made and the fate of leaders decided in the blink of an eye.

Voters get to taste the power of their vote. In true power language, assertions like “we won’t vote if houses are not built, or roads not fixed” are often made.

This creates jitters in political circles.

Folded in these acts are voters’ aspirations that come with the promise of democracy. Many carry broken promises, despair and feelings of abandonment.

They are the result of the roller coaster ride of the bad, the ugly and glimmer of good of our democracy.

In the early days of democracy, there was transformation and development. Then followed the moment of dreams deferred with distant leaders. Now there is a new dawn meant to restore, but as local government election outcomes will show, faith in renewal seems so near, but still so far.

All these reveal flaws of democracy. Writing in ancient Greece, the birthplace of modern democracy, Plato was less hopeful of this political system. He argued that like all other things in life, political decisions are best left to those who are knowledgeable, competent and experienced. The same way we go to mechanics to fix our cars or doctors to cure our ailments.

We see no need for competence, excellence and experience. Voters are told what they want to hear, and this is often all the ticket politicians need to get a seat at the table of power.

Other countries take no such chances. In Kenya, individuals can stand for election only if they hold a certificate, diploma, or other post-secondary qualification. We are the opposite. The law says that any South African who qualifies to vote is also eligible to enter politics.

For goodness’ sake, the ANC appears to have had enough of this democratic gamble. Its recent criteria emphasise the need to have competent, qualified and experienced municipal office bearers.

It is like Plato was talking to the ANC to get its groove back.

No more egoists, delinquents, careerists and dunderheads. People deserve better, and the ANC have some of the best to offer.

This is a now or never moment, given that only 14,6% of South Africans stated that they have a lot, 12% somewhat and 24,1% just a little trust in the ANC, according to the Afrobarometer 2021 survey.

Then again, having all the know-how is no guarantee of a refined leader.

Dr Mafole Mokalobe writes in his personal capacity.

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