Active citizens contribute to good governance

2016-10-30 18:46

I recently read Andrew Ragavaloo’s book, Richmond: Living in the Shadow of Death. The greedy quest for power in Richmond resulted in displacement, brutal killings and sufferings are portrayed in the book.

This engrossing, sad and deeply touching book in the form of a personal, first hand narrative reads like a lived reality and stands as evidence to the importance and value of rule of law, accountability, transparency and good governance. The book also exposes the harms of being authoritarian, authoritative, having dogmatic views and the hidden dangers of herd mentality.

While reading the book, I am reminded of challenges, issues, controversies and problems now facing South Africa, even in our community based organisations and institutions. And how power politics is playing out and how individuals will go to great lengths just to garner and maintain power and positions. The book teaches us about the dangers of power and greed, and how power tends to corrupt; it reinforces the aphorism “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and I believe it is one of the wisest sayings ever voiced.

In order for people in power to stay humble, focused and to make correct decisions for the greater good of humanity, it is important for them to find and surround themselves with honest, forthright, ethical and knowledgeable people. Otherwise, power can tempt a leader into acts of regrettable actions and regrettable decisions.

A multidimensional approach is needed to tackle corruption and self-aggrandisement in South Africa in order to improve the lives of the less fortunate people.

I believe though the concept of active citizenship grounded in Ubuntu, responsibility, transparency, rule of law, accountability, good governance and democratic values we can move South Africa forward. A democracy requires both an effective and skilled leadership and a forceful and energetic citizenship.

We need to develop educational programs to improve skills like responsibility, co-operation, deepening, building and maintaining democracy, effective dialogue and communication. These skills need to be taught at learning institutions in order to increase critical thinking and vibrant ability, reduce intolerance, discrimination and to build tolerance, understanding, compassion, and openness to diversity or different cultures and religious practices. Education is central to transformation and change.

A vibrant civil society and service orientated political culture will prevent entitlement and will combat authoritarian attitudes and herd mentality and will encourage the development of intercultural and democratic values and systems. To quote Dr Mamphela Ramphele: “true liberation is only possible if we liberate our consciousness and start behaving as active citizens, rather than as passive subjects.”

We need to fiercely defended and protect our Constitution and deepen democracy. Every conscious driven individual should serve notice that we, the citizens of South Africa refuse to bow or back down against the corrupt who seek to defile our constitution.

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