Poverty and the contradictions of democracy

2013-12-30 12:40

I wanted to headline this blog piece as "Poverty and the dilemmas of democracy". Its threat to our nascent democratic order and to national security presents a clear and present danger.

Its trite, and only the politically sterile will trash the thesis that poverty constitutes one of the biggest indirect threats to our national security and a direct threat to the Bill of Rights in our Constitution.

The political settlement that preceded the negotiations but which accompanied the transition is the progenitor to our woes today and one has to refer to the fact that SA is the most unequal societies in the world, with the result that calls for the scrapping of the constitution and nationalisation of our banks and mineral resources are getting louder especially in the ranks of the economically disenfranchised.

History teaches us how the Cuban threw off their yoke, how the Russians and the French too. We cannot fall prey to becoming "useful idiots" to neo-liberalists and the fantasies they weave.

On 29.3.2009 an article appeared in a leading nationally circulating Sunday newspaper wherein Dr Mamphela Ramphele headlined that these wasted years of inequality will haunt us. Four years later, at this present point in time we're staring into the abyss. A few days later, she declared that it was "time to take back democracy" (Sunday Tribune 5.4.2009).

When those elected into public office fail to treat all citizens fairly, feast as if in a banquet of entitlement and ignore the writings on the wall, we have the makings of a revolution and with new political parties like the EFF and the formation of a "Patriotic Alliance" point to a symptomatic rebellion that will translate into negative outcomes and I am not referring to the elections in 2014 only.

I get the sense, as someone asked during a post prandial discussion " what is going on in our democracy"? The litmus test for the quality of any democracy anywhere is how well it treats the poorest of the poor and therefore the current status signifies how far government has strayed from the values of the Constitution and it would be disingenuous to blame apartheid.

It is we, the current generation, so easily forgiving and buying into the claim that what we are experiencing currently is part and parcel of a continuum to blame.

Affording access to housing,education and health and social services is merely papering over the cracks. Ask any of those economically disenfranchised whether they have any confidence in these services when those in office blatantly don't since they send their children to private schools and private hospitals.

No pain no gain was the cliched mantra of government as we took those first tentative steps across the bridge. We had to suffer pain and deprivation and be prepared to make sacrifices like our pioneering forefathers.

Yes, South Africans have been patiently suffering the pain that is required for things to get better but coming in the face of a profligate, spendthrift government pillaging our treasury and permitting the theft of our national resources, is there any wonder at the emergence of the EFF and Agang?

We cannot remain blindly deaf, yes "blindly deaf" to the EFF's call for nationalisation of our banks and mines. We cannot ignore why is it that the policies of Robert Mugabe and the late Hugo Chaves seem more palatable than those advocated by so called neo liberal driven policies.

Are those in government so drunk with ignorance and a false sense of invincibility that even though they may lose a few seats in parliament they will still be in power? Are they downplaying dissent in the townships that, at one point led to the ANC councillors to participate in a vote of no confidence against a mayor fro their own party?

And then there's this albatross hanging around the neck of the ANC, namely Nkandla that will not go away.

So what must we ,as a collective do? What is required from us. Humpty Dumpty can be felled after all if we all huff and puff together.

I remember what an anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote somewhere that we must never doubt that a group of concerned citizens can change what needs to be changed.

As Dr Ramphele has challenged us way back in 2009, its time we claimed back our democracy. Enough is enough.

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