Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


SA in winter of discontent: ‘Voting not enough, give power back to the people’

Citizens must be able to articulate what they need from government. South Africa's people are the country's last line of defence.


With the national elections slowly approaching, more people are disheartened by politics and believe there’s nothing and nobody to trust – let alone to vote for – which proves there’s a clear need for better civic education, according to civil society body Defend our Democracy.

Its Conference for Democratic Renewal and Change declaration adopted on Saturday called on citizens to stand up as the last line of defence and protect the country.

However, Business Unity SA CEO Cas Coovadia said the outcome of the municipal elections was not just a vote of no-confidence in the ANC, but it showed people have lost faith in politics and could not be bothered to vote.

Author and former editor Songezo Zibi stressed the need for a democratic education campaign, particularly for young people, “because we are beginning to see millions of people thinking democracy doesn’t work and we can’t make it difficult for people to participate in voting”.

Zibi said the fact that various NGOs were petitioning state institutions for failure to deliver services has created the impression that the judiciary was pitted against state institutions.

“What we see is the state is no longer able to perform the basic task of keeping the population safe because it does not have the ability to make sense of information outside of party-political and factional issues,” he said.

“We need to give power back to the people. Voting diligently is not enough. We need a democratic education and accountability campaign, especially for young people.”

On the first day of the conference on Friday, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said “solutions lie in educating citizens – especially the youth – on the value of democracy, and how to recognise disinformation or those who peddle it.”

He added: “Populist shenanigans need to be called out and exposed for what they are, especially when democratic institutions and practices become the target.”

The SA Council of Churches’ general secretary Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana called for a professionalised – and not politicised – civil service.

He said people should not expect accountability from government if they cannot articulate what they exactly need from it.

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