Puppet Electorate

Christina Engela's picture

Something is still really wrong with our democracy in South Africa. The poorest of the poor are still intimidated into voting for particular parties - being told that their homes will be burned to the ground if they do not vote a particular way - little realizing that their ballots are secret. They believe this, and so the vote generally does go a certain way.

Intimidation is as much a part of a real democracy as is an ignorant voter - not at all.

I think our country is very young in terms of understanding democracy as a concept. I think the broader populace, having been oppressed so long, have only the idea that democracy meant them being in charge, being able to just make decisions for others and rolling over them regardless of what they have to say about it. The concept of a Constitution just means a set of guidelines that can be changed to suit them whenever they are found to be inconvenient. I think they have confused the idea of democracy with mob-rule, and if you look at the internal politics of their tripartite alliance, that is exactly what you will see in play.

Were we educated in school today about the workings of democracy? No, we weren't. I think it is because the previous government realised that if we white kids ever were educated on how a democracy was SUPPOSED to work, we would have realised that South Africa never was a democracy at all. in the same vein, I sincerely doubt that kids in our schools today have any real grounding or education in what the mechanics of democracy actually look like. Compare schools in the USA to ours for example - kids learn about democratic values, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and its value, and get hands on experience in electing class presidents, participating in campaigning and elections first-hand. Fifteen years in to our new democracy in this country, we still do not have this - and we never have.

Politics is left to those few who feel a calling to defend human rights, or those opportunists who recognize the opportunity to dictate to others and to force others to see things their way. As a result, there are few impressive figures in South African politics today. And, unfortunately, the political arena that is Government today, seems to resemble far more a "revolutionary house" than a democracy, accompanied with the discord and gross incompetence that accompanies such a house.

Add to that, the intentions of so many groups wanting to drag other ideologies - such as religion into politics. And what is so insidious is the way in which they subvert democratic principles and use democratic processes to sabotage democracy itself. An accurate analogy would be getting democracy to fall on on it's sword - to cause itself to be replaced with a theocracy - a religious fundamentalist state. It is sad that so few people can see anything "fundamentally" wrong with this notion.

I believe that this failure to educate is why we have such a bad case of apathy and a general sense of disinterest in politics here - because people are going through school and entering the electorate without the sense of empowerment brought by the knowledge that YOUR vote can make a difference.

People don't realise, because they don't know - and because they don't know, they don't care. And this is precisely what places groups who enjoy the benefits of such disinterest and ignorance, in power - and keeps them there.
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