#changethestory: Democracy dies in darkness

#changethestory: Democracy dies in darkness
As we get frog-marched by the irritating drumbeat of load shedding and SOEs in various degrees of meltdown, 2019 was the year in which a growing political darkness descended upon us.

The Washington Post added the words “Democracy dies in Darkness” under its online masthead in 2017.

What have we as the electorate learnt from our democracy over 25 years? From the ANC we learnt that democracy means loyalty to party and comrades above loyalty to glaring national interests. From the DA we learnt much the same. From the EFF we learnt, well, the same.

And so we go through the list of our 14 parties in Parliament. What our elected representatives fail to understand is that, while they are elected on a party platform, once in office, they represent and serve all South Africans.

It appears as if, once elected, our public representatives drag our democracy into their own darkness by only thinking of advancing party agendas and not national interests.

What they fail to see is if they were to advance our collective national interests, their leadership would shine so much brighter. Instead, all we get from most of them is a dull, boring glare emanating from their narrow, blinkered party-political approaches.

There is simply no one in our political firmament who sets our imagination alight anymore. Our political leadership has taken a once engaged and vibrant democracy into its own dark chambers of narrow, fractured interests, where they are strangling the life out of it.

What is even more dangerous and deceiving, is that while all of them talk of values such as transparency, accountability and a government ready for business, nothing is further from the truth. It is clear that the people and their Parliament are miles apart in terms of what those noble terms mean. Instead of practising transparency, openness and accountability, they have dragged our democracy into the dark abyss of despotic and corrupt interest.

Why has this happened? It happened because we are fearful of the full power of democracy. It happened because we are essentially not democrats by principle and belief. We are a mixture of despots, tyrants, dictators and demagogues married to democracy, and the marriage is going horribly wrong. It happened because we fail to understand our Constitution.

The one outstanding feature of a vibrant democracy is that it has exemplary deal-makers who serve the national interests. Our political settlement, crafted over four long years, included deals such as the Groote Schuur Minute (May 1990), The Pretoria Minute (August 1990) and the National Peace Accord (September 1991) signed by 27 political organisations and national and homeland governments which launched the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa 1 and 2) dialogues.

These hard fought negotiations laid the foundation for the birthing of one of the greatest Constitutions in the world. I would be willing to scrap five of our current public holidays to have one day that celebrates one of the great deals we made, which was to craft a Constitution which is a model for the entire world. Far more attention needs to be paid to the teaching and celebration of our Constitution than we are currently doing.

Let us take a moment tomorrow to take a collective stand to bring our noble democracy and its Constitution out of darkness into the light it deserves to be in.

* Lorenzo A Davids is chief executive of the Community Chest. 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus