Rallying to defend democracy

Johannesburg – A group of us met virtually on March 17 to be addressed by the likes of Mavuso Msimang, Frank Chikane, Saths Cooper, Nishan Bolton, Barbara Masekela and others on the need for us as citizens of South Africa to reclaim our democracy and country.

Things are going alarmingly wrong in the country due to the actions of some crooked politicians, business people, and bureaucrats, and the citizens should not allow it. We should don our activist shoes, T-shirts and caps and pound the streets in defence of our democracy.

This democracy does not belong to politicians, political parties, business entities or any other section, but to the citizens.

When things go wrong, it is the citizens that must be the last line of defence. Meeting under the banner of the Defend our Democracy Campaign, some in the group later held a symbolic demonstration on March 22 at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where people like Mojanku Gumbi and Popo Molefe spoke. Since then, several civil society organisations, business groupings, academics, labour movement and several thousand individuals have endorsed the campaign.

The concern shared by all in the group is that our country might be heading fast towards a failed state, and that if the citizens do not stand up now to defend our democracy, it might soon be too late. The signs are all there for us to see.

On almost a daily basis, testimony at the Zondo Commission reveals orgies of looting, corruption and theft of state resources.

It shows how organs of state were hollowed out, corrupted and rendered so weak that their ability to tackle crime and wrongdoing of any sort is severely compromised. We increasingly appear to be a society bereft of any ethics, solidarity and empathy.

It seems we have become a society where the going mantra is: “Me, I and myself first.” Lawlessness in our society is common place.

More often than not, protests to highlight legitimate concerns degenerate into mayhem, illegal acts that infringe on the rights of others or injuries to non-participants. Even tertiary students, who are our budding intellectuals and future leaders in various spheres of human endeavour, often resort to violence and destruction of property when airing their views on a variety of often valid concerns.

If you destroy university property, where are your younger brothers and sisters, and even your own children, going to get tertiary education?

The most alarming development is the actions of the former president, who helped with the drafting and adoption of the constitution and took an oath to protect and promote it and all laws, then turns around and cock a snook at the Constitutional Court and its pronouncements. We then see a mobilisation of people to protect him against the state and hear pronouncements to the effect that he cannot be arrested.

People in military fatigue are seen camped outside his home and occasionally conducting military drills. This is the stuff warlords are made of. By the way, it is illegal for civilians to wear military uniforms in South Africa.

Why are they not arrested? On a non-partisan basis, the Defend our Democracy Campaign seeks to mobilise us to protect our democracy. Without a working democracy guided by the rule of law, we descend into the law of the jungle, where only the fittest survive.

Mosibudi Mangena.

• Mangena served as deputy minister of education from 2001 to 2004, and from 2004 to 2008 he was minister of science and technology.

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