There was an interesting “debate” on Twitter this morning, about leadership and the problems of South Africa, apparently sparked off by an article by Max du Preez, pointing out that South Africa is an open society, and not a “failed state”
One of the exchanges it sparked off was this:
The 140 character limit of Twitter doesn’t make it the ideal medium for a serious political discussion (which is one of the reasons that I am writing this here, and not on Twitter), but I think that some were saying that violent protests were a method of the 1980s, and this is 2015. In the 1980s South Africa was a closed society. Violent protest was one way of getting the attention of those in power, and changing things.
Max du Preez’s article points out that South Africa is no longer a closed society, it is an open society. Instead of trying to get the attention of those in power, and demand that they do things (like “service delivery”), the way is open for people to take power, and do things for themselves.
Next year we will have local government elections, and if the municipal government hasn’t delivered, there is the opportunity to change them, not by burning tyres and libraries, but by voting the bastards out of office.
This can be done by organising locally, at a local level. Instead of the big national political parties parachuting in leaders as rewards for political loyalty, we need local people to organise and vote them out.
One thing that could be borrowed from the 1980s is the Civic Associations that were organised locally back then. The difference is that back then the Civics could only organise protests. Now that we have an open society they can produce candidates for election and organise the voters, because they ARE the voters. We have democracy. We have an open society, so it can be done.
Max du Preez’s article is important. Read it, and organise. South Africa not a failed state | News24 – Linkis.com
History teaches us that countries with open societies very seldom become failed states. Only when a state’s openness and personal freedoms are destroyed can there be a breeding ground for failure.
The terms failed state, banana republic and “becoming Zimbabwe” are being used freely nowadays to describe South Africa, even more so after Eskom’s failures and the scandalous behaviour during the State of the Nation Address last month.
This is uninformed nonsense. Prod those who use these terms and nine out of 10 times you will find an Afro-pessimist or someone that never believed that a black government was able to manage a modern democracy and economy like ours.
The openness of our society is our greatest asset. This is the product of our constitutional guarantees of free speech and the rule of law, but it has now been internalised and become the new “normal”.
We don’t need to make the celeb-style leaders “listen” in the hope of getting them to do something. We need people who will use the local government elections to push the failed leaders aside and replace them with ones who actually represent the people.
We live as if it is the most normal thing to criticise the head of state and other politicians using extreme language. The deepest secrets of the state are regularly exposed without endangering the journalists’ lives.
When I wrote nasty things about the last two presidents of the pre-democratic era and exposed their unholinesses, I was dragged to court dozens of times, my office was bombed and agents were sent to assassinate me.
Our openness is one of the most important building blocks upon which our democracy, our stability and our relatively free economic activities are built. This is why South Africa cannot be described as a failing state in any sense of the word. Struggling state, perhaps, state with a multitude of challenges, yes, but not a failed state according to the accepted definition of the term.
As some pointed out in the Twitter interchange, people like Max du Preez (and me) are old. It is up to the youth. But as the youth of the 1980s organised the Civic Associations, surely the youth of 2015 can do something similar.