SA’s democracy is a vehicle driven, maintained and cleansed by the worker

Young children experience democracy through the work of the country’ workers. Photograph : Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Young children experience democracy through the work of the country’ workers. Photograph : Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 1, 2024


South Africa’s 30 years democracy milestone went beyond inviting mere jubilation.

It has forced many from every walk of life to ask questions, share anecdotes or register their dissatisfaction.

As the country’s democracy comes under the microscope, it has become certain that more work still needs to be done. This then highlights the significance of the country’s workers.

Democracy is a vehicle that should be used by public representatives and the society’s leaders to cater for the needs as well as deliver goods and services to the nation’s citizenry.

It carries the ideals and aspirations of each and every single person.

A pensioner relies on the democracy vehicle to cater for their ripe old age.

A young child hopes that this democracy will be worthy to carry them into an ideal and prosperous future.

For this to happen, it takes the worker not just to drive, but also wash this vehicle when it gets dirty or fix it when it breaks down.

However, South Africa’s ruthless colonial and apartheid history combined with modern-day challenges mean that there are parts too remote for this vehicle to reach.

We have heard and read that during the floods that battered the country recently, some teachers in rural areas had to cross ferocious rivers to get to the other side where the schools they teach at are located.

In some rural areas, where there is no tar road, when it rains the mud roads become impossible to drive in forcing teachers, healthcare workers and retail store employees to navigate stormy weather to and from work by foot.

We also know about workers who are targeted by criminals either in their workplaces or on their way home and get mugged or hijacked.

The above experiences and too many others to capture in this column force South Africa’s workers to disembark the vehicle that is democracy to render needs, goods and services on foot.

The reality is that there are times when this vehicle breaks down in the course of work, often leaving workers with no choice but to carry their workload like a camel to buffer the suffering of the country’s citizenry.

By doing this, they make democracy make sense to the masses.

To the vast population, democracy is embodied by the teacher who teaches the children born into a democratic South Africa the country's sad history.

Those who feel they are at the bottom rung of the society, only taste democracy from the hands of workers, who negotiate countless challenges to deliver what they are passionate about and competent in.

As South Africa enters the fourth decade after attaining democracy, much more will be demanded from the country’s already overburdened, often under-resourced and under compensated workers.

The country’s police-officers are now dealing with criminals who are a step ahead of them because they are armed with fatal guns only fit for the war-zone.

Health-care workers are on a daily basis seeing patients that suffer from illnesses and diseases that are now more complicated.

Teachers, on the other hand, are dealing with some children who have the greatest aversion to an upright livelihood.

These children fail to even look up to the very teachers in front of them who have themselves made it against the worst of odds. These children come to school armed or bring drugs and alcohol harming the spirits of these public development facilities.

Corruption is now so entrenched in both the public sector and the private sector such that well-meaning workers are at risk of losing their hard earned jobs.

Some of these workers have been killed for flagging wrongdoing or going about achieving the set goals the moral way.

As South Africa marks the 2024 Workers Day, it should promptly act to not only resolve the country’s prevailing challenges that frustrate workers but also work hard to eliminate all that renders them unable to respond to the future-of-work environment.

Currently, the high cost of living is impacting worker livelihoods.

They spend more time and energy dealing with personal challenges to ensure they can still go to work the next day, send their children to school and still take care of their ageing parents.

If due to these challenges, they have no energy, time or resources, they will not be able to self-develop.

They will not be able to keep up with the modern demands of their work.

They will not be able to drive, cleanse and maintain the vehicle called democracy which we all want to deliver in the best way to the masses.

Given Majola is a multimedia reporter at Business Report. He writes in his personal capacity.