Former US president Barack Obama delivers the Nelson Mandela annual lecture at Wanderers Stadium, Gauteng. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

South Africa celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 100th Birthday lecture on Tuesday at the Wanderers Stadium. Former President Obama gave a refreshing and nation building speech that field many citizens hearts with hope, confidence and a proud sense of nationalism.

The most interesting relevance, is how President Obama’s speech was to some extent a plea not give up on democracy. Looking at how President Trump has managed to spit on the face of democracy, it is no surprise that former President Obama came out strong against those that seek to undermine democracy.

He also warned against the rise of populist and racialised nationalism, disguised as patriotism. The reference was certainly derived from the experience America witnessed during their last elections; where the rural marginalised population mobilised under the exclusion of a common enemy; one that does not look like them, pray like them, or even love like they do.

I could not help but take this warning to what is happening in South African politics.

Of course, a number of individuals will describe EFF as following behind the footsteps of President Trump’s populist rhetoric. Yes, the EFF is identifying a common (white capital) enemy that is being used to mobilise poor, marginalised South Africans. Yes, EFF policies are considered to be radical and more prone to the influences of socialism.

However, I have to emphasise that all these views and policies are expressed and debated within our democratic institutions. After all, as President Obama said that “democracy relies on the strength of its institutions” and the importance of their independence.

Yes, the country faces an enormous challenge when it comes to corruption. As this has eroded away at the independence of our Executive and Legislative arms of Government. A blessing we can still be grateful for and rely on is our Judiciary. Therefore, no matter what happens or decisions taken, the law has to be complied with.

EFF is not a threat to capital, just as President Trump is not a threat to democracy. The institutions of capital and democracy still stand. It is important to constantly challenge, debate and confront the status quo. Although, this may seem counterproductive or uncomfortable, it is critical in a democratic process.

* Luthando Kolwapi is a political commentator.

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