UK statesman Winston Churchill said this decades ago, reflecting on the imperfections of this system of governance. And no variation of it is perfect. Last year’s presidential elections, which catapulted Donald Trump to the White House in the US, is a case in point.
But the system remains the only instrument democracies like South Africa have at their disposal that are capable of bringing about new leadership efficiently and smoothly at regular intervals.
The race for the ANC presidency is nearing its climax. In a few weeks, South Africa will find out who the ruling party’s president will be. And that person is then in line to become citizen No 1.
The outcome may not please everyone, but just how the key contenders accept it will be crucial. So far, the signs are good.
After President Jacob Zuma’s “last supper” with the top seven vying for his position his deputy uttered important words this week that bode well for the party and South Africa’s future.
“If I’m unsuccessful, I will gladly, unreservedly, accept the outcome of the decision of the delegates. And if a different person is elected to be president, to lead our great movement, I will pledge my support, my loyalty.”
His comments follow similar remarks by his main rival, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and should reassure everyone watching to see who will emerge as the new leader of the party and likely future president of South Africa.
Also, to her credit, Dlamini Zuma has repeatedly urged those involved in the race to commit to accepting the outcome, warning that bitterness after losing clouds judgement and has a toxic effect on the discourse about our problems.
At this highly symbolic and important last supper it was reassuring to note that the outgoing president who hosted it made no predictions of one of the seven ever betraying him as Jesus Christ did about of his apostle Judas Iscariot.
We hope, therefore, that none of these great leaders of the movement that helped deliver South Africa from apartheid to freedom will betray democracy. While the tensions are perhaps higher than ever, as we enter a month crucial to the ANC and South Africa it is still safe to say so far, so good.
* Mazwi Xaba is the editor of the Sunday Tribune