Democracy has always been described as a system in which a government is elected by the people for the people. This is an old myth that must be destroyed and exposed for its gross shortcomings and untruths.
The only power that ordinary citizens have is to vote a particular party into power; beyond that, citizens have no control at all when it comes to nominating who will run for parliament or who will represent them. People standing for elections are nominated by the party structures or the branches of the party.
When parties have groups then the party is divided along group lines, where backstabbing is the order of the day and where the leadership gets embroiled in the dirty fighting just to secure control. Such parties try to present a united image to the public but behind that smoke screen of unity, the party is constantly at war with itself, which is not good for the country.
The ANC has experienced internal strive ever since Mbeki became the president. Without Mbeki realising it, Zuma managed to mobilise the ANCWL, the ANCYL, COSATU and the ANC’s lap dog, the SACP to wrench power from Mbeki without the consent of the electorate.
This change in leadership was brought about in a most unruly manner in Polokwane by no more than 5 000 delegates. These 5 000 delegates, with a vested interest decided for 56 million people, who should be their president. For the next eight years of Zuma’s rule, the country went rapidly downhill. The country was run by an autocratic Zuma, where he appointed some of the most corrupt ministers in our history at the behest of corrupt businessmen.
Almost every facet of government, both in parliament and in our SOEs, was heavily influenced by the Guptas and other corrupt businesses, via a very malleable Zuma, who carried out their instructions like a puppet.
The worst example of Zuma’s misrule was when he replaced Nene with the weekend special Van Rooyen as finance minister because Nene refused to bail out the badly run bankrupt SAA and flatly refused to approve funding for an unaffordable nuclear power plant to be built by the Russians.
No one in the ANC, the opposition or the public had any power to stop Zuma from continuing his autocratic rule and total destruction of our economy. Our country lost about R500 billion through the replacement of Nene by Van Rooyen and Zuma got away with it Scott free.
There is another side to elections in democracies that is rarely mentioned and that is the role of corrupt businesses, crime syndicates and countries with a vested interest in the outcome of a country’s election. It is no secret that America, which poses to be the champion of democracy, has always played a role in supporting dictatorships that were favourably disposed to America, especially in South America.
In the last American elections there were numerous allegations that the Russians had been implicated in manipulating the outcome of the American election to favour Trump. Outside influence does not only influence the policies of the ruling parties they also have their tentacles in the opposition to weaken the ruling party.
The EFF, whose leader prides himself about being the champion of democracy, gave his full support to the very corrupt former SARs commissioner, Tom Moyane, like a dictator, literally ran SARs to the ground and was allegedly responsible for not collecting R140 billion in tax revenue in the previous financial year. He apparently gave an illegal tobacco syndicate favourable treatment. It has been alleged that the head of this syndicate is one of the major donors of the Eff. This would explain, why Malema came to the defence of Tom Moyane during the commission of inquiry into SARS.
Corruption in elections is not exclusive to South Africa, its been prevalent in the rest of Africa, where Democratic leaders rigged elections to remain in power for over thirty years. Mugabe was one classic example and the vote could do nothing to stop this dictator. Corruption in democratic elections is rife especially in third world countries, where politics seems to be the easiest way for desperate individuals way to get rich quick and where corruption is the only way to remain in power.
The ANC’s latest election list has some of the most despicable and corrupt nominees for parliament because the branches that elected them are as corrupt as these nominees. Our only safeguard from rampant corruption by a ruling party is an opposition that has the muscle to challenge the ruling party in court.
A free press along with an independent judiciary have been our greatest assets to expose the corrupt in an out of government, much to the disdain of the ruling and certain opposition parties, like the Eff, even though they profess to support media freedom. Even the bumbling Trump hates the press - like Jessie Duarte does - but without an honest press we would be in the dark and the corruption would have gone unabated.
Finally, our vote has a very limited role to elect honest leaders if elections can be rigged or if the electorate has no power to decide who should represent them in government. It is the public’s constant vigilance, demonstration and opposition to government abuse that will ensure that we prevent government abuse. If that fails, then we are opening up ourselves to be taken over by a dictator like Zuma.
* Dr Ellapen Rapiti is a family physician, specialising in child and mental health and addiction counselling.