Elections: Freedom and justice remain incomplete

Independent political analysts have blamed the Constitution for the continued impoverishment of the people in the country. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Independent political analysts have blamed the Constitution for the continued impoverishment of the people in the country. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Published Jun 2, 2024


SINCE 1994, South Africans have enjoyed their right to vote, with the hope of achieving a better life. However, political analysts felt that freedom and justice remained incomplete and unresolved.

Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote in the hotly contested seventh general elections and 30 years of constitutional democracy that saw the ruling party struggling to maintain its grip as its support dwindled.

Despite their right to vote, independent political analysts have blamed the Constitution for the continued impoverishment of the people in the country.

Independent political analyst and senior lecturer at the University of Limpopo Dr Metji Makgoba stated that South Africa had developed a “reinforcing circle between socio-economic inequality and political inequality” that enabled the powerful to use formally democratic processes to perpetuate injustice and preserve privilege for certain people.

“By accommodating old orders of power and old subject-positions, the democratic processes under colonial logics have amplified rather than corrected apartheid capitalism’s main economic distortions.

“The post-1994 legal and political rearrangements continue to reproduce and leave unaddressed the historical results of settler-colonialism, white supremacy, and racial capitalism.

“There is a dominant assumption in media, economic and political discourse that views the ANC’s democratic liberal rule as a direct replacement of colonialism and apartheid in South Africa that ended the oppression of black people. This discourse legitimates the actions of the ANC that it has been working towards the dismantling relations of conquest and racial capitalism.

“Yet the reality is that the ruling party has failed to dismantle these relations while using a mixture of left-wing, anti-colonial and anti-apartheid discourses and the promises of a better life for all to maintain legitimacy. Alongside this legitimacy that has sustained its political power, the ANC has ideologically mystified concepts of “transformation” and “reconciliation” – “both of which involve pragmatic accommodation of white interests and entitlements.

“Under this mystification, the legacies of colonialism and apartheid have been compounded through the Constitution and other political means which sustain colonial frameworks of state formation while naturalising the settler-created world in the post-1994 society.

“In mainstream economic and political discourses, part of this mystification involves treating the continuing racial subordination of black people as the injustices of the past that disappeared with the institutionalisation of liberal democracy and socio-economic rights in the Bill of Rights,” said Makgoba.

Echoing Makgoba’s sentiments, political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe emphasised that the land question was an important signifier of South Africa's Constitutional democracy.

He said that what was rarely acknowledged was that the same Constitution provided the legitimacy for the unequal socio-economic disparities spawned by apartheid.

“Black people have had to reconcile with poverty and whites with the privileges they enjoyed under apartheid colonialism … It comes as no surprise that the burden of disease is experienced by the African majority. It also comes as no surprise that Africans find themselves at the bottom of the economic rung. The income of a white household is five times that of an African household. Whites occupy 72% of senior and managerial positions.

“African communities are exposed to having running sewage in their backyard, a reality that has since become a laughing matter to the president,” he said.

Seepe said unemployment had rocketed, to the extent that many young Africans risked not finding employment in their lifetime.

For Africans, constitutional democracy had reinforced white supremacy and black inferiority in socio-economic and psychological terms, he added.

Political analyst Yolokazi Mfuto said it was unfortunate that some people had declared democracy a failure, adding that authoritarian leadership could be better.

Mfuto commended the country’s democracy, arguing that it had developed and citizens had used existing mechanisms to ensure that their voices were heard and the government was taken to account.

She said that among those who have doubts about the country’s democracy, the Afrobarometer found that many young people (70%) had deemed democracy as a form of government that was not working.

“Land redistribution and development of the economy remains to be one of the most important levers that could ensure the best benefit of democracy. South Africans have been dispossessed, millions are unable to contribute to the growth of the economy because they are disenfranchised.

“The issue of inadequate public health-care service might be addressed by effective implementation of the National Insurance Bill. It is pivotal that every citizen has access to the best services, particularly relating to health care,” she said.

Mfuto felt that education needed to be prioritised as a means of safeguarding the constitutional democracy, ensuring that free and quality education was accessible to everyone.

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