voice for democracy

Protecting democracy's architecture from cadre deployment and careless commentary – IOL

By Lorenzo A Davids Time of article published Oct 12, 2021
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The 2021 local government elections runs the risk of being one of the most chaotic elections in our democratic history.
The constant whittling away at the integrity of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) weakens one of the cornerstones of our democracy. Over the last while, we have seen another such cornerstone, the Constitutional Court, suffer similar attacks.
Post the exit of Thuli Madonsela, the office of the Public Protector has similarly been turned into a battleground, testing legal principle upon legal principle and suffering defeat after defeat.
Add to that the SA Human Rights Commission and its sluggish approach to upholding human rights (think sewerage, water, and pit latrines). One is led to conclude that, across the architecture of democracy, these vital independent institutions that should not suffer any form of political interference or manipulation, have been subjected to extreme pressure by both elected politicians and deployed cadres.
We can also add the Judicial Service Commission, which has also come under the spotlight for its integrity.
What about the South African Bill of Rights? Heard of it lately? How many use it in their engagements with the state or use it to defend their human rights?
These six cornerstones of our democracy are established in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
When their independence, service or integrity is found wanting, it places the entire constitutional framework of our young democracy at risk.
These sacred cornerstone institutions must not be subjected to puerile cadre deployment or unrestrained criticisms by politicians.
Both cadres and politicians would do well to tread this sacred ground of leadership with due respect for the integrity of these institutions. Both those who serve in it and those who pronounce on it must take the duty of protecting its constitutional integrity as a service to the people of South Africa.
Internal corrupt practices and uncorroborated external pronouncements deeply damage these institutions and weaken public trust in them.
These are the institutions that safeguard our constitutional democracy.
When their decision making becomes questionable or when they appear to be partial in their actions, they put at risk the lives of 60 million people.
Our democracy will not survive if these institutions fall to cadre deployment or careless commentary.
It will not survive if politicians chip away at its integrity and pronounce non-evidentiary mistrust upon its workings. We need a very competent IEC. We need a legally capable Public Protector’s Office.
We need a Judicial Service Commission that is not held to ransom by constructs that the Constitution states should not influence us.
We need a Human Rights Commission that investigates complaints without fear or favour and does not become embroiled in divided loyalties.
We need a more visible awareness of the South African Bill of Rights. And we need to treat the Constitutional Court with the respect it deserves and not cast aspersions upon it.
If these institutions fall due to our irresponsible conduct, we will no longer have a country. The nightmare of 1993 will then be our future – a nightmare of a country that will go up in flames. And it will be our fault – for we are the ones who would have seeded its demise with corrupt cadres and careless pronouncements.
This season the spotlight is on the IEC. They must do everything in their power to assure all South Africans that they are delivering a free and fair election process.
There should be no doubt as to its integrity. Every one of the over 23 000 voting stations must have sufficient ballot papers and ink, sufficient staff, and must open on time and close on time. That is the beginning of determining an election as free and fair. There can be no excuses for missteps with any aspect of these fundamentals.
It is time we stake a strong stance at the incompetence of cadres and careless pronouncements, and defend democracy’s cornerstone institutions.
* Lorenzo A Davids.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
Cape Argus
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