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Chaos in SA points to failures in the project to build a democracy

Is the president’s cautious approach defensible?
South African soldiers interrogate a pedestrian outside a mall in Soweto. Photo by Emmanuel Croset/AFP via Getty Images

The spate of violence that’s engulfed South Africa shows that not all citizens have internalised constitutional democracy and the rule of law as the organising principle of the post-apartheid society.

Various interventions to institutionalise democracy were more focused on policy interventions and institution-building to safeguard it, but not on ensuring that it was embraced by the entirety of society, appreciating it as the basis of its evolution.

The violence started in KwaZulu-Natal following the imprisonment of the former president Jacob Zuma to serve a 15-month sentence for contempt of the order of the Constitutional Court.

This was initially hailed as a victory for the rule of law. But the subsequent rioting and mass looting of retail outlets shows it to have been a pyrrhic victory. In many ways, the edifice of the country’s constitutional democracy where the judicial authority is vested in the courts to institutionalise the rule of law is blown to smithereens.

This betrays the sacrifices of many to create an orderly society, where progress related to their selfless efforts had gathered pace over years. Just in a wink of an eye, all is going up in flames.

Beyond the pale in this rasping disobedience is the clamour of a war cry demanding Zuma’s release. Isn’t this treasonous, especially by those who use their influential standing in society to agitate for insurrections in the guise of protest? These concepts are not the same. The constitution states that citizens have the right to “assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions”, but “peacefully and unarmed”. This is what protest means.

Closely related to it is freedom of expression, which does not include “incitement of imminent violence or to cause harm”. Especially in the social media, reckless postings with incendiary intentions to stoke violence, looting, and destruction of property incite insurrection – an uprising against the state.

This is lawlessness, not protest.

The country is held at ransom by those cajoling the state into concessions intended to belie the essence of its foundation based on the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law. This is largely by those who are demanding that the law should apply to the former president differently.

This absurdity should not in any way be entertained lest it mark the onset of the death of the rule of law.

An important principle in the organisation of the post-apartheid society is that of equality before the law and that nobody is above it.

In my view state power should be unleashed to clamp down on the violence. But this isn’t a sustainable way of making people understand that South Africa is a constitutional democracy. In many ways the rioting shows that many South Africans haven’t grasped what it was that the country decided to become as a post-apartheid society.


The violence and looting has spawned a situation of national danger for President Cyril Ramaphosa. As the commander-in-chief of the defence force it was within his powers to declare a state of emergency. He did not. Instead, he opted to consult widely for the next course of action should the situation not subside.

This has come to define his presidential disposition. The state of emergency is the intervention of the last resort to maintain or regain control over public affairs. The constitution makes provision for it.

[When] the life of the nation is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency”, the President can declare a state of emergency if such “is necessary to restore peace and order.

A core element of this is suspending civil rights. In other words, when democracy as the organising principle of society is imperilled, undemocratic means can be used to save it.

Which raises the question: is the president’s cautious approach defensible? Haven’t the incidences of violence, which by their nature are tantamount to insurrections, and therefore create disorder, a reason enough for the declaration of state of emergency?

Despite Ramaphosa’s tough talk, and the deployment of troops, thuggery continues unabated opportunistically preying on the credulity of the disadvantaged groups in society to make all the actions being taken look like a socioeconomic grievance.

But doesn’t this give us a hint of where the fault line may lie in institutionalising the country’s constitutional democracy?

Invoking state power to maintain order and stability is necessary. But it isn’t a sustainable way of making citizens internalise that South Africa is a constitutional democracy.

In many ways the insurrections suggest that many do not seem to have signed up to the concept that the rule of law would be the organising principle in democratic South Africa. Various interventions to institutionalise democracy were more focused on policy interventions and institution-building to safeguard it, but not on ensuring that it was embraced by the entirety of society.

Had this been the case, many would not have fallen into the trickery of not seeing the violence unleashed against democracy as the push back by the beneficiaries of corruption. In other words, for a democracy to endure, it must exist in the consciousness of society.

But how should South Africa go about this?

The construction of a democracy

This requires social institutions as subsystems that optimise co-existence to reassert their role in society, in the same way they animated patriotism in galvanising citizen participation in the making of South Africa’s constitution.

If the mayhem that besets the country is anything to go by, indications are that what became a social contract out of this exercise – where the powers and obligations of the state in relation to the rights and responsibilities of the citizens are defined – may not have been deliberately and systematically brought back into the people’s understanding of what it means to shape society’s consciousness.

In the hubris of the democratic breakthrough, social institutions as platforms to shape the nation’s character receded from this important role.

Much of this is glaring in the learning spaces, where education tends to focus more on forming the mind, and less on character formation. Many who are in the forefront of the mayhem that besets the country had interacted with education in their lives. Some are graduates. They are learned but lack civic character.

This calls for great introspection of the approach to education, lest the institutions of learning keep churning out miscreants that damage rather than build society.

It is time to introduce civic education at all levels of learning to cut across various disciplines. And it should emphasise citizenship as being about shared values of humanism, as enshrined in the constitution, where co-existence is about sustaining each other.

As a function of responsible citizenry, a good society makes democracy thrive. Its safety does not lie in the power of the state to exact obedience, but in the collective conscience of society. Social institutions are key to instilling this.

If this had existed, the Zuma moment which has gripped the country would have been averted as many would have known that South Africa is a constitutional democracy based on the rule of law.The Conversation

Mashupye Herbert Maserumule, Professor of Public Affairs, Tshwane University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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A very long-winded and tortuous article that can be summarised in a few words: A very large proportion of the South African population is entirely ignorant of the law or sees no good reason to observe it. OK?

South Africa is unique in that Tribalism and Democracy are two completely different animals

It is and always will remain a challenge to try and marry the two

Zuma is a prime example.The one Zuma, dressed in a suit, ex President of a Democratic movement, the other an iNduna donning his traditional attire, singing traditional songs with a spear, inciting what we perhaps do not understand

Which one is the one that his “people” follow?

Given events of the past week, marred with no regard for the law of democracy, but the law of the jungle, is evidence enough of our country’s challenges

….and these wonderful totalitarian words every president loves to be known he has..
“… In my view state power should be unleashed to …”
“…. A core element of this is suspending civil rights”
“… It is time to introduce civic education at all levels of learning to cut across various disciplines”

Totalitarianism, Indoctrination and Unequivocal Submission

This professor obviously has admiration for North Korea

How did this guy get a job at a university of technology? How much technology do they actually teach there?

Think about how many ANC councillors and candidates are murdered each year. Where is the respect for democratic processes?

16 JULY 2021 @ 10:02 PM
There has to be organised restraint to hold back all and every natural reaction and the deployment of anything whatsoever for 3 entire days. There is no excuse for such obvious and lethal political impediment placed in front of the entirety of all available forces. The effect has been to aid and abet the organisers, who are said to belong within the Intelligence arm of the government. The entire country can be overrun by terrorists in 3 days of similar lack of response. The entirety of government and civil leadership can be rounded up and shot in 3 days. It is clear that civil society must make its own plan to protect itself and its way of life. This government can only stand back and do absolutely nothing for the nation when needed and called upon. Their collective effort has only been to stand back and thereby assist the organisers and effectively contribute to the loss of life. How can anyone ever trust any member of the existing leadership ever again?

Comment on story: LIVE ARCHIVE: Ramaphosa says riots were a planned attack on SA’s democracy

CR is being given intentionally poor advise by the Zuma faction that surrounds him. His failing is to act as their spokesperson and thereby as a tool for these felons.
If the Generals could be trusted I would propose Martial Law and Military control until real law and order can be established and every crook convicted.

CR did not want state of emergency because he cannot fully trust the army.

Not sure if CR is still in possession of his faculties. Who checks his food and drink?

Oh — we have a “Democracy”
Everyone has the vote (including a VERY large contingent of immigrants)
We have a “shining -world class) constitution with rights and all.
The real problem is stupidity among the voters, criminals in the highest offices, a total disrespect for law and order and an inability to prosecute 95% of those that are guilty of things.

This is a problem in most of Africa and will unfortunately NOT go away despite all the talk and stutter!!

” As a function of responsible citizenry, a good society makes democracy thrive. Its safety does not lie in the power of the state to exact obedience, but in the collective conscience of society. ”

Anybody that has lived in South Africa knows that a uncomfortable large segment of the society lives by a different creed. Too many are potentially opportunistic criminals. I think this is the result of the ANC’s drive in the eighties to make South Africa ungovernable. Any type of violence , bombing , looting , general destruction and sabotage was
used to achieve this aim.
Even on the fateful Monday in Feb 1990 after Mandela was released the country was burning and looting and general mayhem ruled the day on many spots, organised by bused in ANC agitators.
After 27 years of accelerating decay in any sphere of life and job losses the ANC leadership is on each others throat mainly because the opportunity for theft and corruption has shrunk in tandem with the – politically – engineered and hampered economy.
The decline that we have witnessed cannot be stopped or reversed by the same unfit to govern people who engineered it. Sadly , the predominantly uneducated , emotionally driven ANC voters cannot draw this conclusion and that is why South Africa is glamouring for the
” Failed State ” medal of dishonor.

A couple of months ago I arrived home after doing some grocery shopping at a leading South African supermarket. I noticed from my till slip that I was only charged for one particular item instead of the two that were in my shopping bag. I returned to the store straight away, bought it to the manager’s attention and paid for the said item.

The alarming thing for me was that the store manager was just about speechless and couldn’t believe that I was so honest! I told her that I was an honest person and was doing the right thing. She thanked me profusely for my integrity.

If we want to change things for the better it starts with each and everyone of us in the smallest ways imaginable. Lead by example and do what’s right – you’ll feel a whole lot better for it.

Parents have the biggest role to play in forming the mind and teaching morals. We can’t shift ALL education to the education system. We a parents must do our parenting jobs properly.

And we should not have babies for the grant.

It’s not about ‘internalizing constitutional democracy’ but more about first overcoming African feudalism.

Europe never got to be civilized and embracing of democracy by remaining feudal.

That is why there remains too many ignorant sheep within certain cultures in SA.

Well, there’s a cheerful prospect. Feudalism broke down in Europe in the 14th century mainly as a result of the Black Death, which wiped out a third of the population. From there it took almost six hundred years for much of western Europe to get to something resembling democracy, the First World War being another major catalyst.

The ‘ignorant sheep’ may yet get there faster than the European ‘cultures’. Let us hope so.

The lawlessness is merely a public display of the heart of the ANC. The Zondo Commission proves this statement. The ANC majority in parliament is based upon legalized plunder. Those in Luthuli House who became BEE billionaires by corrupting the law to legalize plunder have set the axample for their supporters to follow.

The problem here is with the law itself. The people have no respect for the law because the law is not respectable.

“Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces? If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.” – Bastiat. “The Law”

The Frog Boilers Pot just boiled over as he forget to watch the temp being turned up behind his back !!!
ANC simply proving yet again what Mamparas they are :

Democracy is just a word in Africa.

As tragic as the events of the past week have been, it does nothing to move South Africa in the right direction. Yes, deploying the army to enforce peace and order is good, but it is only a plaster on a festering wound. What is needed and has been demanded by the actions of the last week, is solutions to the real problems of unemployment and social upliftment. And Cyrils hands are tied in these matters.

To fix unemployment we need investment: ANC policy is pushing forward with EWC killing any prospect of foreign investments.

To fix service delivery we need accountability and competence. Cadre deployment ensures that is nothing but a dream

To fix corruption we need the ANC to go after their own who have stolen and plundered. Their track record in this regard is a joke.

Cyril is an ANC party man through and trough – not powerful enough to take control and bring about the changes that are needed. The smoke will clear, but the fires burning below ground are nowhere near being extinguished. Not with our current leadership.

The author is correct in his observation that the concepts of “democracy” have not been internalised by the masses, but insufficient in thinking this can be corrected simply by adjusting the education system.

There needs to be a FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION from the irresponsible tribal system of raising children, to the steady discipline and responsibility of raising children in a small, loving, nuclear family with BOTH parents present, and BOTH actively and enthusiastically involved in bringing up their kids.

This is the DEFINING FEATURE of a successful nation and culture.

There has to be an explicit political focus on incentivising this in the populace at every turn.

The challenge for SA: name a single political party that has a well-defined – and explicit – strategy to achieve this transformation?

Ans: NONE!

And right there is the prediction for the future of SA.

Forget about relying on the “Rule of Law” to save SA.

That’s putting the cart before the horse!

Respect for the law arises ENTIRELY from respecting “family values”.

No family = No values = the chaos we witness now.

There are NO shortcuts to this solution.

An excellent summation …. which sadly means there is a very long road ahead of us if we want the entire country to move from a Third to Second to First world society.

You have made this point before, and it certainly is worth repeating. Strong family ties form the foundation of successful communities. In their book “AIDS the Challenge for South Africa”, Dr. Alan Whiteside and Clem Sunter found that the collapse of the family structure and civil society underly the fact that South Africa suffers the highest incidence of AIDS in the world. Some thought that poverty was to blame. They proved that it is not a poverty issue, but rather a lack of cohesive fabric in the community that drives the epidemic.

This brings us to the chicken and egg problem. What comes first? I suggest that the collapse of the family structure is a function of the chosen political-economic system, while you believe that improvements in the family structure may improve the socio-economic reality. The problem I see with the family structure in a communalist society is that communalist, collectivist, or communist societies are essentially unaccountable and anti-individualistic while those factors are crucial for strong family structures. When the “accountability lies with the collective”, “it takes a village to raise a kid” because the parents are unaccountable.

Parents should accept the responsibility for birth control, to begin with. Then they should be accountable and act responsibly to work and live for the benefit of the children. Succesful and caring parents are employable. It requires a certain measure of individualism to accept the responsibility to study and to keep a steady job.

The point I am trying to make is that a failure of the family structure is inherent to the communalist mindset. It is impossible to turn a communalist into a capitalist by artificially massaging the family structure to fit a chosen mold. Keep in mind that Marx and Engels motivated Lenin to abolish the family structure because it interfered with the “noble” communist goals of equality. Material inequality is built on the relative strengths of the family structures of people from different socio-economic classes. The variance in family structure leads to a variance in material equality. Only economic growth can solve this problem.

Thanks for your response and reflection, Sensei.

You bring a number of misconceptions to the table – the poroverbial red herrings.

1. “It is impossible to turn a communalist into a capitalist by artificially massaging the family structure to fit a chosen mold.”

Not true! At all.

That is EXACTLY what happened in China! A hard-core communist country that literally changed the family-structure, and has over several decades strategically also adopted useful capitalist elements into its society. To such huge advantage now that China is leading the USA in almost any industrial field and measure of economic improvement you care to mention.

2. “Only economic growth can solve this problem.”

Again, just an economist’s wishful hope! All meringue and no substance! It’s noteworthy that while you eagerly make this claim, you don’t back it up with a solid example. Tsk, Sensei.

Because indeed, the CONTRARY can ALSO be true ! (And I will argue it emphatically is so in SA’s situation).

Economic growth WITHOUT a STRONG parallel social DISCIPLINE merely creates the future pre-conditions for its own self-implosion.

For example, during earlier decades, there WAS sufficient employment … but which only encouraged EXCESSIVE population growth amongst the poor … which created expensive requirements for infrastructure that the poor don’t (and CANNOT) contribute to … and which has now outrun the capacity of the existing tax-payer base to keep up with.

3. “The variance in family structure leads to a variance in material equality”.

Not sure what your point is in raising this?

We have a majority third-world society with a pretty-much non-existent (non-nuclear) family-structure – compared to the rest of society where the nuclear family-unit is very much the cherished ideal.

If you look for measures of “success” (however you define it) in these two very different worlds, there is NO question, that the COMMON DENOMINATOR is the positive influence of the family. The closer the “family” is to a nuclear family with BOTH parents present AND involved … the GREATER the PROBABILITY that the family AND the progeny will achieve (and even create!) success.

The interesting thing is that this correlation holds both ACROSS, and WITHIN, diverse population groups (from squatter camps to rich estates).

Right now, who is running around looting and burning?

The youth from the good families?

Or the youth from the “No-real-family” as we know it ??

Fix the “family” problem and we will turn SA around.

Everything thing else is just a distraction.

Ignore it, and the situation is ONLY going to get worse. And yes, there’s plenty more runway for “the problem” to get MUCH more worse.

This is a harsh headline. “Failure to build a democracy…”

Supporters FOR the Apartheid-system would use this heading & say: “we told you so”.
Or “that’s why we kept the system as long possible, as we knew democracy would not be achievable, but lawlessness instead.”

Please help me, I want to counter possible arguments from PRO-Apartheid supporters, but have little to back me up after 27 years, to truly show them ‘the democracy is still developing. Give Africa more time” I’d say.

So many words used in an article that could have been reduced to just a few… THIS IS ALL DUE TO THE THIEVING ANC.

“ interventions to institutionalise democracy were more focused on policy interventions and institution-building”

At the end of they day it is very hard to stir up a mob if they are content. The ANC has failed in EXECUTION rather than policy and that is mainly because they deployed cadres to perform jobs those cadres are wholly incapable of performing.

It also does not help that the ANC still runs on bloody consensus. Instead of making an executive decision based on facts and analysis they spend years diluting an idea until all the comrades agree and have had their say.

We have mobs of people that would as easily loot because the Springboks lost (or won) a rugby test as they would loot to release Zuma.

Failures yes, but I am very encouraged. Who came to the rescue of many local businesses. The local taxi associations. Formed taxi barrier’s and stopped the looters in their tracks at the various shopping centre’s. Clear insight from them. No workers, no business. It is time for South Africans to embrace one another and move forward. Many a mile between talking and doing. And they are doing. I salute them all. And for the talkers, lol.

Credit where it’s due ! If only all taxi associations were painted with the same brush.

When you have xenophobia,racism,toxic enviroment,misinformation,fake news…then you know that democracy is a not really a democracy.Its hiding all these.Lets face it the country was sold to WMC and gupthas.
The ANC got greedy and its come home to bite.The people got angry and it revealed itself the last 6 days.

Since when are the Guptas “white”?

True its failed.For example

Message to Cyril

If a certain famous sportman of irish decent can come to live in south africa for 30 years and be considered more south african than poc or previously disadvantaged people living in south africa for 4 generations then you have sold out your country and the people who supported freedom before 1994.

It’s not complicated…
One system for part of the population and another for the rest
Any notion that most the population understand what a constitutional democracy is let alone is prepared to abide by the principles needs to be put to bed
Comments that JZ made saying he didn’t understand what he’d done wrong say it all
27 years later and “Cry the Beloved Country” sums it up
South African exceptionalism …. REALLY!!

End of comments.





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