RECOVERING THE VISION OF A DEMOCRACY THAT COUNTS FOR ORDINARY SOUTH AFRICANS
Eight days before he was assassinated in April 1993, Chris Hani in an interview with historian Lulli Callinicos, spoke prophetically of the challenges he anticipated would face our new democratic dispensation. He spoke of his vision of a meaningful democratic outcome for our people. It was a vision that precluded him from going to Parliament because of his conviction that power should be built outside of government because of the political lessons he had learnt from other transitions.
Hani foresaw the immensity of the challenge of building a society that cares in which socio-economic justice is achieved so that freedom and democracy counts for the thousands of ordinary South Africans who carried the sacrifices involved in a struggle for liberation. He spoke of the need to build a culture of service "where nurses are guided by an ethic of care, teachers by an ethic of learning, police by an ethic of community safety, and local government by an ethic of service delivery."
The greatest threat he identified was that of corruption affecting those who moved into government, who could use power and their government positions to enrich themselves as individuals rather than sustaining the vision of the necessity of achieving the socio-economic restructuring of the country.
What Chris Hani did not anticipate was the hollowing out of Parliament through party loyalty and patronage provided to party members in return for the protection of one individual, This is described by Raymond Suttner (The Con, 1 April 2015: 'Party Loyalty’, Patronage & the Future of SA’s Parliament) who explains that the refusal of members of the ruling party to exercise their constitutional oversight to hold the President accountable for irregularities indicates that there is no intention on the part of the ANC to comply with the legal requirement to abide by the constitution.
Rather than Hani's bold vision of using the levers of power to support the economic restructuring of our society to build a society that cares about the quality of life of ordinary South Africans, we are faced with an even more urgent struggle of reclaiming the terrain of Parliament itself as a democratic space where the critical debates around "advancing a progressive politics and the meanings of any potential emancipatory outcomes" are contested. Presently, the hard-won foundation of constitutionalism as the basis for democratic practice, is under threat.
As Suttner concludes, "Defending constitutionalism, respect for legality and clean governance is in the interests of a wide range of sectors in society. These need to be brought together in order to demand recovery of the democratic promise of 1994."
As a nation we have deviated from the course which leaders like Chris Hani and others charted for us. That course can only be reclaimed by citizens who hold true to the values that informed Chris Hani and others. The task is urgent. As Jay Naidoo reminds us, “In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it."
Are we up to the challenge to claw back what has been lost?