There is no such thing as a democracy rather there are countries that practice a “limited” form of democracy. American born science fiction author warned that “democracy is more dangerous than fire because fire cannot vote itself immune to water.” If the former is the case, it follows that democracy is more of an ideal than praxis? So let’s look at the fundamental problems with democracy in South Africa. Off the bat, it dangles in front of a mostly uninformed masses a so-called, “world-class” constitution which none of its post-Apartheid leaders adheres to because, in an uncaring capitalist society, the pathology of all leaders is to seek power, self-enrichment and tyranny. The boasting about a brilliantly written constitution that does nothing for the people it was written for is analogous to children boasting about their Fathers well-written tome, though he is functionally illiterate.
Democracies require the existence of totalitarian institutions of state and have leaders that when voted into power, immediately conspires against its own people for the benefit of the few against the many. So let’s look at some substantive examples of the aforementioned dichotomies that are inherent within a democracy, in this case, South Africa:
We the people have had no choice in the type of constitution we now have, a white Western European elitist document wholly unsuited to Africa, African conditions, black peoples present daily realities and the momentous burden we have of undoing the double whammy of our colonialist and Apartheid past and unlocking a better future for ourselves.
We have a considerably sized standing army with no discernable threats against the country from its neighbours (read what George Washington told Congress about armies).
We have a 180 000 strong police force that acts as the military wing of the current government and its de facto day-to-day enforcement arm.
Whilst our form of democracy allows us to vote into power a party of our choice, once in power, we’re not allowed to continue voting for undemocratic or tyrannical laws they may promulgate, a singular systemic weakness to be sure.
We have created and maintain two notable independent institutions the FSB, the Financial Services Board and the SARB, the South African Reserve Bank that are euphemistically referred to as “autonomous” but exist and operate as mini-government within a larger government accountable to no-one but itself.
We allow the main economic actors to be “for-profit organisations” backed by 100’s of laws, statutes and ordinances that make them totalitarian in both structure and function.
We have no functional free press because it has been corporatized. It is logically impossible for one of the arms of an undemocratic organisation to act in accordance with its remit when it is at odds with the desires and intentions of its corporate bosses.
Now just before most of you rush to place state corruption at the top of the pile, let us place it in context to the modern democratic state and how it functions and why corruption is a necessary evil? Elections are astronomically expensive affairs even in Africa, so parties rely on corporate backers to fund these affairs. This dynamic creates the accepted “quid pro quo” economic reality (there’s no such thing as free lunch pathology) and compels the newly elected winner to look favourably upon its erstwhile backers. Modern governments cannot exist with the tremendous purchasing power of the corporates so they are the only ones able to supply goods and services on a scale required for the smooth operations of the state, thus the duality exists.
The added difficulties we now face should we wish to change the aforementioned is what we may call “institutional momentum” this is the invisible hand that once a set of laws and protocols are in place it keeps the system functioning irrespective of how harmful they may be. We’ve experienced that with Apartheid, as at today, we still haven’t succeeded in dismantling its systems and culture, just about a quarter of a century later.
The long governing ANC, a once-proud liberation movement cannot distinguish between party and state interests and will almost always defer to the party as the highest moral authority.