Is democracy under threat in South Africa?


– my vote disenfranchised again-



Democracy we are told “is government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system”. A constitutional democracy is defined as? “ A system of government in which political authority   i.e.- the power of government–is defined, limited and distributed by a body of fundamental law called ‘the Constitution’. The authority of the majority is limited by legal and institutional means so that the rights of individuals and minorities are respected.”


What is the purpose of the ballot in a democracy because in South Africa it appears to mean very little if anything at all?


Let me upfront be crystal clear – the right to mobilise people is an accepted practice in a democracy, hence I have no challenge with people being mobilized by anyone to march, protest against or for a certain cause. That is the power of a democracy and must be celebrated, by all of us who claim we are in a constitutional democracy. So I welcome the right of anyone to protest.


I ask again what is a constitutional democracy? Today a sophism is peddled that the masses wants a recall of the powers of the ANC as a majority.


This when in truth a middle class / elite led group of diverse political, self-interest and economic agendas browbeats us to accept that the rhetoric of fear of an impending constitutional crisis is upon us. This is held up as the legitimate means to dictate to the ANC to recall its deployed president.


The rhetoric of fear of a constitutional crisis fuels this moment, when the president has publically committed to uphold every one of the eleven identified rulings.


We have today custodians of a constitution who have scant regard for the separation of powers for the three segments of the State immanent in legislature, executive and the judiciary, as evidenced in the very constitution they claim to defend. These have determined the judiciary as the final political authority of society. They have resolved in determination to win at court what they have lost at the ballot.


This behaviour and tendency unequivocally,


  • Tells the masses regardless for who and what they voted, as late as May 2014 in a democratic national election, they are illiterate and simply are taken for a ride by a leading party who warrants being red-carded.
  • The masses are told they do not know what they voted! They are told in no uncertain terms that their right to give a political party of their choice a definite mandate simply does not count.


  • The masses are told by the elites, we will fight for you though you did not trust us in the ballot; we are your best solution.



  • The masses are told those whom they did not give a majority mandate to lead, are the natural custodians of this constitution, they are to be trusted.


So intolerant and warped is our democracy in praxis that Opposition Parties (a necessary reality in democracy) can bring a motion for impeachment against a sitting president and emotionally attempt blackmailing the very leading party of ANC members represented in parliament to vote from their ‘conscious’ as individuals a practice not remotely associated with the very opposition parties for the entire period of the democratic dispensation we sojourned.


We also learn today that Opposition parties can loose in parliamentary vote a motion they were allowed to bring and continue to act as victors continue claiming they represent the masses.


In South Africa’s strange democracy the judiciary through the Constitutional Court appears dragged into the political arena, to go beyond the subjective nature of law and to become the proverbial weapon for political gains not secured in the ballot. This may prove over the long run a very precarious occurrence.


The irony of this moment is further pronounced by individuals from the ANC who today claim political relevance outside the ANC and from such engage the ANC in public stance. These may for whatever reasons have lost in party power and refuse to engage in party elections to secure power a right they as ANC members are entitled to. Others may for pure personal reasons revolt yet today is held up as voices of reason.

What must be admitted is that these constitute individuals no matter how congregated unless they vote for opposition parties?


I shall cite one example from this group of individuals, not in denial of his or anyone’s democratic right to have a view and express it but rather in challenging the assertion he levels. The ANC stalwart Ahmed Kathrada’s letter concludes with a claim the ‘people have spoken’. Kathrada does not take us into confidence on how the people have spoken, where they have spoken outside the 2,5 years it is afforded to speak in ballot sense. If I understand Kathrada correctly the mandate that the people extended in May 2014, has expired, we just not sure how it expired. We must ask the ANC stalwart how he may assert ‘the people have spoken’ without explaining this notion of the people, in the absence of him explaining himself we are left to surmise many things.



Yes like all others before and after me I did not struggle to have my vote disenfranchised again this time by those who claim they defend a constitution, when such warrants no defence.


What is the purpose of claiming a democracy when you reject the benefit of a majority-the very aim of any and every political party in a multi-party democracy?


Opposition parties pride themselves on how the ballot entitles them to speak for their constituencies and uses that very constituency as a means to argue an accepted relevance in political contestation yet attempts to deny the leading party the same privilege by rejecting that very ballot, that makes them a majority.


If the ballot is not the most legitimate means to determine a recall of the party that leads, than what is a legitimate means to render the leading party defunct to lead?



Only in Mzansi the land of unparalleled contradictions can you have a recall of the leading party in its political power mandate defined in both executive and legislative expressions where no ballot was involved. I shall remonstrate that today in South Africa democracy is on life support.


Only in South Africa can those who have not been trusted in by the ballot lose the political power won by a majority in mandate as dictated by a free ballot.



It must be the resolve of the voters who trusted the ANC to lead to work against these new tendencies of our democracy.


The hard fought gains cannot be lost because we are afraid to challenge these individuals only because among them interspersed are those who are disgruntled be they of a struggle credential, former cabinet minister, or official role.

The gains of democracy cannot again be side-lined by the interest of capital draped in whatever means, which in this season may have found mouthpieces as defenders of a constitution that is not under threat.



Yes, I am gravely concerned that my vote and that of the masses is under threat today not by apartheid but by individuals who wants me to know they act on behalf of the constitution, when they acting on behalf of a political agenda. This is political and fought in the name of constitution at the hand of the judiciary.


Clyde N. S. Ramalaine

An ANC Voter








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