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South Africa Democracy

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South Africa Democracy

  1. 1. For the People By the People The ten-year anniversary of the new South Africa is closely approaching. Atthis stage of growth for the fledgling democracy it is necessary to investigatewhether or not the democracy is true and therefore providing its citizens with allthat a democracy should need. One must assume that life and the policies that affectthe aspects of everyday citizens lives are overall good and considerably better thenunder the old government. It is evident that because of the diversity of culture in SouthAfrica, the relative young age of the new government and a mixture of social, economic,and political woes, that not all people will agree with the previous assumptions.Hopefully, though, the majority of people will agree that they are adequately providedfor by the government and that as a democracy it is effective. By conversing with thepeople of South Africa, the effectiveness and validity of the government and its impacton citizens lives can be brought to light. However, the interviewees must reflect thediversity of the country, such as encompassing the thoughts and opinions of men andwomen, all tiers of the social ladder, a range of age groups, and a reflection of thecultural rainbow that makes South Africa so unique. Thankfully, I was able to gatherinformation from a wide spectrum of citizens and because of this, the conclusions that Ireached will reflect both weaknesses and strengths of the government, which need tobe highlighted. One thing that can be noted is that society has become more integrated since theend of Apartheid. The extent of the integration can be, and is largely debated, amonglocal people, and between cultural and/ or economic groups. Despite this integrationthere is still racism and still divisions that are both physical and mental. However,people are no more tolerant of the existent racism because they see the integration that has,and is still occurring, as progress. With integration comes an inflow of new theories,such as the hope that the next generation of South Africans will be better off and alsothat racism is an obstacle that with the future generations will eventually overcome.There seems to be a shared sentiment that the next generation will see theimprovement in the matured government and thus the citizens will have moreopportunities, such as jobs and quality education, then they do now or did in the past. The future is the motivation for South African citizens. The past and itsnegative remnants are still clung to by some South Africans. This survival of the
  2. 2. past is hindering the growth of fresh ideas, thoughts, and actions among citizens andthe new government. It is those that cling to the past that still carry racist views.Surprisingly enough, it seems that the Coloured and Asian/ Indian people are theones that cling to the past the most. It would be expected that the White citizens,because they had what was considered the "privileges" and the rule of the land inSouth Africa during the Apartheid, would be the group that would want to retain thememory and actions of the past. One thing is important in terms of the outcome of thefuture; the next few years are crucial. The next few years must be, and hopefully willbe, the period during which the government improves and establishes more effectivepolicies and gains respect from its citizens. Despite the barriers still erected, there is a sense of unity that appears to begrowing stronger. Sports is the largest factor that brings people of all races, ages, andeconomic classes together. One noted event was the 1995 Rugby World Cup that washeld in South Africa. This is seen as a crucial period in the development of unity and theestablishment of a common South African identity that traversed all colour lines,economic classes, and cultural groups. While it can be disputed that the event wasessentially white, it was however celebrated and prided by most South Africans. The onlyquestion that people answered the same during my interviews was "do you have a sense ofbelonging in South Africa?" The answer was always yes. Even though unity among South Africans is strengthening, division still exists, andremains strong still. The division exists not only because of evident reasons such asexisting Apartheid social and economic structures within society but also because SouthAfrica is “The Rainbow Nation”. While this is an aspect of South African culture andhistory that instills pride and character, it also divides. There are 11 official languages;this fact is crucial. Language divides and hinders the conglomeration of citizens. Ideas,and action or reaction sparked by the different ideas amongst the groups cannot beexchanged or implemented. It is a social characteristic that people of the samelanguage or cultural group come together. The motto "The Rainbow Nation" brings images of the new South African flag andto the man who first held up this flag so proudly. Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to allSouth Africans, regardless of race, sex, etc. He epitomizes the stoic hero who stayedtrue to his country despite his country’s deplorable actions against him. He is a man whostood up for what he believed in and in the end reached the highest potential. His prideand his accomplishments are echoed throughout the citizens. He is the South African rolemodel for what he endured and for his push towards a unified South Africa.
  3. 3. Even though there were, and maybe still are, great politicians in South Africawho did make a difference, the citizens do not see many in the new government.While most believe that their tax money is going towards good programs andpolicies, they also see their money going to satisfy their government officialsextravagant demands. They see their politicians buying expensive cars and othermaterial items while public needs such as health care are being ignored.Surprisingly, it was the white citizens and the black middle-class who see theirmajority of their money going to good use. It was the black lower-class who seesdifferently and probably they are correct, in terms of whether tax money is beingallocated to the right places, because they are the ones that the tax money issupposed to be helping. This is true especially in terms of health care and education,which is still not up to par with that deemed for white citizens. What is most surprising is the opinion held by lower-class black SouthAfricans. To them, their lives are worse off than under Apartheid. They see feweropportunities, which is true when you look at the ever-increasing unemploymentrate. One woman I spoke with explained to me that before Apartheid she had abetter job and that there were more jobs available. Now with her new job she cannoteven afford food. The cost of living, in terms of basic needs, has increased whileconditions of living have deteriorated. Why is it that with all the welfare policiesintroduced has the government failed here? Despite the end of Apartheid and the promise of equality, the governmentstill seems to be selecting who should benefit from its policies even though in theorythe government should be working for every citizen. One thing that I noticed whiletalking to the interviewees was the evident comparison in education. Those thatbelonged to the black lower-class had difficulty communicating. In most instancesthere was a language barrier, but in other instances some had never heard ofAffirmative Action or democracy. The inadequacy of education was very apparentbetween members of the black lower class and those of the black middle -class.Even if both were Zulu, and English was not their first language, the lack ofknowledge was apparent. Education seems to play a significant role in shaping the mind of the SouthAfrican citizen. Those who attended a university were more willing to believe intheir contributions to society and were more forgiving of the government’s faults.The students saw their time at the university to gain power and skills, which willsomeday benefit South Africa as whole and affect even the lower classes. They also
  4. 4. seem to be more critical of racism and thus more staunch and active in its demise.With the increasing number of non-whites now attending universities, AffirmativeAction has been placed back in the spotlight. While most people agree that it isoverall good, it is seen as a tool that can be used for only so long. With the newgraduates being from all different cultural, economic, and social backgroundsAffirmative Action and the reasons behind it must be reviewed. If there are nowblack people who are gaining the same skills as their white counterparts then theyshould be judged by their qualification and not by their race. Diversity is important inemployment but not as important as employing people that possess the necessary skillsto contribute to an industrys capability The government is not fulfilling its obligation to the citizens: a basic but generalaccusation. The government is not altogether incompetent or corrupt. Most of thepeople I spoke with believe the government is maturing, and hopefully this is true. Ifthis is the case, then this rocky transition is acceptable to the people. The problem liesin the fact that their government has not built up enough social capital yet. Thereforethe citizens do not believe or trust that the government will provide them with the basicneeds that a democracy should provide. It is not expected though that such a younggovernment will be able to rectify all the ills of the former government in such a shortamount of time but at least within a generation. All in all, the people appear not toexpect a lot from their government but are patient with what the government will providefor them. Overall they see their government as efficient and the flaws that it possesseswill be corrected in the future.

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