Sunday, March 21, 2010

South Africans and the Government

I have only recently started reading News24. Previously I refused to read the paper. Found it to be very depressing – murders, rapes, burglaries and the like.

What I find even more interesting is reading the comments that people post, supposedly relating to the article. Initially I found it very entertaining reading everybody’s point of view, than I just found it very sad.

Instead of the posts relating to the article – at least the majority of them - the comments either

a) blame the government – who elected the government

b) they become racistic or insulting – really great contribution

c) And people are told to leave the country – what an absolutely inane remark.

If you don’t like the government – do something about it. There I truly admire the black culture. If they are not happy about something they let you know about it in no uncertain terms. They toi toi, they have marches, they strike. Even the gays have more gumption and march down the street, fighting for their rights and their beliefs. Whereas we sit quite comfortably behind our desks and use our computers to abuse, sling mud and gripe. So….why aren’t we out there toi toi’ing in front of the presidents house about his lack of education, his rulings, or whatever it is we are unhappy with?

Please note – that just because I admire the black culture and the gays for having the gumption to march and toi-toi does not mean I believe that is the answer and neither am I advocating it although according to the Bill of Rights we do have the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration:


Before its transition to a democratic, constitutional state, South Africa was known as a country in which the rights and freedoms of the majority of people were denied. To prevent this from ever happening again, our Constitution contains a Bill of Rights which can only be changed if two thirds of the members of the National Assembly and six of the nine provinces in the National Council of Provinces agree to such a change.

The rights in the Bill of Rights form the cornerstone of our democracy. An obligation is also placed on the state to respect, protect, promote and fulfil these rights.

Some of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights are the right to life, equality, human dignity, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, political rights and the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration. These are normal rights that are guaranteed in most democratic countries because they ensure democracy and freedom.

The Bill of Rights also contains socio economic rights. In South Africa, where a large part of the struggle for freedom was about improving the lives of people, these rights are important. They place a duty on the government to address the problems that people experience when it comes to education, health services, water and housing.

The last group of rights included in the Bill of Rights is often the reason our Constitution is described as very modern and advanced. These rights include the right to the environment being protected, even for future generations, the right of access to information and the right to fair administrative action. The citizens of South Africa are even guaranteed the right to an efficient administration. See

Now according to paragraph 2: “ An obligation is also placed on the state to respect, protect, promote and fulfil these rights” which include education, health services, water and housing. We are even guaranteed the right to an efficient administration.

Well, in my book, the government has failed in all of the above. But what can we, as citizens of South Africa, do when our rights are not being fulfilled?

We can contact the ‘Committee”: Both Houses of Parliament are divided into committees that play a vital role in the process of building democracy and public involvement. Committees are the places where members of the public can express their opinions directly and try to influence the outcome of Parliament's decisions. Their meetings are open to the public, although they may be closed if there is a very good reason to do so.


Our full schedule of committee meetings is available online. Click below to access the schedule

View the committee meeting schedule . Also has a list of contact names and numbers of the various committee officers.

Or contact your political party:

Or your MP:

Or try the Parliamentary Democracy Office:

Of you can try petitioning:

There are also institutions that support and safeguard constitutional democracy

A very significant feature of our Constitution is that it sets up several independent bodies to support and safeguard our democracy. Informally these bodies are often referred to as the “Chapter 9 Institutions”, because the most important of these are provided for in Chapter 9 of the Constitution. These include the Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Auditor General, the Public Protector and the Electoral Commission. Although the National Assembly may not interfere with the independence of these institutions, they are accountable to the National Assembly and have to report on their activities and the performance of their functions to the Assembly at least once a year.

Now according to the State institutions supporting constitutional democracy –

1. The Public Protector has the power, as regulated by national legislation ¬

a. to investigate any conduct in state affairs, or in the public administration in any sphere of government, that is alleged or suspected to be improper or to result in any impropriety or prejudice;

b. to report on that conduct; and

c. to take appropriate remedial action.

What I would like to know is whether the Public Protector can do anything to my MP, or the leader of my party if she/he stands at the top of the Union Building stairs and sings a song that is bound to incite violence? If I am unable to go the Public Protector, would PEPUDA be able to do something as their purpose is to prevent and prohibit unfair discrimination, harassment and hate speech. Apparently the scope of legal standing established by PEPUDA is extremely broad so that any person can bring a claim of discrimination to the courts in the public interests even if they are not directly affected themselves

Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (4 of 2000)

Chapter 2 Prevention, Prohibition and Elimination of Unfair Discrimination, Hate Speech and Harassment

10. Prohibition of hate speech

1) Subject to the proviso in section 12, no person may publish, propagate, advocate or communicate words based on one or more of the prohibited grounds, against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to-

a) be hurtful;

b) be harmful or to incite harm;

c) promote or propagate hatred.

Bottom line, if we are unhappy about the government and the way it is being run we contact our MP’s. We harass them until something is done. After all, it is our money that is being used to pay them. If you, as a business owner, find your employees not doing their jobs, you get rid of them. Therefore it is up to us to ensure that our MP’s and The Committee’s do what we pay them to do – hold the president accountable for his lack of administration.

A lot of people are advocating that we leave them to run the country down into the ground and become another Zimbabwe so that they might learn something. That’s all fair and well, but what exactly is it that they will learn. They won’t be here to learn anything but the rest of us South African’s and our children will be here to suffer the lack of food and housing, the lack of education and basic human rights. Is that the heritage we want to leave our children.

And why is it that when somebody makes a comment about South Africa and the way it is being run, we are told to leave the country. Because if that is the best advise you can give, tell me why is it that when you weren’t happy with the way the country was being run prior to 1994, you didn’t elect to leave. You fought for your rights and now we are fighting for ours. The right to life, equality, human dignity, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association, political rights and the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration. The right to education, health services, water and housing.

And if you want to argue those points why don’t you go to some of the settlements and see what rights they have regarding water and housing, or what rights the poor slob has who is being kicked out of the doorway because the store owner wants to open his shop. Or what rights the 10 year old child has who is ply’ing her trade on the street corner.

Elections are held every 5 years. If I have calculated correctly the next election is in 2014. Can we continue to allow the Government to continue as they have been doing. Can we afford to allow the education level to drop further than it has, to allow the lack of service to continue, the murders, rapes and killings.

As South Africans we have an obligation to leave a healthy, safe and happy country to our children.

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