The assertion that “democracy isn’t making people’s lives better”, as penned by Carin Runciman, is incorrect and averts our attention from the real crisis: An ANC-led government that does not have the political will to deliver on its promise of advancing the aspirations of the people, especially the poor.
The statistics cited in respect of the economic position many poor people find themselves is a global one, and can be detected in non-democratic countries. The writer should have made a comparative analysis and proven that democratic societies fare no better with upliftment of the people than non-democratic ones.
In a democratic society there is a potential for competition between rivals for power. This will create a situation where a newly elected party that has ousted its competitor must know that it had better deliver, or else they will be voted out at the next election.
Regrettably. For too long the ANC has behaved as though they will be in power until Jesus comes. They did not believe it was possible for them to be voted out of office in places like Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay. This shows, in a democratic dispensation, poor leadership is rejected and good governance that changes lives is rewarded.
The ANC has focused its energies behind protecting and promoting compromised and corrupt leaders at all levels of the State – from Councillors to Mayors; from MPLs to Premiers and; from MPs to the President, a man who is devoid of a commitment to democracy and constitutionalism. These men and women have undermined the country’s democratic values through corruption, maladministration, cadre deployment and self-enrichment. This all comes at the expense of South Africa’s hard-won democratic dispensation, meaning that the fruits of democracy never reach those that it really should: the poor and the black majority who suffered under the brutal system of apartheid.
Communities do not wake up and suddenly decide to protest, this happens when elected officials distance themselves from the communities that elected them. Service delivery protests, do not happen when democracy fails, they happen when unresponsive and uncaring people are elected into positions of leadership, thus betraying the very foundations of democracy, which says that democracy is system “for the people and by the people”. The ANC has turned democracy into as system that is “for the politicians and by the politicians.”
That is why as the Democratic Alliance (DA), we make a point of telling our Public Representatives that they serve the people first. The DA furthermore, assesses the performance of DA Public Representatives they are graded on their constituency work on an ongoing basis. And this does not just happen during elections, it happens throughout the electoral cycle, because we do not regard the people of South Africa as voting cattle, but rather we are there to serve their needs and aspirations.
It is this kind of responsive and caring government that has hit the ground running in the 38 jurisdictions that the DA governs or co-governs across South Africa, where quality services are delivered to 16 million people. There is a zero tolerance approach to corruption and jobs are being delivered – three broad commitments we made to South Africans ahead of the elections and we are delivering on them.
There is empirical evidence that where the DA governs, it governs better. This evidence includes Auditor-General reports, Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) reports and quality of life surveys.
For example, according to the 2015/16 Provincial and Local Government Audit Outcomes, the DA-governed Western Cape Province was rated as the South Africa’s top performing province, with 100% unqualified audits, meaning that the people’s money is spent on the people – job creation, service delivery. In order to ensure that young people’s futures are transformed, 97% of Western Cape schools are either no-fee schools or have benefitted from compensation for fee exemption. This scheme benefits 580 000 learners. Lastly, according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the DA-run Western Cape Province has the lowest levels of unemployment in the country. These successes, which focus on bettering the lives of citizens, are the outcome a democratically elected leadership that puts the people first. When there is a deliberate programme of action from a political party and its leadership, the people taste the fruits of democratic governance.
Of course, the eradication of poverty is extraordinarily difficult. But surely, an increase in improvement of the quality of life is something any government should be credited for? This will unfortunately mean that some continue to wait for a better life for a while longer. With the above in mind, your chances of a better a life are higher under a DA government.
The problem then is that a party, which has failed to deliver in the past, and bitter at the fact that it has lost legitimacy and power and thus has lost access to its gravy train, can exploit the unhappiness of the people and incite violent protest, as seen in jurisdictions that the DA has been elected to govern. This is not to delegitimise service delivery protests by people who have been failed by the ANC in the past.
The above shows why one cannot just cite the existence of protests as a failure of democracy.