The online seminar brought together South Africans from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life to discuss the challenges of democracy in South Africa and the solutions to problems facing democracy in South Africa. It provided an invaluable platform for insightful discussions on the challenges and prospects of democracy in South Africa.
The four theme leaders were; Mr Sandile Swana, a Political Analyst, Mr Richard Ntjana, President of the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Adv Mzukisi Mgxashe, a member of the Johannesburg Bar, and Mr. Lehlohonolo Tlali, CEO of Vukani Industrial (pty) Ltd.
Mr. Sandile Swana, a prominent Political Analyst, kicked off the seminar as the first theme leader. In his opening remarks, Mr. Swana emphasized the importance of democracy as a decision-making tool. He pointed out that in the current state of South Africa, there is a prevalent issue of majoritarianism and intimidation of elected public representatives by party leaders, even when a minority viewpoint might be more progressive and compelling.
During his session, Mr Swana raised a poignant question, prompting attendees to contemplate the extent to which civil servants and elected representatives have the autonomy to monopolize the decision-making processes within the state, effectively limiting the general public, civil society, intellectuals, and media from effecting change without resorting to litigation or violence.
”Do the Civil Servants and Elected Public representatives have any right, opportunity, power and means to ‘privatise’ or monopolise the actual running of the state and render the general public, civil society, intelligentsia and the media impotent and unable to change wrong state decisions easily without litigation and lawfare or violence?” he asked.
Mr. Swana’s profound analysis sparked spirited discussions and set the tone for the engaging day ahead.
Following Mr. Swana’s compelling insights, Mr. Richard Ntjana, President of the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who also happened to be the second theme leader of the day shared a comprehensive overview of the challenges that have continued to plague South Africa.
Addressing the prevalent issue of democratic despondency, Mr Ntjana highlighted the persisting triple challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
He underscored the paradoxical nature of the South African political landscape, characterized by stark economic disparities, stagnant growth, and escalating unemployment rates, which have collectively contributed to a growing sense of disillusionment among the South African populace.
”Poverty, Unemployment and Equality South Africa is a paradox; on the one hand, it is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Half of all South Africans continue to live in poverty, economic growth has stagnated and inflation remains high, while the unemployment rate continues to climb towards 30% or even higher. The mood among South Africans has soured,” he said.
Continuing the discourse, the third theme leader of the day, Mr. Adv. Mzukisi Mgxashe, a prominent member of the Johannesburg Bar, delved into a critical examination of the imposition of Western democracy and its impact on indigenous South African systems.
He emphasized the limitations of the European democratic model, suggesting that it often tends to benefit the powerful few rather than the broader South African populace. Mr. Mgxashe advocated for the integration of Ubuntu values into the existing democratic framework, emphasizing the importance of compassion, reciprocity, and community-building to foster a more inclusive and just society.
Mr Mgxashe opined that Ubuntu, a Pan-African philosophy that teaches compassion, reciprocity, dignity, humanity and mutuality in the interests of building and maintaining communities with justice and mutual caring should be infused into modern South African democracy.
He stressed that the Ubuntu philosophy is missing in South Africa’s democracy. While calling for the Ubuntu philosophy to be infused into South Africa’s democracy, Mr Mgxashe sarcastically said South Africa can be labelled as the most democratic country in the world, “with its democratic right to kill its people.”
Mr Mgxashe also said the constitutional democracy in South Africa has yet to address “apartheid and its consequences for the majority of this country.”
He further lashes the political elites and lawmakers of South Africa, equivocally stating that the South African politicians “do not need to win elections to get what they want, and they do not advance democracy for the benefit of the majority of this country.”
Mr. Mgxashe couldn’t end his session without whipping the United States of America. The Barman said the United States have been interfering and poking their nose into the affairs of South Africa and its democracy, an imperial way of destabilizing not just South Africa but the whole continent.
Last on the list of theme leaders is Mr. Lehlohonolo Tlali, CEO of Vukani Industrial (pty) Ltd. Mr. Tlali started by acknowledging the economic progress achieved since 1994, citing significant growth in South Africa’s GDP and a notable decrease in inflation rates.
“In 1994 the size of South Africa’s economy was $153 billion. Inflation in 1994 was sitting at 8.94%. 2023 is at 4.8%,” he said.
Mr. Tlali pointed out the importance of reflecting on the lessons learned from the reconciliatory transition, stressing the pivotal role of effective leadership and political deployment in fostering sustainable economic growth. He also urged fellow South Africans to consider the founding principles of South Africa’s democracy and proposed avenues for enhancing the country’s geopolitical influence and regional economic growth.
The diverse perspectives shared by the esteemed theme leaders illuminated crucial aspects of the nation’s political, social, and economic landscape, fostering a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics at play within the country’s democratic fabric. As South Africa navigates its democratic journey, the seminar’s profound insights are likely to inspire further dialogues and actions aimed at fostering a more inclusive, just, and prosperous society for all South Africans.