Sunday, September 10, 2006
IS THIS the best of times, or the worst?
These are heady days for democracy: taboos on debate in the African National Congress (ANC) alliance, which seemed set in stone, have evaporated, bringing new vigour to our politics.
Both in the ANC alliance and one of its key components, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), attempts to place a lid on competitive elections have failed.
The ANC succession contest was evident last week at the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) conference and in the promise of a contest for the Cosatu presidency — despite apparent attempts to prevent one....
Another open challenge to the government is on AIDS....
Finally, parliamentary committees have challenged an official report on intelligence and the government’s position on energy policy. Both were doing what they are meant to do — holding government to account on behalf of citizens...
It is hard to imagine a series of events which hold so much democratic promise. A pattern of loyalty to authority figures has suddenly given way to one in which leaders face new demands to account for what they do and say. But excitement at democracy’s gathering strength is tempered by the knowledge that all these events are centred around a campaign to ensure that an individual becomes president — and that the campaign has been accompanied by less democratic tendencies, such as hostility to the media, refusal to accept the accountability of politicians to the law, and disregard for women’s dignity and rights.
This raises the uncomfortable possibility that the support for difference and democracy we have seen these past few days is not an attempt to make leaders more accountable, but to switch authority from one leadership figure to another.
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Posted by Wessel at 5:49 AM