[notice]A monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.[/notice]
A week ago, South Africans went to the polls for the 2016 local government elections. In the days following, this quote from A Tale of Two Cities, a novel by Charles Dickens has come to my mind often:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us …”
Once all ballot papers had been cast, the process of counting and auditing began in earnest but in the end, it took much longer than originally anticipated. At times, the results came in quickly, while at others there was just a teasing trickle. Not surprisingly, the hopes of citizens and party officials alike were simultaneously raised and dashed over and over during the course of a nail biting few days.
Today, the results in a number of locations are such that no one party has attained an outright majority, which has resulted in “hung” councils across the country. Thus, in a number of instances, there has arisen the need for negotiation between rival political parties, with a view to forming coalition governments to secure a governing majority at a local level.
Consequently, depending, of course, on one’s party political preference and geographical location, some of us may now be experiencing “the best of times” or “the worst of times”; “the spring of hope” or “the winter of despair”. In the midst of uncertainty for citizens, and what can only be described as discomfort for opposing political parties, there are a number of points to ponder, which should bode well for all South Africans, no matter our political vantage point:
Our fledgling democracy continues to be established against all odds
At its simplest, a “democracy” is defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary as a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting. The 2016 municipal elections have afforded us just such an opportunity. However, we cannot overlook the fact that in order for a democracy to thrive, there are a number of universally accepted basic requirements that need to be met, including: the guarantee of basic human rights to every individual person; the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial institutions of the state; freedom of opinion, speech, press and mass media; religious liberty; general and equal right to vote (one person one vote); and good governance (focus on the public interest and the absence of corruption). In recent times, and to the dismay of many, there have been all manner of threats to these basic pillars, yet our relatively new democracy continues to endure.
My vote really does count and I can use it to effect change in my world
While the right to vote as a citizen of this country is entrenched in our Constitution, not all citizens choose to exercise their vote, and that is their prerogative. Interestingly, however, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), voter turnout during the 2016 municipal elections is the highest ever recorded.
The fact that the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African National Congress (ANC) were often “neck and neck” during the counting process and both parties now know what it is to experience, in some instances, narrow margins of victory against each other, is proof that every vote really does count and indeed, it is possible to be an agent of change right where we are.
The era of coalition governments at a municipal level has dawned in South Africa, heralding the ‘maturing’ of the South African political process
While coalition governments are not a new phenomenon in South Africa, the extent to which rival parties will now need to cooperate and compromise at a municipal level is certainly unprecedented.
The way in which such negotiations are approached and managed will set the tone not only for the governance of certain municipalities in particular but also the country as a whole. I believe this is a fitting mirror of what is already taking place between like minded individuals all over our country, who are finding common ground in spite of their differences, in order to set goals towards achieving a shared vision.
We live in a time in South Africa’s history where the political landscape is no longer predictable and new allegiances must be forged at all levels, in order to move our country forward to economic growth and prosperity.
Certainly, more is required of us as responsible believers. Let us rise up in faith and take our place in the public square of our beloved country, which is surely primed for greatness both in Africa and beyond.