South Africa: Democracy or idiocracy?

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Photo: Pixabay

  • Jan-Hendrik de Villiers studies journalism at the University of the Free State.

If you stop to ask any South African walking in the street to describe South Africa in 10 words or less, one can expect a myriad of answers. Their responses become amplified when this question is answered in one of the 11 official languages, by people of many different religions, beliefs, races, ethnicities, genders, ages and socio-economic backgrounds.

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It becomes clear that people from all walks of life perceive South Africa in their own unique way, but some patterns do emerge when reviewing their responses. They can easily be divided into two categories: the good and the bad.

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It becomes clear that people from all walks of life perceive South Africa in their own unique way, but some patterns do emerge when reviewing their responses. They can easily be divided into two categories: the good and the bad. For some South Africans, it’s easier to point out more points in favour of the latter than of the former, instead of maintaining a balance between the pros and cons of life in South Africa.

South African politics is the bread and butter for any person wanting to discuss serious topics regarding our politics or lampoon the very notion of our politics. For anyone who has access to consuming the media, it doesn’t take a genius to come to the conclusion that our parliament is a farce. It is so outrageous and absurd, in fact, that it’s enough to make the cast members of Monty Python blush. Whether it’s the three stooges of the South African parliament turning heads, or another story, one can be guaranteed that it is still more entertaining than half the content on Showmax, DSTV and SABC. This includes the EFF turning the parliament building into a boxing ring right on the heels of a heated debate gone wrong, the ANC launching investigations into their own party after COVID relief funds “mysteriously” disappear and encouraging nationwide looting and vandalism, and the DA getting into petty fights on social platforms. One tends to wonder why one should participate in the madness and vote in the elections, when a circus of politicians clamour for supremacy.

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And what would South Africa be without its biggest export: corruption? A popular anecdote says that if corruption were an Olympic sport, South Africa would win the gold, silver and bronze medals.

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And what would South Africa be without its biggest export: corruption? A popular anecdote says that if corruption were an Olympic sport, South Africa would win the gold, silver and bronze medals. (Seeing that it recently was Olympic season, I ponder why the committee has not included such a category yet. It would make for entertaining viewing, but that’s just my opinion.) But these are just the light-hearted topics. Serious topics, such as the xenophobic attacks, gender-based violence and farm murders, evoke strong emotions by their mere mention. Not to mention the rising unemployment rate of the workforce under the age of 25, regardless of whether they have a degree or not. (And people wonder why the younger generation seems so desperate to emigrate to any other country.)

I’ll try and level with everyone here: South Africa is not entirely bad. We just have to look at the small things that make our country our home. We also have our strong points, just like every other country. We have laws that protect the rights of individuals from the LGBTQ+ community and which have decriminalised marijuana, and South Africa voluntarily abandoned its nuclear weapons programme. (Some might argue that this has made us an easier target for other war-mongering nations, but if a full-scale nuclear war did break out, at least we wouldn’t be blamed for launching our weapons first.)

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South Africa isn’t perfect, nor do I expect it to be. The lockdown hasn’t made it easier for anyone involved, but we shouldn’t lose track of who we really are.

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South Africa isn’t perfect, nor do I expect it to be. The lockdown hasn’t made it easier for anyone involved, but we shouldn’t lose track of who we really are. We are a nation that can adapt when the worst happens, and this has been proven time and again: we donate food and supplies to suffering communities, soup kitchens and feeding schemes. If we can survive Eskom’s debilitating loadshedding schedule, shouting at the TV when Ramaphosa imposes yet another ill-advised alcohol ban, and many other phenomena known only to South Africans, we can overcome anything.

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