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Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Fixing South Africa’s Democracy

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, in collaboration with several other civil society organisations, is calling on the public ahead of Mandela Day to share their thoughts on actions that need to be taken to #FixOurDemocracy, in relation to the state. “Organisations, businesses, workers, state employees, youth and all individuals are encouraged to fill in a short online form, where we’re asking for views on what actions are needed to fix our democracy,” said the Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton. 

“The process will allow for public submissions up until midday on July 16, followed by a collation process, categorising and condensing the content into 67 action points.”

The Foundation said it limited the suggestions to focus specifically on state reform. “There are myriad challenges that we face in our country – from gender-based violence to racism, unemployment and xenophobia – but we thought that this survey should focus very specifically on the state and issues related to governance, capture and corruption, accountability and ethical leadership, amongst several other key areas. This is so that we have very specific ideas generated on how to fix our democracy within this sphere, rather than having a broad focus and being unable to do justice in capturing the suggestions put forward.”

The list of 67 action points will be made public on Mandela Day to mark the legacy of former President Nelson Mandela, who spent 67 years of his life championing social justice and equality, as well as accountable and ethical leadership.  

“Mandela Day encourages active citizenship. It is about taking Madiba’s legacy forward. While it is important, especially in light of the current health and food crisis as a result of Covid-19, to undertake humanitarian work, it is equally important to promote democratic ideals. These are important because it will ensure a strengthened democracy that will allow us to weather the Covid-19 storm, as well as respond effectively to increased economic and social tensions,” Balton said. 

“We must be cognisant of the fact that if certain parts of our democracy were not ‘broken’, if the state had not been captured in the last decade, and if the people’s interests were always at the heart of governance, our country would have had greater resilience to deal with all other issues. We would have had more money for social grants, for hospital beds and ventilators, for protective gear for nurses and doctors, for proper housing and sanitation, for schools with access to water, for bailouts for small businesses and for shelters for abused women and children.”

Balton added that the Foundation is deeply concerned that as the country grapples with the pandemic, public money still continues to be looted, even from emergency funds made available to deal with the crisis. “We have towns and municipalities that are all but bankrupt. We still see decision making that sometimes doesn’t put the people first, and government inefficiencies that are simply unacceptable. We have several state owned enterprises that are barely functional, and a criminal justice system that is under-resourced, lacking in staff with critical skills and which cannot keep up. The billions that were siphoned from our public purse have not been returned and those behind its theft still walk free. And while all this is happening, we have an almost apathetic approach towards citizen involvement in our democracy.

“These are some of the many long term challenges, which cannot be fixed in 67 minutes. It is a process that will require the collective involvement of all who live in the country over many years. However, we think that encouraging people to pen their views about how our democracy can be fixed will activate public engagement. This will contribute to ensuring that these issues are not treated as sideline matters during the pandemic, but are given priority on the national agenda, as part of a sustainable plan to deal with deep-rooted, systemic problems that make tackling crises all the more challenging.”

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