By Mphatjie Monareng, News24 User
To salute those who struggled for equal rights for all South Africans, irrespective of race, gender, class, sexual orientation and religious beliefs, we celebrate Human Rights Day every year on March 21, and we dedicate the entire month of March to human rights.
Since the attainment of democracy in 1994, South Africa has earned respect and admiration globally for its peaceful transition to a democratic state and, subsequently, for its systematic reversal of racist apartheid policies.
Many of the people still suffering from political repression around the world and, in particular, around the African continent, look at South Africa as a success story worthy of emulation. We are a miraculous nation, they say.
Despite this wonderful reputation, a series of recent events suggest that we may be on a path of self-destruction, in the same way that other democracies in Africa have destroyed their own systems to shield high-profile politicians from the rule of law.
- During Kwame Nkrumah's time, Ghana was the beacon of hope in Africa. Many leaders in Africa looked up to Ghana as leader in the fight for political and economic independence. Despite Ghana being one of the first African countries to attain independence, today the country has very little to show for this. The majority still languish in poverty whilst politicians live in opulence.
- Just across the Limpopo River, Zimbabwe was once a democratic and prosperous nation. Robert Mugabe used to be a heroic freedom fighter, risking his own life in pursuit of freedom for fellow Zimbabweans. Today Mugabe is on the other side of the battle line, fighting against the aspirations of the very people he helped liberate from colonial rule.
- Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya was even called "Nyayo" or "footsteps" in Swahili because he was believed to be following on the footsteps of the iconic Jomo Kenyatta, who fought for Kenya's independence. Moi is now recorded in history as a corrupt leader who knew no difference between his own bank account and government accounts.
All these countries - Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and many others - have marvellous laws and regulations on paper, but politicians entrusted with upholding these laws have always been the first to deviate from lawful conduct, often defending each other when members of the public complain about preferential treatment.
In South Africa, despite our celebrated constitution that guarantees freedom and equal rights for all, we are seeing a systematic erosion of our democratic values, with politicians wanting to establish one set of laws for themselves and another for the rest of us.
We all know that ANC president Jacob Zuma faces allegations of corruption, money laundering and racketeering. We also know that the ANC does not want Zuma to go to court and prove his innocence there. They want to strike a deal with the National Prosecuting Authority, ensuring that Zuma never follows the same legal procedure that every other suspect should follow.
South Africans are fortunate because we still have the chance to stop the rot. It's happening right in front of us; but because the rot is being orchestrated by our former liberators (as in other African countries), we seem to be sympathetic.
Let's vote carefully, organise protests against corrupt politicians and, very importantly, take ownership of our democracy. Politicians don't own freedom, do they?