By Chris Moerdyk
Almost exactly 15 years ago, Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as President of the Republic of South Africa and our country immediately became the world's most shining example of a constitutional democracy at its best.
We smiled, walked tall and generally looked down our noses at far less perfect democracies like the USA, UK, and Europe.
Today, we are not the world's best example of a constitutional democracy. If anything, the only sort of democracy we can lay claim to is a Selective Democracy, which is probably the worst kind of democracy there is.
Selective Democracy is so bad that it's actually almost better to come right out and admit to being a one party dictatorship of a country in which the favourite national pass time is social one-upmanship.
You know you live in a Selective Democracy when:
- Politicians vociferously commit themselves to upholding the independence of the judiciary until a judgement goes against them and then they publicly say that all judges are racist idiots.
- When politicians who fought for decades against the iniquities of apartheid and struggled for human rights, ban someone like the Dalai Lama just because his presence in this country might annoy China.
- When politicians are seen to uphold the rule of law by watching as their friends go to jail for fraud, then use their clout to set them free on all sorts of flimsy grounds before they have spent more than a couple of minutes in a cell.
- When politicians are found guilty of a crime and their political party carries them shoulder-high to the gates of the prison while behaving as though the guilty party had just scored the winning goal in a World Cup final.
- When political party youth leagues rant and rave about their democratic right to go and address crowd in opposition strongholds and then talk about killing anyone who doesn't agree with their leader.
- When politicians create a special task team to combat crime and then disband it when they find it targeting them.
- When it takes prosecutors five minutes to stick a shoplifter in jail and almost ten years to get to first base in a legal action against a high profile politician in spite of claiming for years and years that they have cast-iron evidence of his guilt.
- When a bunch of politicians appoint a board of directors to the national broadcaster and within a few months those same politicians want to fire them due to a sudden apparent lack of confidence, but actually because those politicians now have a new boss who doesn't like the old boss and therefore doesn't like the board of the national broadcaster not because they have suddenly become bad people. Then, when they can't fire them they just make up a new law to let them do it.
- When the most visible result of a decade and a half of affirmative action and black economic empowerment is 500 exceedingly rich fatcats and just as many unemployed as there were before.
To ordinary people, Selective Democracy means:
- If you are poor you are entitled to steal electricity even if this kills your neighbours.
- If you are poor you can steal just about anything because your are entitled to. Even steal from other poor people.
- If you are homeless, you can just move into houses in spite of some equally poor people being on the list ahead of you.
- Driving unroadworthy taxis like manic madmen, causing accidents and killing passengers right left and centre just because you feel entitled to.
- Disrupt traffic, destroy property and assault innocent passers-by just because government wants to introduce a better bus service. Selective Democracy to the taxi industry means competition only works when they are competing against poor bus and rail services and absolutely not the other way round.
- Driving your new BMW at 200kph on a freeway while at the same time changing lanes without indicating and chatting away on your cell phone because you have spent R500 000 on your Beemer and feel entitled to get your money's worth out of it.
- Selective Democracy means being able to drive any car at any speed and any old how no matter how dangerously because if the taxi drivers can get away with it then why shouldn't you.
- Selective Democracy means you can beat another motorist to death with a hockey stick for cutting you off, but at the same time feeling entitled to give the finger to and/or shoot anyone who has the nerve to hoot at you when you cut them off.
- It also means that if you run a business where a lot of cash is involved, paying tax is optional. And if you opt not to, you can still bitch like hell when your rubbish isn't collected or a pothole in the road isn't fixed within minutes of appearing.
- If you run a big business and a senior executive rips you off, you can give him a golden handshake, ask him to resign and then promise not to say anything if he doesn't, and then sweep it all under the carpet. You don't have to lay a charge of theft even though the law insists you must, because you don't want to damage the image of the company with controversy. Then, you complain at dinner parties about politicians flouting the rule of law.
But, who is to blame? Who the heck started it all?
Well, there is only one answer to that. It starts by the people who lead us. Politicians and businessmen.
The examples they set by being so patently selective in the way they either vociferously uphold democracy or simply ignore it when it suits them can't help but have an impact on society.
It is the start of a process that has more and more ordinary law abiding people thinking: "Well, if they can do it, why can't I."