English: Map showing the territorial four main races/ethnicities/colors of South Africa in 1979: Whites, Coloureds, Blacks and Indians. The gray areas indicate the Apartheid-era Bantustans, which are almost exclusively black. This map is a photoshopped version of the CIA-made original map at Perry Castañeda map collection at the University of Texas website. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Written by Raeesah Cassim Cachalia (1)
Part I of this discussion explored the paranoia around the growth of political Islam after the Arab Spring. The discussion explained many of the issues involving Islam and Islamophobia and where these issues stem from. Continuing from this, part II briefly examines democracy as well as the Islamic state and explains why democracy, as we know it today, should not be the only option considered for regime change in Arab Spring nations.
The flaws and fallacies of democracy
Democracy needs to be evaluated as more than a theoretical ideal but in light of its implementation and track record as well. This is because freedom and justice, among the other values which democracy is meant to entail, do not merely exist in the right to vote or in the existence of a peoples’ constitution. Democracy, at its core, is a system meant for the benefit of the masses. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “…freedom translates into having a supply of clean water, having electricity on tap; being able to live in a decent home and have a good job; to be able to send your children to school and to have accessible health care. I mean, what’s the point of having made this transition [to democracy] if the quality of life of these people is not enhanced and improved? If not, the vote is useless.”(2) South Africa, despite having come a long way from its Apartheid past, is an example of the distance between democracy in theory and practice.
The past six months have seen a number of South African citizens worked up into a frenzy over Government attempts to impose toll tariffs for the use of major public roads. Government claims the tariff is necessary to cover a large ZAR 20 billion (US$ 2.6 billion) debt accrued for various road projects. In considering why the regular national budget does not cover such expenses, many angrily point to Government corruption along with gross wastage of state expenditure by South African politicians. To name but one example, that of former Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sicelo Shiceka, we may look at the following official findings regarding the former Minister’s expenditure of state, and thus taxpayers, money in 2011 (keeping in mind that poverty rates are as high as 64% in parts of South Africa with these parts of the population living on less than ZAR 10 (US$ 1) a day):
- ZAR 546,864 (US$ 71,687) for a personal trip to Switzerland under the pretence of official Government work.
- ZAR 640,000 (US$ 83,920) in one year spent by the Minister and his immediate staff on one of South Africa’s most costly hotels.
- ZAR 55,793 (US$ 7,300) for a one night stay for the Minister and a private acquaintance in the same hotel.
- ZAR 160,000 (US$ 20,975) in eight months for flights for the Minister’s family members (including an “estranged wife and current girlfriend”).(3)
South Africa may be a relatively new democracy, but even established democracies indicate the illusions of this system. Continue reading