Assaults on Khoza a bad omen for South Africa's system
DEMOCRACY almost demands participation - or it will die. There is no substitute for public involvement to ensure that elected officials honour their election pledges.
History is littered with officials who ascended to office on the back of lofty promises, who were critical of the status quo, who committed to the people's cause.
But the moment they were elected they became consumed by the same system they were critical of.
At every opportunity we speak of our glorious post-1994 Constitution.
We speak of all the positive changes that our democratic government has brought.
And we give voice to how great it is to be welcomed by the rest of the world - a giant leap from our pariah status under white rule.
And we know that only the masses, the people, the citizens of our country can change society and how we go about doing things.
But citizens cannot change society on their own and neither will they do so spontaneously - even in desperate circumstances like abject poverty. They need leadership, hence its importance.
They also require [reliable] information.
They want to listen to and follow debates in the media. But they do not want to be told who to listen to, what newspaper to read and which leader to believe. Their own situations determine whether they will listen to leaders and if they will be persuaded to follow leaders.
So the media play a key role in all of this. Participatory democracy is an ongoing process.
It demands public participation in debate so that policy decisions can be influenced.
And it cannot be that those at the helm expect robust debate only at election time.
Furthermore, with regard to public involvement it, too, cannot achieve its efficacy if it is only meant to attain a predetermined goal.
The process should be representative of and accessible to citizens, or indeed, any citizen who seeks such participation. And it should not be adversarial in nature.
In the end the majority of citizens want their country to be the best.
But primary opportunities for public input are limited. And though the public mistrusts processes for decision-making, they are content to mandate leaders to take decisions - but only if they can see the difference leaders are creating.
The media have provided the platform for leaders to engage each other and citizens. This means leaders should feel free to bring up issues and place them in the public domain for discussion.
Freedom of expression is a necessary part of the process if we are to engage constructively.
This, I believe, is what Nedbank chairman Reuel Khoza did.
I read his comments in his company's report.
The more I did, the more I wondered what it was that so irked our political leadership. It seems the bit that most touched a raw nerve was the following:
"Yet we observe the emergence of a strange breed of leaders who are determined to undermine the rule of law and override the Constitution.
"Our political leadership's moral quotient is degenerating and we are fast losing the checks and balances that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the past."
The reaction from our leaders is the kind of threat Khoza seems to be referring to.
And there are hundreds of examples of leaders trying to undermine the rule of law.
There are cases before the various courts that attest to this.
The attacks on Khoza are meant to silence others who might have similar inclinations to speak out. Many will now retreat and observe how our country is being dragged further into the quagmire.