Idasa celebrates 20 years of building democracy

The Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) on Thursday recommitted itself to working for democracy throughout Africa.

On the anniversary of the historic Dakar conference, held by Idasa in July 1987, the organisation is celebrating 20 years of democracy-building by affirming its commitment to work not only in South Africa, but also in other parts of Africa, executive director Paul Graham said.

Commemorating the first open and public meeting between exiled members of the then-banned African National Congress and members of South Africa’s white political establishment, Idasa saw its role today as promoting sustainable democracy, based on active citizenship, democratic institutions and social justice, not only within South Africa, but elsewhere on the continent, working in partnership with local, like-minded political and civil society organisations.

“Dakar symbolised a turning point for South Africa. It recognised that the future is not inevitable, but could be determined by human work to construct a better world,” Graham said in a statement.

“It remains, therefore, an example of what can be done in other conflict-ridden societies.”

With offices in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, and ongoing projects in Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Swaziland, Idasa had confirmed its commitment to intensifying its efforts in democracy-promotion in other countries in Africa.

“South Africans fought for and achieved this democracy and have begun to build a democratic society.
How can we deny others the same privilege we have received, especially since so many have contributed to our freedom?

“Ensuring that democracies get established, strengthened and deepened in ways that are sustainable in the various contexts within which Africans live, demands that we apply our minds professionally and thoughtfully, but not without passion.

“Promoting democracy is for us an obligation. But it is not something that can be imposed from outside.

“We believe that at present our legitimacy and effectiveness in these Africa-wide initiatives arises from our South African roots and our continued active involvement in the deepening of democracy in South Africa,” Graham said.

Idasa will hold anniversary celebration events on September 25 in Cape Town and on September 27 in Johannesburg, which will be attended founder members Alex Boraine and Frederik van Zyl Slabbert. - Sapa

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