We, the people, are government’s official opposition

South Africa's politics is in disarray. We know this. We are disappointed because we know and expect better. There is a fundamental knowledge and belief in us that our politicians can do better, and we trust them to perform as we expect. But we just can't help but feel that politicians do not care about us regular citizens as much as they should. Ok, maybe to say that they do not care would be unjust – they do, they just don't care enough to show it by their actions. That they are public servants – albeit with more privileges than us – is ironic.

The official opposition to them should be the people. The people have an interest; they are who mandate those who assume office to serve them, and as servants of the people, politicians should do our bidding, not theirs. Right now, we, the people, are merely stepping-stones to the path towards power, position and prestige.

Since we elect those in power, our role in society is to monitor and ensure that they do what they have been mandated. In order for this to happen we have to create an activist citizenry. We do not know how to create this group yet, but we know why we need them. We, the rightful owners of the country, have to take it back from the hands of politicians. We might not understand the nuances of geopolitics and how the financial systems work. But what we do know is that we want accountable politicians and a country that works.

Unfortunately South Africans abdicated their responsibility to politicians a long time ago. Before the end of apartheid, politicians and citizens worked together to ensure that the brutal system ended and would never return. But after that we became complacent. Maybe we became tired after having fought for so long. After all, why must you even have to fight for what is right?

We have a largely ineffective opposition because the ruling party is big enough to ignore it. It is sad that we are starting to think that we need to have a strong political opposition party in order for the government to take its job a lot more seriously than it does. The opportunity to serve the people should weigh a politician down with a heavy sense of duty and responsibility, not give the feeling of entitlement. It is of course this sense of entitlement which has caused the great education crisis.

It has been said many times over that our newspapers act in the capacity of the Loyal Opposition, which is what has irked a lot of our leaders, and it is wrong that the press should have assume this mantle. The Democratic Alliance (DA) can't play the role of official opposition with its weak numbers and therefore cannot be as effective as it possibly could be. 

Since we have a very strong ruling party, maybe we don't need an opposition that badly. Of course no one in the DA would like to hear that. Let's be clear: if ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe wins the ANC leadership race in Mangaung this December, the ANC might be able to prevent the bleeding of votes. Those who don't want a Jacob Zuma reign would return to voting for the ANC in the next election and the ruling party would gain a bump when we go to the polls in 2013.

In 2004 when Thabo Mbeki led the ANC, it got almost 70% of the vote. In 2009 the party lost its two-thirds majority hold. The ANC lost votes in every province, besides KwaZulu-Natal where it grew phenomenally. The election of Zuma has effectively destroyed the Inkatha Freedom Party. Good for the ANC.

However as much as people love the ANC, they don't love how it is led. But they don't want to give up on it. In some ways, it seems like the ANC has given up on the people way before they gave up on it. The people have displayed more loyalty to the party than it has given them. Therefore the people need to be opposed to what they love in order to save it from the black hole it is going towards. Of course some people might call this alarmist, but reports from the ANC itself admitted the party was headed towards a heavy implosion if nothing is done to fix it.

Unfortunately what affects the ANC does not just affect them alone, it affects the whole country, and it is in our interest to make sure the party remains healthy and not a sick patient.

We need to stand up and be counted. If we don't give our children a better South Africa than we inherited it will be our fault, not the fault of the politicians. We are too quick to point fingers at politicians when we are not doing our bit to get this country in the direction we know it should be going in. We have to roll up our sleeves and be the official opposition – one who points out what is wrong with the ANC and cheers what is right with it as well. The ANC is not all bad, but right now it seems to be mostly bad.


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