Take responsibility for protecting SA democracy, says Maimane

DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Troy Enekvist; M&G)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane. (Troy Enekvist; M&G)

All South Africans need to take responsibility for protecting their democracy and must “take ownership” of the August 3 municipal elections, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said on Saturday.

Speaking in Tlokwe (Potchefstroom) in North West during a DA march for free and fair elections, he said the final line of defense of South Africa’s democracy – the judiciary – was still strong and independent.

“While just about every other state institution has fallen into the hands of [President] Jacob Zuma’s ANC we know we can count on the courts to safeguard our democracy.”

And while the Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) was tasked with keeping an eye on elections it was up to all South Africans to keep an eye on the IEC.

“And when I say ‘us’ I don’t mean just the DA. I mean every single South African. We must all take responsibility for protecting our democracy and we must take ownership of these elections,” Maimane said.

“We must remain vigilant if we want our elections to be free and fair so that we end up with an elected government that truly represents the will of the people.
And people can only express this will if it is done freely – if they are protected from the threat of violence and electoral fraud.

“If we want the outcome of an election to represent the true will of the people we must also ensure that the party with access to state resources does not use these resources to gain an electoral advantage.

“Time and time again we have seen the ANC use state-funded food parcels in the run-up to elections to buy votes, particularly in closely contested areas. The use of state resources and patronage for party campaigning must be called what it is – electoral fraud,” he said.

“This is clearly a major part of the ANC’s campaign strategy and it is up to the IEC, along with all of us, to prevent our elections from being stolen by reporting and preventing these incidents.

“Free and fair elections are the most fundamental cornerstone of our democracy. It is how we, the citizens, address wrongs in our society. It’s how we change leaders. It is how we choose the leaders that are going to bring positive change in our lives.”

South Africa’s democracy had never really been tested because democracy was not tested when a governing party was assured of victory. The true test of a democracy came when a change of government was imminent.

“This is where we find ourselves today. Change is possible in these elections. The ANC could lose elections in major metros. This is why our local government elections in August will be such a crucial milestone in the development of our democracy,” Maimane said.

The ANC was unlikely to submit to the will of the people if this meant giving up some of its former strongholds. Under Zuma the ANC had shown it was incapable of reform and not prepared to honour the Constitution “when things don’t go their way”.

“The ANC will always defend the corrupt and ignore the poor. That has become its hallmark. It governs as though poor, black South Africans don’t matter to it anymore,” Maimane said.

“But as long as we have an independent IEC you can vote for whichever party you feel will deliver the change that you want. No one must ever fear voting for someone other than the ANC. In fact, that is best decision you will make.

“Because when you no longer fear voting for another party you can make your decision based on the things that truly matter. The things that will change your life here for the better. You can then vote for a party that has, by far, the best track record of service delivery in the metro and municipalities where it governs. You can vote for the party that does not tolerate corruption and does not allow its employees to do business with the state.”

Maimane called on all South Africans to respect the right of their neighbour to participate freely in these elections just as they would like their neighbour to do the same for them.

“Too many people paid a huge price for our democracy for us to risk throwing it away. Let us go out on 3 August and express the will of the people. And if this means that certain local governments change hands, let us show that our democracy can pass this test without violence,” he said. – African News Agency (ANA)

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