Unity in diversity: Democracy at its best

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One thing that President Cyril Ramaphosa can be assured of is that Mmusi Maimane, Julius Malema, Prince Mangusotho Buthelezi, General Bantu Holomisa, Patricia de Lille and all the other leaders who contested the 2019 National and Provincial elections, all have one thing in common: they want the best for South Africa. All of them have the country’s interests at heart and are patriotic men and women. 

Thanks to last week’s elections, on 22 May 2019 President Cyril Ramaphosa will be elected South Africa’s fifth democratically elected president. In this the twenty-fifth year of our democracy, despite contesting a rather divisive elections and going into the House to represent their parties, the men and women elected to parliament and our legislatures will all have one thing in common. They will all be sworn in by pledging allegiance to the Republic and its Constitution. 

Also most likely is that, as the second largest party in the National Assembly, Democratic Alliance leader, Maimane, will once again take up the constitutionally enshrined position of Leader of the Official Opposition. He will be joined by other leaders of the other opposition parties who led their parties in contesting these elections. The people’s representatives have been chosen. Democracy, at least procedurally, would have been exercised. The people have once again spoken.

Yet more important than the announcement of the cabinet, the president-in waiting must announce to the country that he will work with these parties and their leaders to prioritise issues that will be approached in a multi-partisan manner. After having practiced democracy through free, fair and fiercely contested elections, the first citizen must unite all of us to ensure that the top issues facing our country will be tackled. 

As a nation, we can ill afford to remain divided on some of the most pressing issues faced by our country. Without disrespecting the voice of the majority of our citizens who voted for a particular party with a specific manifesto, our new president must ensure that we are united as we, collectively, address these issues. 

When the new president speaks, his term of office only starting on 22 May despite having served fifteen months already, he must be clear that “our people” is inclusive of the entire South African population. This is what the majority of South Africans voted for, this is what they demanded when they voted for the ANC, a party which explicitly believes that South Africa belongs to all who live in it Black and White. 

One of the most obvious of these challenges to be addressed in a multi-partisan fashion would be the legacy of apartheid, as pointed out by former President Thabo Mbeki during the election campaign, that continues to linger on in our country twenty-five years after liberation. This legacy is characteristic of poverty, unemployment and inequality and continues to be, as with apartheid, defined along racial lines. The majority of people who continue to suffer from these triple challenges are in the main African and Coloured. 

As with bringing the HIV/AIDS pandemic under control a decade ago, South Africans from all walks of life and with different talents and backgrounds must prioritise defeating Black poverty, unemployment and inequality. This must be addressed through the deracialisation of the economy, addressing the crisis in our education and training sectors as well as ensuring a just settlement on the question of land. 

Promoting our strengths as a country should be another prime concern. Despite the challenges, it would do us good to remain positive and encourage investors to invest in our country as well as ensure that the experience of each foreigner staying or visiting our country is a good one so that they in turn will promote our country. Every young person should be encouraged and given hope because our young population remains one of our most strategic assets.

Ideally, the new president should re-introduce the practice of meeting with the Leader of the Official Opposition, maybe quarterly, as our first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, did and encourage regular, collective meetings with all opposition party leaders so that unity of purpose as a nation is fostered. This may even assist with preventing the discord often witnessed in the life of the fifth parliament. 

As a nation, we should ensure that collectively we address the lingering issues that have not been addressed in the last twenty-five years. After all, unity in diversity remains the motto of our beautiful South Africa. A country all of us love and want only the best.

        

Wesley Seale is pursuing his PhD in Beijing, China.