African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

South Africa: Freedom is more than the vote (editorial)

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2008

Johannesburg (South Africa) – History is written by the victors, and in the struggle for a democracy in SA the African National Congress (ANC) has declared itself the liberator of the people.

But this week the ANC, in a rather stilted statement on the 25th anniversary of the launch of the United Democratic Front (UDF), acknowledged that the UDF brought down apartheid.

A monument is being erected in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, to mark the site of the launch of the broad front against apartheid in 1983, so perhaps its erasure from history is no longer a certainty.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel pointed out at a gathering commemorating the UDF this week that South Africans should never again give up the hunger for freedom, even to our own comrades in Parliament or government. Manuels statements echo sentiments by political commentators that there may in fact be a need in todays political climate for an organisation similar to the UDF .

After eight years of escalating protest and defiance against the National Party government on a scale never seen before in SA, the UDF was dissolved. The ANC had just been unbanned, and several key UDF leaders were members of the ANC anyway. So it seemed logical to throw in their lot with the party. After all, the UDF had deferred to the ANC throughout its existence.

But today, many former UDF leaders acknowledge that SA lost something when the front was disbanded. This includes the insistence that freedom means much more than a right to vote the UDF mobilised people to demand quality education, housing and healthcare as well as the vote.

Another political principle lost was the recognition that the contribution of ordinary people in organisations and campaigns was as important as that of their leaders.

The cult of leadership that has developed in the ANC denies the power of citizens to effect change. South Africans may have won the right to elect their leaders, but have lost the power to compel them to do their bidding.

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API/Source.Business Day (South Africa)

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