Citizens must take SA back from the politicians
There was a phase early in the campaign against the Protection of State Information Bill when some lobbyists - while discussing a strategy to defeat the government's awful plans - agreed they would not encourage the DA to endorse their cause.
There was agreement around that table near parliament in Cape Town that inviting the DA in on the side of the media would immediately politicise the debate, and the ANC would be likely to harden its defence of the proposed crackdown on whistle-blowers and investigative reporters.
The goal then was to protect media freedom, not score a political point. As it happened, the ANC was not inclined at that stage to make any significant concessions.
The improvements that were accepted about a year later, though they fell very far short of making the bill acceptable, were as a result of relentless pressure and strong rational argument from opposition parties in parliament, civil society and representatives of the media industry.
The concessions were made because the ANC realised the abhorrence was so universal - including condemnation from foreign governments - that it would be against their own interests to press their case in every respect.
Support for the bill was managed from Luthuli House in Johannesburg, far away from parliament, and the decision to give some ground was a purely political retreat.
Something that should have been decided by and for the people was resolved according to political interests.
I am dredging up this bit of recent history to illustrate a concern that we have overpoliticised our society and that this hampers sound policymaking and implementation.
Political good too often trumps social good.
The National Party formally defined South Africa's development as a purely political issue back in 1960 when it banned the ANC and other political forces - the groups that would have been the political parties if South Africa had been a democracy.
Everything that happened in the country was decided by the National Party and all the associations connected to it - from the Afrikaner Broederbond to the scientific, social and religious institutions that it blessed.
It was only after the 1976 student uprising in Soweto that the possibility of incremental change forced by an active civil society began to emerge, leading, among other developments, to the formation in 1983 of the End Conscription Campaign and the United Democratic Front.
So it is hardly surprising that when Cosatu squeezed into being through a chink in the armour of apartheid legislation in 1985 and the ANC and the South African Communist Party were unbanned in 1990, they were immediately accepted as the legitimate and loved representatives of the majority that had been oppressed for so long.
Now, 18 years down the line, however, we have surrendered far too many of our rights to politics, politicians and political parties.
We have ceded our fate to political representatives and allowed the vibrant civic formations that blossomed in the last decade of white rule to whither.
In the analysis of the dreadful massacre at Marikana last Thursday, commentators have repeatedly referred to the perception among some of the miners that Cosatu has become an arm of government, rather than a representative of their interests.
It is possible, too, that one cause of the tension was a showdown between Cosatu and the emerging Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which could ultimately threaten the hegemony of the ANC.
Evidence of the supremacy of politics in our national development is all around us.
We see it in the corruption of programmes to bring health, housing, power, water, electricity, roads and jobs to those who need them. It is politicians who derail proper selection processes to enrich themselves.
Just this week, the Daily Dispatch quoted a delegate at the ANC's OR Tambo regional conference stating that he was promised a school renovation project in return for his vote.
We see it also in the politicisation of certain school governing body elections, where party loyalists are deployed ahead of parents who have the skill to steer schools to success.
If we continue to allow politics to hijack society, we will again, as we were 40 years ago, be left without any capacity to influence our social or physical environment other than through the internal processes and, to a much lesser degree, public interaction of political parties.
When Nedbank chairman Reuel Khoza criticised the degenerating "moral quotient" of the country's political leadership recently, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe accused him of claiming "a monopoly on the understanding of political leadership".
One dissenting voice is not a monopoly, but if we continue to delegate our future only to politicians, that dissenting voice may soon be silenced.
The constitution defines our society as a multi-party democracy with guaranteed political rights and freedoms, but it also guarantees the individual right to hold an opinion and to have it heard.
We need to rebuild ourselves as a nation of citizens, not a nation of parties.