Opinion

Let's raise our voices at the polls and say no to a 'kakistocracy' taking hold in SA

05 May 2019 - 00:03 By Rich Mkhondo


Many eligible voters believe elections don't matter, that they don't really change things. They say it doesn't matter which party we elect, and that all politicians are the same - self-serving and corrupt.
The problem doesn't start with the politicians. It starts with us. We complain that our politicians are corrupt while we tolerate and encourage corruption.
Let's admit it. We are easy on corrupt officials, politicians and bureaucrats. If we were not, then how could the dishonesty in our government and thievery and bribery in our institutions persist?
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To the delight of corrupt officials, we ordinary citizens seem to have developed a tolerance for the corrupt ways of those who are supposed to serve our interests. We hardly complain about the skimming-off of public funds in government projects, extortion at government service agencies, and outright thievery.So why do we tolerate corrupt politicians? Because they pander to our weaknesses, granting us small "gifts" during election season and small "favours" every now and then.We don't support upright politicians because they don't give us freebies like T-shirts and meal packs. We would rather have the corrupt ones, whom we can approach for favours while we accept their empty promises and condone their wrongdoing.
It is possible that there are, in fact, more good politicians than bad ones. But the problem doesn't start with either: it starts with you and me and all of us who turn a blind eye to corruption.
Surely we deserve better? Surely we deserve principled politicians with a sense of duty and service, those who have toiled long and hard for the people with no reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done?
I believe there are still individuals who try to uphold this tradition, but the reality is that they are no longer recognised unless they toe the party line.
It is an absolute disgrace that our politicians seem so besotted with the pursuit of self-serving interests that the very word politician has become synonymous with unfulfilled promises.
We deserve solid evidence of the progress that's been made towards keeping the promises they made the last time we went to the polls.
Do we really believe that schools, hospitals, economic development and the fight against crime have seen any significant improvements?
Surely parliament should be filled with selfless men and women of ideas and imagination? Instead, we have egomaniacs who are happy to deliver meaningless jargon and self-serving mumbo jumbo.
Unless we vote for servant leaders, we will soon be saddled with a "kakistocracy", described in history books as "a government that is run by the least-qualified or most unprincipled citizens".
According to historians, this type of government originated in Europe in the 17th century and the term has been used through the years to describe degraded political systems. US poet James Russell Lowell wrote in 1877: "Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?"
Kakistocracy has come to be defined by a fusion of state structures and a country's oligarchic circles, leading to a systematic "burglary" of national assets and the formation of a rule of "lawlessness", all under the guise of democracy, a free-market economy, and the primacy of human rights and freedoms.
Let's not forget what is coming out of the various commissions.
We should be scared that kakistocratic regimes usually lead to political and socioeconomic collapses, which prompt popular turmoil. We should be afraid that kakistocracies depend on selling out national assets to foreign capital, depriving the majority while enriching the few and promoting more corruption and chaos.
If we are going to avoid a kakistocracy and get our country on track to economic development and prosperity, we must pursue representative democracy. We have to ask questions. We've got to set standards. We need to insist on action against corruption and hold the self-serving and self-enriching elite accountable.
The problems we confront have no simple solutions. On May 8, we have to be willing to elect parties with the strength to tell us things we don't always want to hear.
Above all, we must demand integrity.
Any possibility of kakistocrats' chaos must be tackled with a vote to achieve the common goals of an open Rainbow Nation with good governance.
• Mkhondo runs The Media and Writers Firm, a ghostwriting and content development, and reputation management hub

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