If ANYONE believed that democracy – one adult, one vote – is the universal answer to the selection of a government of competence that will serve the public, then South Africa must be the proof that it is not. What we have is government of gratitude.
Understandably the ANC as the liberators got the grateful vote and was swept to power. A second term followed despite a growing realisation that things were not going well.
But now it is plain that the government is not only incompetent, but corrupt and self-serving.
Democracy depends on educated objectivity such that choice is made on the basis of who will do the best job.
Where prejudice due to race, tribe, region, language, religion, fear, dependence or other divisive factors is the major decision maker then the vote will not be objective.
A major group in South Africa is the economically dependent. The ANC recognises this and keeps them (16 million) loyal with grants.
Add those who are given a RDP house, or the promise thereof, and the countless numbers who are employed by the government. The ANC can scare these benefactors into believing they will get less or nothing under an alternative administration.
Thus it secures a large portion of the vote despite its ineptitude so the chance of deposing the ANC is minimal.
The people have been fed a diet of promises which are largely unfulfilled. For many the quality of life has declined and the reality of the situation is becoming self-evident even to the most hardened ANC supporters.
Making it harder to bear is the blatant self-enrichment of the party elite, their families and cronies.
The signs of this realisation have been obvious for a long time. The smoke from the burning protest fires is a result of broken promises and failed delivery.
The anger is increasing with good reason. In time it will reach boiling point and be of a scale beyond the capability of the police and the military.
There is ample evidence to show that this anger is directed at the government but at the same time it creates the opportunity not only to protest but also to loot, this being the only way that those locked in poverty have of obtaining goods beyond their means. The Somalis in Walmer felt the brunt of the anger despite their living in the community for as long as 10 years.
In Plettenberg Bay the police stood back as the looters rampaged through the industrial area. As the frustration builds rioting and looting will spread and, as in Zimbabwe, the police and army will be spectators, if not participants.
The government will do little except blame our history and its evils to direct the anger away from the root cause, its own incompetence.
The dependant and those disappointed or angry with the government will largely not take the action of voting against the ANC, their protest will be to abstain. The obvious solution is thus unlikely.
We are following the formula for failure. Prejudice elects the incompetent which leads to deprivation, which leads to chaos, which leads to anarchy.
So democracy in South African is failing, as it has throughout the continent, and the outcome will not be pretty.
E A Pearce, Mill Park, Port Elizabeth