While marking 21 March, it is important to review what has been achieved since that fateful day in 1960.
That was when the people of Sharpeville under the leadership of the charismatic Robert Sobukwe marched against the pass laws. The pass laws were constituted to control the movement of black Africans in line with the Group Areas Act, 1950. The pass laws were used to bundle black Africans in the townships in line with tribal and ethnic affiliations. Nguni group language speakers in designated townships such as Zola and Zondi, Sotho speakers in Moletsane and Naledi, Rockville with Zulu and Sotho section designations, and Chiawelo and Senaoane for Tsonga and Venda speakers, these townships were far away from the industrial areas of work.
The pass laws were replaced with a modern Constitution with a fundamental flaw in the electoral laws:
- In the current parliamentary electoral laws, which have been in place since 1994, citizens (as voters) are only allowed to vote for political parties, without the right to choose an individual person as their representative member of Parliament, and without the right to vote directly for their choice as president of the republic.
- Under these parliamentary electoral laws, the integrity of the state depends on internal democracies inside the political parties.
- Citizens are at the mercy of the internal democracies of the political parties and are dependent on the elective conferences of the governing party. This is a fundamental flaw in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
When the people of South Africa demanded that the people shall govern, few would have thought they were fighting for political parties to appoint leaders for them.
Under the apartheid regime, the National Party appointed Bantustan leaders for black Africans, while today the ANC appoints leaders for black Africans. What is the difference? The difference is that today black Africans vote for the ANC, whereas during apartheid the white voters elected the National Party without black Africans participating.
The bottom line is that black Africans still do not have the power that white voters had under apartheid — to choose an individual they trust to be their MP in the National Assembly, and who they can remove at the next general election if that MP is no good.
Black voters are still not allowed by law to elect leaders for themselves, whether members of Parliament, the president, premiers or mayors. All these officials are appointed by the governing parties in towns, cities, provinces and nationally. What about “The people shall govern”? Or was it just an empty slogan?
“All power to the people” — what did it mean? Does it mean all power to the political parties? The answer is no. “All power to the people” means all power to the voters to directly elect leaders such as members of Parliament and not party headquarters appointing members of Parliament. This is the fundamental flaw in our Constitution.
We do not yet have democracy, a Greek word from thousands of years ago which means “the people have power”. At a minimum, the heroes of Sharpeville were fighting to have the right to directly elect their members of Parliament on their own behalf, just as the whites did under apartheid.
It is a disgrace and betrayal of the heroes of Sharpeville that we still do not have that right today. After more than 60 years it is not yet Uhuru.
Why does the ANC government continue the apartheid system by depriving us of a real vote? DM