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Op-eds

Democracy the real winner of 2019 elections

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
However one interprets the results, last week’s national and provincial elections undoubtedly ushered in a new era in the history of our democracy, one that hopefully will result in the country getting back on course after what has been a troubled decade.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | May 16, 2019

While losing some support, the ruling party still received a clear popular mandate to press ahead with the agenda set by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his first 15 months in office. Now that the excitement has died down, the hard work begins. Just as our own community involved itself in various aspects of the election process, so should we now look to work with the new leadership, as well as opposition parties, who have played a vital role in holding elected leadership accountable. We must identify ways in which we can continue to contribute. This duty is incumbent on all citizens, regardless of where they might stand on the political spectrum.

The real winner of this year’s elections was democracy itself. In spite of being the most fiercely contested poll since the inaugural multi-racial elections in 1994, the process was once again conducted by and large in a spirit of goodwill and tolerance. Apart from some glitches at certain voting stations and occasional allegations of fraud, the elections were once again declared free and fair by local and international observers. In a world where only a minority of nation states can truly call themselves democratic, this itself is a noteworthy achievement.

I had the pleasure of being an election observer, one of 230 volunteers who made up the South African Jewish Board of Deputies’ interfaith, multi-national observer team, and was most satisfied with the professional and respectful manner in which the officials and public conducted themselves. What impressed me particularly was the care shown by officials in assisting the elderly. The fact that special arrangements were made to allow a relatively small number of Jewish expatriates to vote after Shabbat is further indication of respect and protection of the right of every citizen to vote.

On Saturday night, the board’s National Vice-President Zev Krengel and National Director Wendy Kahn attended the Independent Electoral Commission’s Results Gala at the Results Operations Centre in Tshwane. They reported a palpable mood of optimism in the hall, a real sense of celebration, and commitment across-the-board to working together to rebuild our country.

In spite of the concerns we have with government, and the issues we will need to address in coming months, we are committed to remaining engaged and involved in all facets of governance. Through this, we will help ensure that the voice of our community will continue to be part of the chorus of this hopeful new era.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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