Turning and Turning
South Africans often are deeply polarised in our perspectives of the present and the past. Our ‘ways of seeing’ are fraught with division, and we fail to understand the complexities when we do not see what lies beneath the surface.
There is no denying that the Jacob Zuma presidency took a significant toll on South Africa, exacerbating tensions and exposing the deep fractures that already exist in our society along the lines of race, class and even ethnicity. The Zuma years were marked by cases of corruption and state capture, unprecedented in their brazenness, and increased social protests – many of which were accompanied by violence – aggressive public discourse, lack of respect for reason and an often disturbing resistance to meaningful engagement.
Importantly, those years also placed enormous pressure on our democratic institutions, many of which still bear the scars, and challenged the sovereignty of the Constitution itself. As an analyst and governance specialist at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) for twelve years, February has had a unique perch. Turning and turning is a snapshot of her IDASA years and the issues tackled, which included work on the arms deal and its corrosive impact on democratic institutions, IDASA’s party-funding campaign, which February helped lead, as well as work on accountability and transparency.
Combining analytical insight with personal observations and experience, February highlights the complex process of building a strong democratic society, and the difficulties of living in a constitutional democracy marked by soaring levels of inequality. There is a need to reflect on and learn from the country’s democratic journey if citizens are to shape our democracy effectively and to fulfill the promise of the Constitution for all South Africans.