Reader’s letter: What does ‘democracy’ actually mean?


Chloe Castle, CEO of DearSA writes:

Everyone knows that South Africa is a democratic society, but what does that actually mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, democracy is a government by the citizens, a government in which the highest power is granted to the citizens. The key words are citizens and power, and the way people exercise their power is through democratic participation.

Democratic participation is much more than just voting. It is to have your say and help shape legislation by using the power given to you by democracy; it is to consider changes to policies that are being considered by the government in the decision-making process so that society is improved for all residents.

This all sounds well and good, but how does it work in practice?

Public participation is an essential process in a democratic political system that gives you the opportunity to voice your opinion on public matters through parliament. The South African Constitution requires public participation in parliamentary processes so that decisions are made beneficial to the majority of citizens, especially when it comes to drafting and implementing changes to legislation.

When we exercise the right to democratic participation, it gives us the opportunity to actively shape society and the laws that govern it. It gives us the chance to express our ideas, opinions and concerns. By participating in the democratic process, we protect our fundamental freedoms and right to object and help shape legislation. South African citizens can build a society that is more inclusive, equal and responsive and that reflects the needs and ideals of all.

We need to make our voices heard on matters such as the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bela), the Land Expropriation Bill, the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill, the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, and the new proposed water licensing regulations.

It is time to speak up and be heard. It is time to participate in democracy and exercise the power and right that has been given to every South African. All we need to do is find the right platform to make our voices heard.

DearSA is such a platform. We are a legal and Constitution-protected non-profit organization that enables the public to help shape government policy, amendments and proposals. We campaign on all of the above laws, making it easy for you to have your say and influence the future. It is important to bear in mind that the government only keeps the period for commenting on bills open for a certain time, so it is essential to have your say during this time.

Remember, it only takes one match to light a fire and one voice to bring about change. You don’t have to feel helpless when the government proposes new legislative changes. In fact, we must actively address these concerns and be accountable.