Chapter 3 - DEMOCRACY, GOVERNMENT & PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Democracy is a way of governing a country. The most common definition of democracy is rule by the people. This means, the people consent to the government running the country. Citizens are given an opportunity to choose, through their right to vote and appoint public representatives to represent them in government. They do this in regular, free and fair elections.
However, the democratic practice of citizens doesn’t end here. Democracy also means that the people who have been elected are accountable in various ways to the people who voted for them. They have to act and deliver on the promises they made during elections to ensure the participation of local communities in future plans and priorities.
All public sector representatives and officials have to be open (transparent) and show good use of that they were entrusted with (accountable) in their actions and decisions.
When we vote we give the government a mandate to pass and enforce laws on our behalf. In making laws the government has to follow what is written in the constitution and it uses the courts as well as the police and military to enforce the laws.
If the government becomes unpopular or doesn't do what it promised to do then people can vote for another party in the next election and vote the present government out of power. This is essentially how democracy works and why it can be an effective system of government.
The Constitution sets out the principles for how the public service should operate in section 195::
Public administration must be broadly representative of the South African people, with employment and personnel management practices based on ability, objectivity, fairness, and the need to redress the imbalances of the past to achieve broad representation.
Democratic principles are ideas which most people believe are essential for a democracy. The most important principles of democracy are:
People have a right and a duty to participate in government and in civil society. Public participation includes standing for elections, voting in elections, becoming informed, holding and attending community meetings, joining civil and/or political organisations, paying taxes, protesting and petitioning.
All people should be treated equally and without discrimination and be given equal opportunities.
While the majority of people rule in a democracy, the rights of minority groups are also protected. Everyone should be allowed to express their opinions and join the political, religious or civil groups of their choice.
Government must be accountable to the people for its actions, including the laws that are passed and how these laws are implemented.
Government must be open to the public about it's actions. It must allow the public to give input before laws are passed.
Regular, free and fair elections
Elections must happen in a free and fair way, without intimidation, corruption and threats to the public before or during the election. Elections should also be held regularly, every few years. For South Africa, these occur every five years.
Accepting the results of elections
When a political party loses an election, its supporters must accept this result.
People in a democracy should be allowed to have some kind of private ownership of property and business and they should be allowed to choose their own type of work and join labour unions. The government should not totally control the economy.
Controlling and preventing the abuse of power
There should be ways to prevent government officials from abusing their powers. The courts should be independent and they should have the power to -
The human rights of individuals and groups are enshrined and protected in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of rights includes a list of rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to all people in the country. All rights and freedoms need to be protected to prevent these from being violated. Section 7 of the Constitution defines what the Bill of Rights is:.
Multi party system
More than one political party must be allowed to participate in elections and play a role in government. At the local government level, independent ward candidates are also provided for.
Rule of law
The rule of law means that no one is above the law, including the President of the country. Everyone must obey the law and be held accountable if they break the law. The law must also be equally, fairly and consistently enforced.
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