In municipal elections, don’t let anyone stop you from raising issues of justice, racism and fairness
Throughout this election period, I have heard people say that since the next election is a local government election, voters should not raise issues that are ânational government issuesâ.
For example, people who have expressed concerns about racism, xenophobia and employment as electoral issues have been dismissed by some political parties, advising them to stick to ‘service delivery issues’ and not to raise issues that âare not at the heart of local governmentâ.
The cornerstone of democracy in South Africa is the Constitution and its Bill of Rights in Chapter 2.
It enshrines the rights which all citizens can access and enjoy and affirms the value of human dignity, equality and freedom. It confers these rights on citizens to protect and promote the dignity of everyone, whether homeless, incarcerated or on trial.
The state has a duty to respect and fulfill the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. This state comprises the local government, which has the same obligation to defend human rights as the national government.
Therefore, issues such as justice, racism, xenophobia and other perceived ânational government issuesâ are highly relevant in all elections and should be considered to align with the Bill of Rights.
During local elections, don’t let anyone tell you not to raise justice, racism, fairness, or other rights-related issues.
Don’t let politicians tell you that this election is all about service delivery and that justice, racism and social welfare are not issues for this election. Each political party participating in these elections has a duty to declare that its manifestos comply with the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights âapplies to all laws, to all levels of government and binds the legislature, executive, judiciary and all organs of stateâ to its application. All elections are held under the Constitution and contending parties must abide by the Bill of Rights.
Each level of government must âpromote the values ââthat underpin an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedomâ in its application.
We all want clean streets and clean water. It is, among many other duties, the duty of the local government and its various municipalities.
Chapter 7 of the Constitution states that âa municipality has the right to conduct, on its own initiative, the affairs of local government in its community, subject to national and provincial legislation, as provided for in the Constitutionâ.
And Chapter 2, the Bill of Rights, is national legislation that is fully binding on local government.
Therefore, citizens are allowed to raise issues of justice, racism and fairness in these local elections. The reluctance of political parties is that people are not concerned about these issues in this election.
They say the main concerns people have is having their sewers removed and their streetlights working. If this is indeed the case, then we have succeeded in subverting an essential aspect of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, which should inform all aspects of service delivery.
Without the Bill of Rights, you have no way of determining whether the services you receive from a state body meet the appropriate standards.
It is your measure to hold elected officials accountable.
It is the Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights, and not a politician’s opinion on what is local and national, that should guide us in our vote.
It is this document that our elected officials will swear to respect once elected.
It is therefore important to check if they are doing so before voting for them. Your concerns about rising racial tensions and the unequal distribution of government resources are part of this election. Ask your candidate what he thinks the Bill of Rights means for this election.
Their response will give you a good idea of ââtheir and their party’s mindset as to whether they consider justice as important as the sewers.
* Lorenzo A Davids.
** The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the independent media.
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