Get civically minded

Martin van Staden / Midjourney
Martin van Staden / Midjourney

This article was first published by Daily Friend on 6 June 2024

We failed the test. Over 65% of voters voted incorrectly. That is now water under the bridge, and a vindication of those who have been saying that South Africa’s salvation does not lie at the ballot box. As a period of political instability begins, it is time to look to our communities.

Do not take this to mean that one must become politically uninvolved. Government is becoming increasingly irrelevant, but it is not yet irrelevant. We must continue to take action to limit government harm and do whatever is possible and constructive in the political realm to ensure respect for civil liberties, private property, and the rule of law.

It is still my view that a confidence and supply arrangement between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the central sphere, and potentially a Multi-Party Charter-led coalition with the ANC in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, would be the best avenue to achieve these ends. Hermann Pretorius has, in my view, definitively set out the case for why this is.

It does not, however, matter what arrangement is cobbled together over the next week. The chances of it lasting the whole five-year term are doubtful. The instability we have seen in the municipal sphere, where parties driven almost exclusively by personality are kingmakers, will now also be seen in the central sphere.

This has benefits. It means government will be too unstable to really dedicate itself to directly depriving South Africans of their civil liberties or private property. When the bad guys are in government, you want state collapse and chaos.

But it is also fraught with risk. Civil liberties and private property will be harmed indirectly, as investor confidence slips and uncertainty arises around the security of freedom under law. Much damage can be done to the brief spurts of stable government among the radical fringes of our politics.


There is no point in allowing worry to debilitate us, however. It will be what it will be.

The question is what we will do to rise to the occasion. We have long been told to do nothing but ‘vote harder’, but that ship has – at least for a couple of years – sailed.

The days of burying our heads in the sand and acting as if the political reality we find ourselves in does not affect us, should be well and truly over. This means that it is no longer, truly, an option to be uninvolved in the reconstruction of our society.

It is we ourselves, not politicians or government officials, who now hold this great responsibility in our hands.

Those who can leave, in all likelihood will, so do not pay them too much attention. Those of us who have nowhere else to go, however, have an exciting and constructive task ahead of us.

Without the distraction of partisanship, communities must simply fill the potholes, build community schools or start homeschooling clubs, secure their neighbourhoods, and build solar plants.

Pay no mind to the fearmongers, who will tell you that this is pointless, and that all hope is lost unless you can leave or acclimatise to destruction. These people often benefit from panic – whether it is increased clientele for offshore wealth managers, or more clicks and views for podcasters – but panic is never constructive.

We are not faced with the National Socialists of Germany, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, or the Christian Nationalists of years past in South Africa. We are faced with some of the most incompetent and unskilled politicians and officials the world has known, who are ideologically drunk, but can have their attention easily diverted by more earthly pursuits.

These are people who can still do a lot of damage, but unlike the real tyrants of the past, they can only do that damage if we allow them to. These are bullies in the traditional sense: they expect and require your compliance with their undermining of your interests.

Building power

We must become comfortable with saying ‘no’, when our own destruction as individuals, families, enterprises, and communities is on the agenda. But ‘no’ only matters when it is said in numbers. An individual engaging in tax evasion (a veritable hero who deserves commendation, not condemnation) is a person begging to be martyred. But a community engaging in a tax revolt is something – though not without risk – that could yield fruit.

Denying the purse is, however, not the only method of saying ‘No’. Sometimes, it is as simple as not taking the President’s call when he wants to invite you to sit in on another workshop, or covering for your neighbours or colleagues (and certainly not ratting them out) when they have a braai in their backyard and the lockdown police come knocking.

The infrastructure of freedom must now be prioritised, however, before ‘no’ can be given its due weight. Solidarity, AfriForum, taxi associations, and the Jewish and Muslim communities are already some way down this road, but many millions of South Africans have yet to start their engines.

Even if something resembling a coalition of stability and progress is formed, nothing should stand in the way of realising more civic-mindedness. The fact alone that the forces of destruction carried such a large percentage of the vote means that we cannot afford to become complacent again until we are convinced that these forces have been neutralised as political factors – something that will take years.

And even though we must be actively engaged in the political realm, we must decidedly begin treating the political realm as a second-order priority. Our focus must be to construct the infrastructure of freedom and prosperity outside the state. This is not easy, and it is not cheap, but it is necessary.

Safety, education, healthcare, access to electricity and water, and the provision of food are some of the crucial aspects of our existence that must be wrested away either from state monopoly or state veto. All of this is already being done – what remains to be realised, is scale.

Skin in the game

None of this means that everyone must become a community organiser. Even if you only help to fund the initiatives that build resistance to political abuse, you would be doing more than most. The key thing is that everyone should acquire skin in the game of their own salvation, which is something that has hitherto been delegated almost wholesale to political authorities.

Now that most thinking South Africans realise that the state is no longer, for the foreseeable future, the source of salvation, perhaps this delegation can finally be undone.


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The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author.




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