This is one of my rare posts discussing a country issue which has been stirred by the visit of Navanethem “Navi” Pillay the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Elections by analogy is one factor of the “thermometer” that measures ‘will of the people.’
If politicians think that they can eye wash this woman’s views, they should read her credentials! she is a South African of Indian Tamil origin, she was the first non-white woman judge of the High Court of South Africa, and she has also served as a judge of the International Criminal Court and President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She knows what discrimination is and knows Rwanda!
In 1967, Pillay became the first non-white woman to open her own law practice in Natal Province. As a non-white lawyer under the apartheid regime, she was not allowed to enter a judge’s chambers. As a lawyer in South Africa, she defended anti-apartheid activists and helped expose the use of torture and poor conditions of political detainees. When her husband was detained under the Apartheid laws, she successfully sued to prevent the police from using unlawful methods of interrogation against him. She’s well aware of how the Chief Justice 43 has been treated here! In 1973, she won the right for political prisoners on Robben Island, including Nelson Mandela, to have access to lawyers.
Many people even among the educated think that democracy means majority rule. Democracy is valued in the West because it ensures freedoms such as the freedom of expression, of association and also of the rule of law. Navi Pillay warned that we are heading for authoritarianism. Our leadership’s responses was that the President is not a dictator since he is holding so many elections!
Just as Democracy cannot be equal to elections nor does it mean the ‘will of the ruler.’ The rule of those who exercise power must be subject to checks and balances and the rule of law if we are to be considered a true democracy. Democracy in the USA, UK and the western world and in Australia-New Zealand lead the way in dialogue, consultation, rule of law and freedom of expression. Corrupt politicians get punished and Journalists are alive despite what they report! In the Soviet Union and the former Communist countries there were regular elections but nobody considered them democracies. Mugabe and middle eastern kingdoms hold elections but everyone knows how its held and how they govern?
Elections alone even if they are free and fair do not mean it is a democracy. The “fever” in this analogy is caused by the politicos, by the weak judiciary, by the police not upholding the rule of law, by weak press freedom and by weak people. As history would say, Hitler was elected by a majority of Germans but he went on to suppress freedoms.