07 May 2024 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Supplied
South African Democracy
Back (from left) Dr Brand Claassen (Head of the Department of Private Law), Dr Jacques Matthee (Vice-dean Faculty of Law), Dr Marianne Sèverin (Institute for African Studies at Bordeaux University, France), Dr Marda Horn, Dr James Faber, Dr Lerato Ngwenyama. Front (from left) Dr Caroline Müller-Van der Westhuizen, Dr Anthea-lee September-Van Huffel and Portia Senokoane.

The University of the Free State’s Department of Private Law in the Faculty of Law recently hosted an enlightening seminar titled 30 years of democracy in South Africa on 26 April 2024. Dr Marianne Sèverin, from the Institute for African Studies at Bordeaux University in France, graced the event with her expertise. Her doctoral research delved into the Political Networking of the African National Congress (ANC), providing a rich backdrop for her discussion on South African democracy with the faculty’s esteemed staff and eager students.

Navigating the adolescent years

In her engaging discourse, Dr Sèverin likened South African democracy to that of “a teenager”, acknowledging the strides made since the advent of democracy in 1994. However, she astutely pointed out that despite the country boasting a robust Constitution, the pervasive issues of corruption and poverty remain significant hurdles. Drawing from her deep knowledge of the ANC, she shed light on the party’s overwhelming dominance in politics, which, unfortunately, provides fertile ground for corrupt practices to flourish unchecked.

The perspective of the ‘born free’ generation

Of particular interest to Dr Sèverin were the perspectives of the young attendees, affectionately known as the ‘Born Free’ generation, who never experienced the apartheid era firsthand. Their casual acceptance of democracy struck a chord with her. Dr Marda Horn, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Private Law noted, “She found through her discussions that they seemed to take democracy for granted and did not appreciate how lucky they were to live in a democracy.”

Lessons from across the continent

Throughout her presentation, Dr Sèverin artfully weaved in anecdotes from other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, Congo-Brazzaville, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where democracy has faltered. Her passion for South Africa was palpable as she recounted the emotional moment she experienced during the Rugby World Cup in France in 2023 when the national anthem resonated. Expressing her admiration for the ethos of “ubuntu” demonstrated by the Springboks, she confessed that this philosophy has become her guiding principle in life, a testament to the profound impact of South African culture on her.

A call to cherish and safeguard

The seminar provided a platform for deep reflection on the progress and challenges of democracy in South Africa, urging participants to cherish and safeguard the hard-won freedoms of the nation. As South Africa approaches the elections scheduled for 29 May 2024, the seminar serves as a timely reminder of the importance of youth engagement in shaping the country’s democratic future.

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