South Africa: Build Social Cohesion and Fight Anti-Democratic Sentiment


Human rights and democratic values never implode in one big bang. Anti-democrats chisel at them. No matter how much they are pacified, accommodated or appeased, their impulse to fight back never dissipates. Drawing on grand theory in the social and political sciences, based on Latin American case studies, one can loosely characterise this as authoritarian regression.

In studying democratic consolidation over the past 25 years of freedom in South Africa, one finds various pockets of regressive impulse. Among these are horrific racist murders of men being thrown to lions or stuffed alive in coffins, barely concealed political murders, divisive tweets of once-powerful ANC leaders, migrants being hounded out of communities because they "smell foreign", and something as seemingly minor as a local placard protest.

It is the latter, in a little nook of Chatsworth in Durban this week, that represents one of the latest and nastiest impulses to authoritarian regression. Left unchallenged, it is a malaise that will chip at the democratic edifice.

eThekwini's municipal ward 71, comprising Shallcross, Crossmoor and Bottlebrush, represents a microcosm of a potentially non-racial community. Palatial homes, suburban cottages, mass council housing and informal settlements co-exist cheek-by-jowl. Their placement is simultaneously a function of apartheid...

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