What has democracy done for you?

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of South Africa’s first free and fair elections. The Daily Vox asked a few citizens what freedom means to them and what our democracy has done for them.

Thabo Makhudu, 33, chef, Orange Grove
In 1994, I was young, I was not at the age to vote. I remember it was fun, seeing the long queues, seeing Mandela becoming our president, seeing a black person become president for the first time. That was fun.

Democracy means I can see all the foreigners being accepted into our country. As a South African, democracy means we can be happy even though we have our ups and downs. Democracy is working, it is just a matter of taking out all the rotten potatoes out there and putting in people who can carry on with good democracy and not corruption.

Sarah Malele, 55, street hawker, Ivory Park
I voted ANC in 1994. The ANC used to do the right things, but now it doesn’t. In 2012 I was involved in taxi accident and I lost two of my fingers, and I have not received my RAF money yet. They always tell me to vote and vote for the ANC, because they will help me with my situation but they have not helped me. I, however, will still vote for the ANC in future elections because I’ve voted for it from the beginning, and Nelson Mandela also sacrificed his time in jail for us. So I have to be loyal to the party. But, the ANC needs to make sure that I get my Road Accident Fund, because I am poor and selling on the side of the street. President Zuma, I love you, please help me get my money back.

Johannes Ntenza, 32, municipal street cleaner, Alexandra
For instance, there are people in South Africa who have jobs and are working, but at the same time you have South Africans who do not have jobs. We can see here that somewhere, somehow it didn’t work. Freedom means being free. I don’t believe that I am free because, for instance, if you want to get an increase at work, we have to toyi-toyi. The issue of jobs and salary increase is something that makes me lose pride in being South African.

Grace Nabateregga, 22, delivery person, Uganda
Back home there is no democracy, we live under a dictatorship. Uganda has had the same president for over 35 years now, he is not letting go of power. But here we saw the anti-Zuma protests, people were able to air their views and that cannot happen in Uganda.

For the most part, South Africa is good and democracy works. But there are some South Africans who rise against us as foreigners. It is stressful. I also think your democracy could be improved if people were more willing to interact with those they do not agree with. You need to give each other a chance.

Furoz Dewood, 21, student, Durban
I have never voted. Democracy has never done anything for me, there is no democracy in South Africa. It is more of a dictatorship, and the ruling party seems to be more like puppets. Freedom Day doesn’t mean anything to me.

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Featured image via Flickr