It is no exaggeration to say that South Africa is at a crossroads. Some 22 years into democracy and we find ourselves in a perpetual state of schizophrenia; encouraged by the opening up of our political spaces and at the same time deeply troubled by the seemingly endless reports of poor, even non-existent service delivery, blackouts, xenophobic and racist rhetoric and violence, non-accountable leadership and corruption.
It would appear that the values and principles of democracy which ought to benefit all – especially those living on the margins of society – are not being appropriated by the citizens of our nation and poverty, unemployment and inequality are, as a result, pervasive.
Yet in it all, South Africa enjoys the favour of the world. Our transition to democracy is still lauded the world over; our constitution is the envy of nations; our ability to withstand global economic turbulence and our resilience – even in the face of the fact that we are largely rudderless from a leadership perspective – speaks volumes about how we have navigated our first two decades of democracy.
At the very centre of this has been the Democracy Development Program (DDP). This world renowned Durban-based NGO has spent the past 22 years nurturing the growth of democracy. Committed to the promotion and consolidation of democratic practices in South Africa – the deepening of democracy if you like – the DDP has worked tirelessly to ensure that democracy take deep roots in South Africa.
For the DDP this process has involved a constant and unwavering commitment to encouraging citizen participation in the democratic process. This has been done through a variety of techniques most particularly the creating of safe spaces for people to engage in conversations on issues that matter most to them.
At the very core of the DDP’s work has been an insistence that people should not be dictated to regarding how they should behave or indeed respond to the issues of our time but that we should engage with one another in a spirit of unity; working together towards a common end.
Founder Dr Rama Naidu has become well known for saying that change happens slowly, personally; “one conversation at a time; one room at a time”. In a world dominated by self-interest and “what my country can do for me”, the DDP has been robust in promoting a move towards citizens taking responsibility and participating.
The DDP’s method for doing this is disarmingly simple but has proved time and time again to be highly effective. They have set about creating spaces in which people can think deeply and critically about who they are and what they have to contribute to our country. This simple yet extremely powerful methodology has seen the DDP work with a wide range of highly diverse organisations and individuals; NGO’s, political parties, Civil Society Organisations, academics, businesses, the media and citizens wishing to play their part.
Through workshops, dialogue groups, information sessions, conferences, seminars and think-tanks – sessions that over the years have impacted upon thousands of stakeholders – the DDP has helped to build capacity and assist citizens and organisations to find their place and their voice. Of course this does not just happen as people get to vote. This happens as people become inspired to take ownership of a democracy rather than constantly looking to others to make it work.
Over the years the DDP has invested tirelessly in building capacity and good governance, empowering our youth, monitoring and responding to government policy and legislation and promoting effective engagement with all spheres of government.
So if you are tempted to feel disillusioned by where we are as a nation, don’t! Organisations like the DDP are hard at it ensuring that democracy succeeds in South Africa.
For more information visit www.ddp.org.za
SA the Good News via ddp.org.za