Building on some of the definitions used in this course and from your own lived experience, what do you think qualifies someone as an "Active Citizen" in South Africa?
Almond and Verba in 1963 wrote a book called the Civic culture. This was a foundational text of political culture and political socialization. They developed three types of political cultures namely: Parochial political culture whereby citizens are not engaged with government or are alienated from government and that was mainly associated with primitive societies i.e. rural areas. On the other hand, Subject political culture has citizens which seem to be living in a dictatorship, whereby they recognize the government but do not identify with it. So it plays itself out as a ‘master and subject relationship’. Conversely the third type was a Participant political culture better acclaimed as active citizenship, whereby citizens recognize the government, identify with it, vote and interact with government in different ways.
Active citizenship has multiple facets to it and cannot be conceptualized into one notion. But I can attest to the realization that it requires involvement, commitment, and patriotism. Within that there is a core element - a collection of people whose actions together hold dominion. The power they hold together can help mobilize structures and systems which can lead to transformation and healing.
In South Africa someone would qualify as an “active citizen” if they have read the Bill of Rights in order to know their full rights and to subsequently know that their rights have limitations (which most South Africans would be taken aback by that). A great example is the #feesmustfall movement, whereby students who are orchestrating university shutdowns are actually infringing on the right to receiving education of many students who would like to complete the 2016 academic year. So the protesting students’ right to protest is limited to not infringing on other students’ rights to safety and security, receiving good quality education, the right to not be threatened nor intimidated and many other rights.
And another important factor that would qualify someone as an “active citizen” would be knowing our Constitution. In doing so, the fact that our rights are not absolute and they have limitations would be brought to the forefront. Once more, educating oneself on the leadership of the country, the different roles that ministers, cabinet members, parliament, branches of government, political parties and many more play in the functioning of the state and so much more. Active citizenship can only materialize through the introduction of a ‘civic culture’ course/subject at primary school and extend right through to high school and tertiary level, in that way South African citizens will know how to apportion their rights and responsibilities for the preservation of our constitution and democracy.
What are the different forms that active citizenship can take and is active citizenship always beneficial to democracy?
Active citizenship can take different forms to creating a neighbourhood watch, clearing the street of litter, avoiding tax evasion (so paying taxes), voting, and so much more but the one form I hold dear to my heart is educating the youth about the meaning of democracy and the value it holds in our country and the power in which they have through participating and interacting in governmental affairs. The impact of this can only be seen in a few years whereby the amalgamation of knowledge, attitude, skills and actions that will awaken the consciousness of the youth shall aim to contribute to building and maintaining a democratic society that sees the value of education as a necessary commodity in solving the problems that society faces rather than seeing the value of education as a commodity for material things. For example, the #feesmustfall campaign brings to our attention the fact that South Africa has huge gaps in its educational policy as well as in its national development plan policy and we need to come up with solutions that will result in better educated citizens that will benefit our democracy and lead to the development of our country.