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Democracy: Lessons from South Africa


Reviewing Zuma’s Nkandla-gate refund

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By Oluwole Olusanya Sheriff


As it has been said, democracy is many things to many people.

I was in high spirits when I learnt that the 15th of September was the birthday of a particular doctor I have only met once. I chose to note this day because the Doctor’s humility strikes my imagination, I have a great deal of respect for people who act like they do not have anything when it is obvious that they have a lot of things and I hope I get another opportunity to meet this doctor so that I can tell him how he has inspired me positively.


Co-incidentally, the same day is observed globally as the International day of Democracy which provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world. Democracy is as much a process as a goal, and only with the full participation of and support by the international community, national governing bodies, civil society and individuals, can the ideals of democracy be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.


In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly resolved to observe 15th September as the International Day of Democracy—with the purpose of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy—and invited all member states and organizations to commemorate the day in an appropriate manner that contributes to raising public awareness.

The values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights. These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which enshrines a host of political rights and civil liberties underpinning meaningful democracies.


In those write-ups, I explained in explicit terms the correction between rule of law, social justice and democracy in the Nigerian geo-political dispensation. Alternatively, this article would be dedicated to educate my readers on the recent court ruling in South Africa and how it would further strengthen the democratic processes of the African continent.

Sometimes in April, The South Africa’s highest court ruled unanimously that President Jacob Zuma failed to “uphold, defend and respect the constitution” when he ignored the order of an anti-corruption watchdog to repay some of the millions spent to upgrade his sprawling rural residence at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. After delivering a stinging rebuke to the President, the Constitutional Court gave the president 105 days to repay the “reasonable cost” of non-security-related upgrades to his private home. The President Jacob Zuma however apologised for the long-running scandal surrounding his private home and pledged to obey a court ruling to repay some of the $16m of public funds spent on his property.

The embattled President addressed the nation on television a day after a scathing ruling by South Africa’s highest court said the president’s failure to accept a recommendation from the public protector that he repay a portion of the money was a violation of the constitution; “I wish to emphasise that I never knowingly and deliberately set out to violate the constitution,” said Zuma, who faced growing calls to step down after the Constitutional Court’s verdict. “I … respect the finding that failure to comply with the remedial action taken against me by the public protector is inconsistent with the constitution.” The matter has caused a lot of frustration and confusion, for which I apologise, on my behalf and on behalf of government.” He noted. (Source:


Deductively, it is quite apparent that times are changing rapidly with Africans getting more and more involved in the democratic processes of their respective nation states but there is still room for improvement. We need to continue to hold our leaders accountable because we are somehow affected by their actions and inactions and it goes a long way in shaping our future.

´Demanding Accountability will ensure that governance, transparency and sound economic frameworks that will ensure that these endowments are properly managed to offer unparalleled opportunities for economic growth and development. Strengthen institutional and governance framework that manage these resources is a good place to start. Transparency can help increase accountability and help ensure that these resources are harnessed for the benefit of all.´ (Oluwole Olusanya, 2015) (THE TIME FOR AFRICA IS HERE: THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW)

Democracy promotes good governance which ensures that the people’s opinion, aspirations and will are given adequate attention and utmost consideration. On this note, I congratulate and welcome my fellow Africans to a new dawn where the rule of law and social justice would rule through a just and fair democratic dispensation and would illuminate the will of the African people.

On a lighter note though, happy belated Birthday to my doctor friend.



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