Quotations on Democracy in South Africa (set 2) | Facing History & Ourselves

Quotations on Democracy in South Africa (set 2)

Consider quotes from South Africans about the nature of democracy and what makes it work.
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At a Glance

reading copy


English — US


  • Civics & Citizenship
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

“Each and every generation must take responsibility for its time. Twenty years ago . . . the expectations were to bring about a constitution in service of all the citizens.

Twenty years down the line, we do realize we have not lived up to all the expectations as it is contained and promised in the constitution. But that is the nature of the beast. In other words, what I’m saying is that each generation: their glasses will be polished differently. And ... they will have different demands and expectations . . . and they must be alive to what at that particular juncture in their lives and in the life of the nation should be done to ensure that everyone has a better life.”

–Leon Wessels, Director for Human Rights at the University of the Free State, Former Human Rights Commissioner and Negotiator at Constitutional Assembly

“Democracy is work. I think that a lot of the time people see it as a point at which you arrive, an election, for example. After 1994 in South Africa, classic example, ‘The ANC will fix it. Those in power will fix it.’

And actually, what we’re seeing is that it is a marathon not a sprint. . . . The work of democracy is work within local communities. It’s work that all of us try to do to embed and entrench the rule of law and to demand accountability. And public services for people, the idea that a better society is possible. This idea that the work stops because you’ve elected somebody is a very skewed view of democracy and one that we’re starting to find out that it is work.”

–Judith February, Senior Research Associate for the Institute of Security Studies

Connection Questions

  1. What is similar in how both February and Wessels describe democracy?
  2. What do both of them say is the most crucial ingredient in a democracy?

How to Cite This Reading

Facing History & Ourselves, "Quotations on Democracy in South Africa (set 2)," last updated September 13, 2017.

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