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Key Elements of a Democratic Government
South Africa is a country that has people of several races. There are black people who belong to South Africa, whites who came there to settle, and Indians who came as labourers and traders. Maya Naidoo, an eleven-year old South African girl living in the town of Johannesburg, was helping her mother clear up her old boxes. She found a scrapbook full of pictures and newspaper articles. There were many pictures of a young schoolboy of around fifteen years of age. When she asked her mother who the boy was, she was told that he was called, Hector Ndlovu. He had been shot by the police. Maya was shocked. "Why?" she asked. Her mother explained that South Africa was earlier governed by apartheid laws. Apartheid means separation on the basis of race. South African people were divided into white, black, Indian and coloured races. According to the law, these races were not allowed to mingle with each other, to live near each other or even to use common facilities.
Maya could not believe her ears. Maya's mother sounded angry whenshe spoke about life under apartheid. She told Maya that in those days whites spoke. Hector and other school students were being forced to learn this language but they wanted to learn their own language, Zulu. The South African police beat up the protestors mercilessly and shot at the crowd. One of their bullets killed Hector. This was on 30th of April,1976. The African National Congress, a group of people who led the struggle against apartheid, and their most well known leader, Nelson Mandela fought the apartheid system for several years. Finally, they succeeded and in1994 South Africa became a democratic country in which people of all races were considered equal. Let us now try to understand what a democratic government means to all of us.
Why do we have regular elections? You've already read in the previous chapter that people make the decisions in a democracy. Through voting in elections people elect leaders to represent them. These representatives take decisions on behalf of the What were Hector and his classmates protesting about? List five ways in which the non-whites were discriminated against:
Why do we have regular elections? You've already read in the previous chapter that people make the decisions in a democracy. Through voting in elections people elect leaders to represent them. These representatives take decisions on behalf of the Other ways of participating Elections are usually held once in five years. Besides voting there are other ways of participating in the process of government. People participate by taking an interest in the working of the government and by criticising it when required. In August 2005, when a particular government increased the money people had to pay for electricity, people expressed their disapproval very sharply. They took out rallies and also organised a signature campaign. The governmen tried to explain and defend itsdecision but finally listened to the people's opinion and withdrew the increase. The government had to change its decision because it is responsible to the people.
1. How would Maya's life be different in South Africa today?
2. What are the various ways in which people participate in the process of government?
3. Why do you think we need the government to find solutions to many disputes or conflicts?
4. What actions does the government take to ensure that all people are treated equally?
5. Read through the chapter and discuss some of the key ideas of a democratic government. Make a list. For example, all people are equal.
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