SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK
IN THE KAROO
1 APRIL 2001
THE NATURE OF FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY
Democracy is much more than simple majority rule. It is a system of government in terms of which contending parties agree to settle questions of power according to conventions rather than by force and conflict.
It is based,
- firstly, on the premise that the basic rights and reasonable interests of all parties will be protected in the event of their losing an election;
- secondly, that all parties will in due course have an opportunity to gain power in a process of free and fair elections; and
- thirdly that individuals, families, associations, companies and communities should have the maximum ability to take decisions affecting their interests and their futures.
Democracy is also inextricably interlinked with the concepts of freedom and self-government. It is based on the premise that the governed should be involved at every level in the processes by which they are governed. Freedom means that at each of these levels, those involved should have the greatest possible autonomy to participate in decisions that effect them.
At the most basic level my freedom depends on my ability to take decisions that most intimately affect my own present and future and, in conjunction with my wife and children, the present and future of my family.
I am not free if I cannot decide where I wish to live; where I wish to work; where and how I wish to educate my children; where and how I wish to worship; what language I wish to speak; to what organisations I wish to belong; what views I chose to espouse.
These freedoms must, of course, be enjoyed within a reasonable framework that ensures that the manner in which I exercise them does not prejudice the equal rights and freedoms of others.
Freedom and democracy also presuppose the reasonable autonomy of the organisations to which I belong: the clubs of which I am a member; the company for which I work; the church where I worship. If the state unreasonably interferes with the right of any of these associations to conduct their lawful business as they see fit it is an abrogation of their freedom and an interference in their democratic right to manage their own affairs.
The same is true of the communities and cities within which I live and work. The duly elected governments of such communities, cities and governments should ideally enjoy the greatest possible autonomy to manage their affairs as they and their constituents see fit. Any arbitrary interference in their affairs detracts from their freedom and their democratic right to govern themselves.