The Growing Political Passiveness of the Middle Classes

When looking at any political arena, it’s becoming clear to people like Mzukisi Qobo, who teaches politics at the University of Pretoria and is a member of the Midrand Group, that the South African middle classes are becoming politically passive in society and simply seem to be uninterested.

In a recent opinion piece in Business Day, Qobo laments that while of course it’s an individual’s decision to be an engaged citizen in society, the middle classes lack of engagement is producing a political climate which is giving us mediocre leadership and making us “complicit in the declining quality of our democracy.”

Qobo goes on to point out that there are a few factors that may explain this detachment:

  1. The black middle classes are comfortable with the situation and the economic security now afforded to them. They seem to believe that they can’t afford to be bothered with politics.
  2. The white middle class have become complacent in their thinking and some may consider it a “special calling” of the black middle class to challenge the government. They also believe that they may have no legitimacy in the eyes of the ruling elite.
  3. Citizens seem to believe that leadership is something that politicians, or at least ‘someone else’ should exercise, rather than something they are capable of themselves. The role citizens have chosen to adopt is one of detached criticism.

While some may not agree with Qobo, it is difficult to deny that through complacent thinking, the middle classes have made themselves powerless. We cannot hope to get better leaders and enjoy a better-governed country without engaging in a possible manner.

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