Speaking out as citizens: voice and agency in post-apartheid South African media
At the heart of the 1996 South African Constitution is a new vision of citizenship. The Constitution is premised on the eradication of apartheid separation and provisions for a shared humanity. Bearing in mind an authoritarian history and a systematic denial of voice to the majority of people, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission entrenched the right to speak and the recognition of a shared humanity as factors in our shared public life. But questions about who is a South African, who belongs and who has the right to speak and criticise erupt frequently in the media as themes alongside issues of great public importance being debated. There is also a steady increase over the years since 1994 in protest action, which could be considered a demand by citizens to be heard. These protests have provoked violent response from state agents, thus undermining ordinary South Africans’ sense of their ability to affect political processes. We ask whether these features of our public life are indicative of a crisis in citizenship in a post-authoritarian, “new” democracy and what mediated modes of practising citizenship, apart from casting votes, are available to South Africans and whether these have value in deepening democracy. The article explores the relationship between the media and the emergence of new forms of citizenship in democratic South Africa by providing a brief overview of various notions of citizenship before illustrating how these notions find manifestation in contemporary South Africa.