EDITORIAL: Tyranny of the majority

26 October 2021 | Opinion

While the essence of democracy is majority rule, the making of binding decisions that affect the rights of the minority cannot pass the test of fairness.

This tyranny of the majority, also called tyranny of the masses by some, means those in the majority pursue exclusively their own objectives, with little regard to the welfare of those in minority numbers.

A perfect example in this regard is the call by churches represented at last week’s abortion debate for a referendum to be called to resolve this impasse once and for all.

Different variables and dynamics would play in the outcome of this voting process – especially in a country like ours. If Namibians, the overwhelming majority of whom subscribe to the Christian discipleship, are told to vote in an abortion referendum, pro-choice advocates would lose hands down.

This majoritarian outcome, as democratic in the simplified meaning of the word as it may be, impacts the rights of women who believe the final say and autonomy over their own bodies exclusively lies with them.

Even away from the abortion discourse, referendums have been suggested in other key debates over matters of national interest. Whether to secede the Zambezi Region from Namibia or not is one debate in which referendum has been suggested.

It’s a tricky minefield to navigate. It’s a knife-edge, fragile matter that can go well or leave indelible damage on society, but one we can’t shy away from.