South Africa will tomorrow commemorate 21 years since multitudes of South Africans voted for the first time in free and fair democratic elections. It was a moment in our history for which many had yearned and spared no sacrifice, including their lives.
South Africa 21 years ago was a vastly different country and our society was equally different.
It was not that long ago that many of us would not remember how it felt to have, amongst others, our movement, access to opportunities, and freedom of association limited because of the colour of our skin. How can we forget the dominant doctrine that the majority of people were inferior mentally, socially and economically by virtue of their skin colour? One of the most brutal realities in our country was that personal growth and development was also pre-determined by the colour of our skin and this was supported by the then legislation and policies.
We therefore cannot forget that for the millions of people in the country, there was very little about which we could be patriotic. We longed for liberation so that we could, amongst others, chart our own paths so ensure that generations to come would not be held hostage by the pigmentation of their skins.
President Zuma writing in the 20 years of democracy review in 2014 wrote, “Democracy has brought freedom of movement and of association, the right to own property, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, the equality of women, religious freedom, workplace freedom and the right to strike and protest…much has been done to address the systematic violence and land dispossession that was a characteristic feature of the apartheid era. Even more has been done to actively empower previously disadvantaged people through employment equity, affirmative action, and business empowerment.”
Indeed, many of us would attest to and proclaim that South Africa is vastly different today.
The successes that the President mentioned has also translated into the way in which we relate to each other as citizens united by a common history, a common flag and national anthem.
The recently concluded National Perceptions Audit conducted by Brand South Africa shows that our national pride index stands at 80, our active citizenship index at 68 and our social cohesion index at 73.
This is not to say that South Africa has overcome all its challenges. What these indices, and our everyday realities, do however show us is that, we have made and continue to make, strides in rebuilding and reconstructing the social and economic infrastructure in our country.
So where do we go as a nation from here? What should we be focusing on in the 3rd decade of our democracy?
Our most urgent priority as stakeholders in the nation building exercise must be to work towards implementing the National Development Plan which aims to reduce inequality and drive economic growth and development by 2030. With only 15 years in which to achieve this, we have very little time to lose. However, the South African spirit has proven itself resilient and tenacious and the past 20 years attest to what can be achieved if we work together.
Economic growth and development will impact positively on the social upliftment of our society by enabling job creation. South Africans will therefore be able to achieve what was so dearly fought for – the right to self-determination and choice!
Sixty years ago, one of the founding documents of present day South Africa was signed by a collective of progressive individuals – the Freedom Charter. This document begins with the words, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white …. we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.”
South Africa has seen many democratic changes in the past 20 years. To the generation born in the 1990s, racial segregation and apartheid are concepts they read about in books or watch in films. Their lives are truly different.
We all however have a role to play in sustaining these successes and in ensuring that the national building project now delivers on the promise of economic freedom. This will be best served by the implementation of the National Development Plan and I urge each and every South African to play your part in this.
The social equity and development that this will bring will guarantee the longevity of our democracy for generations to come.
SOURCE: South African Official News