With Freedom Day approaching yet again, there will be much discussion, debate and wastage of public funds in political grandstanding at half-hearted “celebrations”. All of this will happen as the majority of our people still live in poverty with no hope of the freedom that they should be enjoying after twenty three years of democracy. Across all race groups, children born after 1994 do not see that bright future promised by the advent of the new democratic dispensation. Whilst they have political freedom, the absence of which they have not experienced, they do not have the economic freedom that will give them hope for a better future. For the vast majority basic human rights such as access to free education, decent housing, access to electricity and clean water and the freedom of self-actualisation are merely items on their wish list – items that will remain mere dreams under the present government.
The questions that need to be asked and openly discussed at public forums are: Where to from here? What needs to be done, how and by who?
Obviously there is an urgent need to unpack the multiple narratives that are presently taking place in the public arena. Coming out of many of these discourses is the view that the two key role-players are government and civil society. Either of these components working in isolation will not achieve the desired outcomes.
All three spheres of government have a responsibility to create an environment that will allow civil society to play a meaningful role in restructuring the social landscape in such a manner that all sectors of the population are enthused with hope. It is in the domain of government to create an economic environment that will allow the private sector to play a more meaningful role in this restructuring process. One cannot speak of freedom in the presence of poverty and unemployment. The creation of sustainable jobs and the opportunity to enter the business environment are major factors towards economic freedom. People generally are enterprising and want to improve their lot in life but they feel let down by a government that lacks foresight and a will to create enabling environments for people to realise their dreams. Economic freedom is a precursor to social transformation and upward mobility. A government that encourages foreign direct investment that creates new and sustainable jobs demonstrates that it cares about the well-being of its people.
Economic freedom in the face of social uncertainty does not amount to progress. Communities living in fear of criminals cannot be counted among those who are free. Criminal activity, be it at a corporate, government, community or household level, impacts negatively on the freedom that we want to aspire to. Social freedom will continue to evade us if our people are living in fear of rapists, hijackers, murders and petty criminals. A criminal justice system assisted by a strong and efficient police force free of corruption will send a strong message that criminals have no place to hide in our country. How do parents concentrate in the workplace when they are fearful that their homes might get burgled or their children might be raped in informal settlements? In the presence of such fears we cannot talk of freedom and peaceful co-existence.
In welcoming 2017 His Excellency Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, President of the Inkatha Freedom Party encouraged citizens to play a meaningful role in transforming South Africa and making it a country where true freedom exists.
He said, “This is the time to make a decision that will shape 2017. We are not helpless bystanders witnessing the downward spiral of the economy, politics and social cohesion. We are participants, with the power to influence what happens next.
With the state of our nation, not a single citizen can step back and claim that there is nothing they can do. It is only through a collective effort that we will put South Africa back on track towards fulfilling the promises of democracy.”
In analysing these words one realises that every citizen has a meaningful role to play not only in the future of our country but also in shaping their own destinies. The destiny of every individual presupposes the existence of equality, economic freedom, access to basic human rights and social cohesion.
I, therefore encourage every citizen to become agents of social change within their own communities and I urge government to provide support, not through lip service and talk-shops but through effective programmes that positively transform the lives of our people.
By Mr Blessed Gwala MPL, IFP National Chairman