by Hon M B Gwala MPL
Honourable Speaker, I would like to start my debate by asking the question
CAN WE TRULY CELEBRATE FREEDOM?
The reason I ask this very relevant question is that when one speaks of freedom, one visualises happiness, peace and immeasurable opportunities for self-actualisation for all the peoples of our land and not just a select few.
When one speaks of celebrating freedom, one must do so with a deep conviction that every citizen of our beloved country will be able to join in and celebrate their lot in life.
When our government hosts so-called Freedom Day Celebrations, we see the hypocrisy of these events that turn out to be just song, dance and empty political rhetoric that fall on the noisy gathered masses like infertile seeds on open fields.
Poor Honourable Willies Mchunu who is under house arrest even during this Freedom Day.
So, my question becomes relevant in the light of what we saw yesterday at the so-called Freedom Day Celebrations.
One needs to ask what was achieved after such huge spending of public funds? What was the message that our government gave to the people?
Was it a message that said Freedom has arrived now after 23 years and you can now live in a decent house with electricity and clean water?
Was the message that you now have job security and your families can live in peace free from crime?
Was the message one of hope that there will be economic growth driven by a government that has visionary leadership?
Unfortunately this government could not say any of these things and give our people some hope that they could take back to their homes after the song and dance was over.
Yes, audiences would have heard how many houses were built, but not how many millions of people still live in shack settlements know for squalor, crime, disease and have now become trademarks of the ANC’s failed housing policies.
Audiences would also have been told how many houses now have electricity and water, but they would not have been told how many millions of people still do not have access to clean drinking water and electricity.
Those audiences would not have been told how many millions of employable people are out of work and how many millions more stand to lose their jobs due to the junk status label.
Those audiences would not have been told that the ruling party is facing a crisis that threatens the very core of the ANC and thereby casts uncertainty in governance.
Yesterday I heard Hon Sihle Zikalala speak of the huge Jozini Dam and tell people how much water there is in the dam. The people of Jozini know of this dam but they have been waiting for many years for this government to take this water too their homes. Does this government expect the people of Jozini to walk to the dam and collect water in buckets? How can this government talk of freedom when a basic human right is being denied to our people while the natural resources are there.
So I ask : CAN WE TRULY CELEBRATE FREEDOM?
In the run-up to 27 April there would have been much discussion, debate and allocation of public funds in the preparation for political grandstanding at half-hearted celebrations. Since 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, can we say we are truly free?
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. People living in our country, whether they are citizens of our country or not, have the right to be safe whilst conducting themselves in a lawful manner. 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.
The Inkatha FREEDOM Party therefore encourages every citizen to become agents of social change within their own communities and I urge government to provide support, not through lip service, talk-shops and meaningless celebrations but through effective programmes that positively transform the lives of our people. Programmes that will inspire our youth and encourage foreign direct investment that will create sustainable jobs.
Let us all look forward to a time in the very near future when we can truly celebrate freedom in South Africa.