Our actions into the third decade of our democracy will define who we are

"What have we as the electorate learnt from our democracy over 25 years? From the ANC we learnt that democracy means loyalty to party and comrades above loyalty to glaring national interests. From the DA we learnt much the same. From the EFF we learnt, well, the same." Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

The mood in our country right now is indeed a sombre one. Despite the festivities of a month just past, we welcomed a new decade with more of the same hangovers of 2019. Hangovers, which will define this decade if action is not taken by those who claim to represent us all in government. 

The mood is not something new to us as South Africans, we have been resilient, we have also been patient as young people, but we have learnt from others including our African and middle-Eastern neighbors, that patience can only last as long.

We cannot put food on the table, we cannot keep the lights on; let alone find decent shelter and find dignified work, we cannot educate future generations, we struggle to get hospital management to deliver and we fail to focus our attention on primary health care; our people are dying, our children are sick, our youth are unable to access tertiary education, and if they do, they are not adequately accommodated nor are they able to find work after completing their studies.

In conversation with a generational mix of individuals, these concerns, fears and painful realities is what our countries’ leaders must address before it is too late. There’s no silver bullet which can fix it all, but I strongly believe that there are opportunities to tackle our issues head on.

The daily plight and ever-harsher realities we face are increasingly becoming more desperate. If we are not to tackle rising inequality in our country, we might be in for the worse in our third decade since the dawn of our democracy. Look around, read around, log in on social media and tune-in to see on television and listen to the radio, to bear witness to the fact that things are unwell around us all.

Crimes are becoming more violent, the expression of frustrations by all our people are not only exclusive to scenes of looting protests through the streets of decaying municipalities and cities, but, our own politically elected representatives are toppling councils, hurling more and more hurtful insults towards one another and some throw actual punches; all while our television screens see more drama than the soapies of the past, live on primetime news for us all to see.

It is scary, it is dreadful and it is all our responsibility. Yes, I said that those who claim to represent us must act, those in government have an oath of office to obey, but as ordinary citizens, and as young people – who make up the majority of our population, and the majority of those who find themselves either in unemployment, who are not in education, training or seeking work – we must rise to the occasion too. We all must act.

We see the likes of a young girl sailing to the Americas from Greenland to make a bold statement to world leaders on climate change. South Africa does have a Gretha Thunberg; from the dusty streets of Alexandra to the cobbled roads of Sandton and Constantia to as far as the gravel roads, of Cofimvaba.  So too must our young people rise up and say enough is enough, so too will we have our 1976 Soweto uprising moment. If we are to honour those who died and sacrificed their lives for us to enjoy the freedoms we have today, we must play our part, no matter how big or small a contribution we can make for the betterment of all our People.

I fear that our institutions which were designed to protect, defend and promote our Constitution and democratic values are eroding faster than that of the shores of our seas and the ever fast approaching reality of climate change.

If no one is locked up, put behind bars and no justice comes out of the State Capture Commission, the Office of the Public Protector might as well close up shop. I plea with our leaders who seek to find justice and pursue the truth to think carefully of the ramifications of their inaction and how it will be perceived by the public.

We simply cannot move two steps forward, just to move ten steps backward, when we are to tackle and dig deeper into the issues we face as a nation; but we can simultaneously address the deep scars of the apartheid-legacy which has left millions of us behind the economic curve, and yes we can, at the same time address economic injustice through expediting the process of land reform with reasonable compensation, in so far as to make a reality of redress with reconciling the injustices of hundreds of years of oppression by a minority over a majority of us.

It is certainly time for us to listen more to the leaders we have the fortune to occupy spaces with in our midst and the fortune to still listen to their wisdom such as the likes of our elder statesmen and one of the original freedom fighters, sans-beret, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. We, the young people of our country, do not have to act in isolation, we must act in concert with those who came before us, and seek advice from those who know what it takes to change a regime.

I reiterate that what we do in this decade will define who we are, because yes, we came from a treacherous and tumultuous past, but now is the time to address what we want our future to look and feel like, three decades on since the dawn of our democracy – after all; good things do come after three waves. Think about it.


Yaseen Carelse is a political media specialist.