Guest Column

Own your freedom

2017-04-30 06:20
Voters make their way to polling stations on April 27 1994 as the majority of South Africans participate in the nation’s first all-race elections Picture: AP

Voters make their way to polling stations on April 27 1994 as the majority of South Africans participate in the nation’s first all-race elections Picture: AP

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Buti Manamela

The NDP is a bedrock for building a better SA.

As the nation celebrates Freedom Day on 27 April, we cannot but think about the precipice we avoided. Instead we chose multiparty negotiations that brought about our democratic elections 23 years ago. We remember images of all South Africans traversing their way to polling stations, waiting patiently to exercise their democratic right. We chose freedom over conflict and bloodshed. We gave birth to our aspirations for a democratic, free and equal South Africa.

Fast forward to 2017 and we realise that the freedom pathway to democracy and development has been an uneven one. Good progress has been made with our democracy restoring the dignity of millions and changing their lives for the better. But we are reminded that more needs to be done as we tackle the unemployment, inequality, crime, racism, corruption and substance abuse that threaten to derail us.

How do South Africans, especially the young, feel about their freedom and Freedom Day? Carol from Cape Town feels that she has “access to places that had been denied to me before. My children will not be subconsciously conditioned to feel inferior because they are non-white.” Hlamalani from Gauteng remembers “the day I was allowed to choose the government I wanted; however, I’m not sure if that vote means anything anymore. I think the people running the government are no longer committed to the ordinary person who put them there. We need to revisit the commitments made and ensure that those that are charged with service delivery provide quality service and do not just waste resources due to greed.” For Deon in Pretoria, Freedom Day is “braai day”. A mixed bag of reactions due to that uneven pathway of democracy and development.

Challenges

Government is acutely aware of the immense challenges to accelerate progress and build a more inclusive society. Its vision and priorities to address them are outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030. The NDP is at the centre of our freedom as a bedrock for building a better and more prosperous South Africa. It is an overarching plan aiming for all citizens to attain a decent standard of living through creating decent employment, eliminating poverty and reducing inequality.

The NDP envisions a country where everyone feels free yet bound to others, and embraces their full potential; and where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work. Realising this will require transformation of the economy and focused efforts to build the country’s capabilities.

The NDP lists several critical factors for its successful implementation, including a focused leadership that provides policy consistency; ownership of the plan by all formations of society; strong institutional capacity at technical and managerial levels; efficiency of government spending; and prioritisation and clarity on levels of responsibility and accountability in every sphere of government, as well as a common understanding of the roles of business, labour and civil society.

Young people are already engaging with the NDP as they realise the importance of the plan and its implementation for their development and freedom. Government has held and will continue to hold dialogues with youth on their involvement with the NDP. Civil society organisations provide training and engagement platforms to allow young people to set the priorities for development in their communities and consider how the goals of the NDP align with them. Youth organisations are developing youth-centric strategies that communities can use to realise the goals of the NDP. This is the work of the NDP as the centre of our freedom.

Young South Africans may not connect to the raw emotions that images of 27 April 1994 release. But they must find ways to understand this wellspring of our democracy. What were the aspirations of ordinary citizens as they queued on that day? How can young people draw inspiration from this and keep the hopes alive in spite of the challenges that the country faces?

There are some young South Africans who are cynical of our 23 years of democracy. What has it brought me, they may ask. There is too much going wrong in this country, they may say. With the challenges that we face there is a temptation to bail out and privatise our citizenship through disconnection behind the big walls of gated estates, follow many South Africans abroad and not participate in community development. Young South Africans must be encouraged to be active citizens and work for democracy. Yes, democracy takes work. We must know what is happening in our communities and broader society and what the important issues are. We must know our legal rights and actively participate in the platforms where decisions are taken.

The NDP calls for active citizenship as we defend and advance our freedom. Active citizenship demands our sense of civic responsibility. It is broader than paying our taxes and our involvement in community development work. Active citizenship demands accountability and responsiveness from the government to its citizens. It requires South Africans to not only demand their rights but also monitor government and provide feedback for a more socially inclusive society. This is how we nurture our freedom, how we own it for Freedom Day and beyond.

Manamela is deputy minister in the presidency

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Read more on:    ndp  |  freedom day
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