Bequeath a rich heritage of democracy

2014-09-10 13:45

As we commemorate Heritage Month, let us remember that our heritage, our story as a nation, our democracy, is what we bequeath to our children and the generation of South Africans who will come after us.

We owe it to them to protect our democracy and its institutions.

South Africa before 1994 was a country in search of the promised land of democracy.

Its people yearned to contribute to a country of the people for the people.

We longed for a time when we would equally know, live and enjoy the freedom associated with democracy.

We looked forward to being able to express ourselves, engage in robust debate on issues dear to us, associate with people of different races if we chose to, live in areas of choice, pursue careers of our choice.

Closely related to all of these was the opportunity to express our choice of who would govern our country.

We eagerly awaited a time when our humanity and citizenship would give us equal rights and opportunities in our country.

We wondered what the South Africa of the future would look like. How would it work? How would we relate to each other?

It’s 20 years later and we now know what it’s like to have freedom of speech, association and movement.

We have in place institutions that govern and guide our journey towards building a robust democracy?–?a government, a Parliament, and a well-run, transparent and effective judiciary.

We have a country in which the multitudes of our diverse citizens have a place and are equal before the law. This is the quintessential nature of our democracy.

But questions have been asked in the past few days about whether the recent events in our chapter 9 institutions, Parliament and government are a manifestation of democracy or anarchy?

I think that as much as we can look to the past for examples we can emulate in nation building, we more often need to take responsibility for what we have as a nation, build on what is good and let go of what does not serve us in our quest for equality, freedom and liberty.

Yes, we have the freedom of speech we ardently sought. We have the institutions that protect our freedom, including Parliament, and the judicial system.

But with freedom and rights come responsibility.

In South Africa we have a responsibility to remember where we come from, with a singular focus on where we want to go. We need to see each other as South Africans playing our part to build and grow our nation.

We want to take the unique lessons of our history and turn them into powerful motivators for the present and the future?– motivators in our quest to build a cohesive and strong nation, the ambassadors of which will be our more than 50?million citizens.

We must leave our children in a better space than we find ourselves, even though it is a huge improvement on that of our forebears.

This requires that we impart to them a greater understanding of what our heritage stands for, and an appreciation and respect for the institutions that hold our constitutional democracy together and keep it alive.

Disrespect and disregard for the institutions that ensure the centre of our nascent democracy holds and that anarchy is not unleashed on our society are not only a betrayal of our struggle for our democracy, but also of our nation-building project.

What is it that we want our children to remember us for?–?the building, safeguarding and refinement of our hard-earned democracy?

Or do we want them to remember us for its destruction as a noble system that enabled everyone to know and exercise various freedoms and responsibilities that allowed us to live our best lives?

Only we can decide, and only we can act accordingly.

» Matola is CEO of Brand SA

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