Celebrating the fruits of our freedom

2014-05-08 00:00

SOUTH Africa, yesterday you held your fifth democratic elections. You are growing into the democracy that those who gave birth to you envisioned.

From a dark past that divided your people based on race, ethnicity and tribes, you’ve become a country united in its diversity, moving into a promising future.

When other countries found themselves in civil wars, your people sat down with each other and said: “We dare not kill ourselves when we can talk about a shared vision of a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, black or white, at peace with themselves and the world.”

You enshrined this vision in a little, yet so significant, book called the Constitution, which became the foundation of your democracy.

A book that continues to be a compass that guides all your people into a prosperous future where everyone enjoys the fruits of freedom.

When pessimists thought the worst of you, you continued to prove them wrong.

From preventing predicted civil wars to hosting world-class events with success, you proved that your people know the future they want to have; a peaceful and stable future that some who left you because of these pessimists are coming back to enjoy as the fruits of freedom. South Africa, you remain a bright light on the dark African continent.

Your respect for human rights makes you a champion in the international arena.

Your commitment to a more just society continues to be a signal of hope and inspiration to many.

But you are not a country without problems. Many of your children still live in poverty. Many of your people remain unskilled and without jobs. Many of your people are still thirsty for a quality education.

All of your people have experienced political freedom, but many are yet to experience economic freedom.

It would be ignorant of anyone to talk about you without mentioning your past, as it continues to define your present.

South Africa, you are young; you’re still learning. In the first 20 years of your democracy, you’ve made mistakes. Dare not repeat them. However, your successes are more than the mistakes that have been made. To think you can fix everything that happened to you for hundreds of years in just 20 years would be yet again ignorant.

Yesterday, I, and many like me, voted for the first time.

I’m fortunate to have known you for the democracy that you are. I can’t begin to imagine what being treated as a second-class citizen must have been like. I can’t imagine being deliberately denied opportunities because of my skin colour and being deprived of everything that makes me human: my human rights.

I really cannot imagine what it must have been like to call you, South Africa, home, yet feel like an unwelcome visitor.

I’ve used the many opportunities that are the fruits of your freedom to build myself into the person I am.

These opportunities you now have were never there for our parents, like the opportunity to vote, which I used for the first time.

I’ve built a future for myself as a 22-year-old with the opportunities you have given me. A future a 22-year-old from the Eastern Cape could not have built a mere 40 years ago.

I went to the polls as an African, fully aware of your past and confident about your future. A future where more poor people like me will be able to use the opportunities you provide to end the cycle of poverty and lead us into prosperity.

I voted South Africa.

 — Voices24.

• Esethu Hasane is on Twitter and is an international relations, media and public-policy graduate from the University of Cape Town.

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