VIEWPOINT| BY JEFF RADEBE
We dared dream!
The occasion of each State of the Nation Address, the Budget Speech by the Minister of Finance and the various budget votes by the various national departments, provincial governments and municipalities, provides us as a nation an opportunity to reflect on the strides we are making to live the 1994 dream of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, equal and prosperous society. Very importantly, we must not be side-tracked by the kind of behaviour that the President cautioned against in his closing remarks during the debate on the Budget Vote of the Presidency. The beauty of our democracy is that the allocation of every cent is debated by all parliamentary members representing the throngs of the masses of our people.
Twenty years ago we dared dream of what Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu called a rainbow nation, where the injunction of the Freedom Charter would find practical expression in that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white!" This Freedom Charter injunction is not about the South Africa geographical boundaries but very importantly also about the land, education opportunities, job opportunities, entrepreneurship opportunities, right to security, right to human dignity and all the various rights entailed in Chapter 2 dealing with the Bill of Rights as fundamental rights to all our people. That dream we had in 1994 was about dismantling the system of apartheid and replacing it with the Constitutional democracy that flows from the Constitution itself.
Back then we had no illusion about the meaning of freedom as cutting across the spectrum of social, economic and political organisation of society. While political freedom was with the immediacy of casting those historic ballots in 1994, the socio-economic freedom was naturally to be a more protracted endeavour given the structural challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality in South Africa.
South Africa is a very vibrant democracy, with various political parties espousing various ideologies but all united by the common claim to our constitutional democracy. The constitution itself is not a neutral document as some would have us believe, but biased to the ideals that many struggled for and some of whom paid the ultimate price. Nonetheless we can pride ourselves with the fact that despite all adverse political differences we have nonetheless exercised restraint as underlined by the supremacy of the Constitution that provides both the enabling tools as well as the limitations to our freedoms.
The dream of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, equal and prosperous society can only become a reality because all South Africans work together to move South Africa forward. The conclusion of the recent budget vote process by Parliament signals the beginning of concerted efforts at realising this historic dream and make South Africa a better place for all its people.
Our people have good reason to expect that members of parliament will not take up this very important constitutional platform and basic evidence of our democracy, to grand stand whilst the real tasks to move South Africa forward suffers. Government has adopted a clear plan in the National Development Plan and Vision 2030 to ensure that the dreams that we had under leadership of our iconic former President Nelson Mandela as we made the 1994 political breakthrough becomes a living reality amongst all South Africa's people.
Thus Members of Parliament have an important obligation to inspire confidence that commitment is in ensuring that the socio-economic conditions of all our people are attended expeditiously and effectively. Some of the ordinary people were invited by the President and were seated in the public gallery as they observed the proceedings of this esteemed body , their parliament that they elected on the 7th May 2014. They must have listened carefully as not to miss any important message from their public representatives. They must have observed how other national experiences in other countries have collapsed into conflicts, but they must have reasonably believed that Madiba's dream of a peaceful democratisation will live on!
Many of these people would have woken up early in the morning because they have this real dream that their lot would be made better, because this august body, the National Parliament of our republic, would spare no effort at playing its due role towards their socio-economic emancipation. They would have been caught by surprise that some members of this esteemed democratic institution, the National Parliament, would disregard the high standing they as individuals and as a collective have in the transformation agenda of our country. The language and the general behaviour by MP's had the potential to inspire their dream for a better life or it would have shattered it to pieces.
Thus as the President chastised MP's for their behaviour, we was not belittling any of them, but reminding them of the very important obligation that they have to the dream that our people hold so dearly, and for which many struggled for and some of whom paid the ultimate price. For most of the time, those ordinary members of society will not be in the house to observe any further the proceedings of this esteemed body, the National Parliament of our republic. As the ordinary people turned their backs to the parliament precincts to proceed with their own individual duties, those who remained behind to proceed with the business of legislation must remember that they have in their hands the power to make or break the lives of many people.
The same call must be made to all other public representatives in provincial governments and municipalities across the breadth and length of our beautiful land. All public employees must also heed the call made by the President to serve all our people with the dignity and speed they deserve.
it is important to remember that the political sphere has discharged much of its duties in laying down the bedrock of our democracy both through the constitution and the various legislative instruments that guide our transformation agenda. Similarly we can be proud that we have an independent judiciary to ensure that our transformation agenda move away from the injustices of the past. We are a nation still in transition, to create what the Archbishop Desmond Tutu appropriately called a rainbow nation. We have achieved much in political transformation.
As much of the challenges are now with regards the socio-economic emancipation of all our people and thus complete the full circle of our freedom as asserted in the Freedom Charter, it is imperative that business must also heed the President's call to move South Africa forward. By the definition of our economy, government will continue to play a developmental role to enable more and more participation by all our people in the business of our country. We know too well that the structural inequalities of the past that have been occasioned by amongst others monopoly capital continue to hamper the progressive realisation of the dream that our people led by Nelson Mandela in 1994 had.
Indeed it was not a dream just about casting the vote. It was very importantly the high expectations as the ordinary people who occupied the public gallery to listen to the President had. Thus as the President spoke in favour of the expediency of the resolution of the various challenges facing our people, they must have left the public galleries reassured that inspite the occasional distraction of unparliamentarily behaviour by some, nonetheless the ruling party will not be distracted in its course towards their urgent socio-economic emancipation.
We must indeed individually and collectively strive to re-assure our people that their course is the most important preoccupation by all MP's. like an ox drawn plough, we must inspite of our various differences strive to pull in one direction as directed by the National Development Plan and the vital instruments in this regard of the Medium Term Strategic Framework adopted by government. It is a call we make to all MP's, Provincial Governments, Municipalities, Business, organised labour and all civil society organisations. None amongst us must fold their arms and expect others to make the dream that we had twenty years ago a reality.
It is a dream that cannot be deferred, lest we invite a disdain not only of the various institutions of our democracy, but also very importantly even the lofty meaning that the Constitution of our republic must occupy in the minds and hearts of all our people. The constitution, our democracy and the various institutions that flow from these, are as useful and meaningful as progressive changes they bring into the lives of all our people. For as long as inequality, unemployment and poverty continue to ravage our people, most importantly along the defaults of race and gender, for as long that we must commit to expeditiously fulfilling the dream espoused by Madiba as he led the nation into the 1994 democratic breakthrough. It is a dream that OR Tambo, Chris Hani, Solomon Mahlangu, Anton Lembede, Charllotte Maxeke and many more unsung heroes and heroines of the struggle for democracy paid the ultimate price. We continue to have this hope because we dared dream, We are committing ourselves to the realisations of all our collective cream of a better life for all! We have this hope because we are confident that as the President indicated, working together we can and must move South Africa forward!