This is our free­dom in ac­tion

CityPress - - Voices -

Mil­lions of South Africans joined snaking queues to form a new coun­try on April 27 1994. It was the first time that South Africans stood side by side – di­verse in their cul­tures, lan­guages, race, age and gen­der – to vote for a demo­cratic gov­ern­ment.

This was to be a coun­try where all were equal be­fore the law; a new coun­try that said no one, no mat­ter what, would be dis­crim­i­nated against.

Nel­son Man­dela led the ini­tial phase of this new­born na­tion and he was the glue that kept the coun­try to­gether.

As we cel­e­brate 23 years of demo­cratic gov­er­nance on Thurs­day, we should look back at the tremen­dous progress that has been made in build­ing a na­tion. Mil­lions of peo­ple have ben­e­fited from gov­ern­ment’s so­cial up­lift­ment pro­grammes – houses have been built for the poor, the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion now has ac­cess to clean wa­ter and elec­tric­ity, and mil­lions re­ceive so­cial grants that take care of their ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties. Although our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is in per­pet­ual cri­sis, this sec­tor is recog­nised as a pri­or­ity by all.

At the same time, South Africans have not been afraid to gather in their thou­sands and take to the streets to voice their anger over gov­ern­ment poli­cies and ac­tions. In re­cent weeks and months, peo­ple have joined protest marches to call for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to re­sign and to voice their con­cerns over how he has done his job.

None of those who took part in the protests feared be­ing killed or de­tained with­out trial – some­thing that was all too common dur­ing the dark days of apartheid.

An in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary, free press, strong trade union move­ment, en­gaged clergy and vibrant civil so­ci­ety en­sure that our democ­racy is not de­pen­dent on the whims of those in power.

We have a Con­sti­tu­tion that is rev­ered across the globe, and we are held in high es­teem for our non-vi­o­lent tran­si­tion. All the rights, as en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion, are be­ing ob­served and re­spected.

There are few coun­tries in the de­vel­op­ing world that can boast the same kind of qual­ity democ­racy. Even some de­vel­oped na­tions mar­vel at the dy­namism of our 23-year-old democ­racy. We can in­deed be proud.

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