I spent some time re-connecting with my roots at the 1860 Heritage Centre in Durban a few days ago. And it couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time. It’s the first month of 2019 – they year in which we celebrate 25 years of democracy. There will always be euphoria when I think of the 27th of April 1994, no matter how jaded I am about the current state of affairs in our beloved country. Those long queues of smiling faces and hearts bursting with joy are forever etched in my mind.
This picture of one of the walls at the centre is telling too. The faces are familiar. They are in black and white. Only one part of this wall is in colour – our flag. That’s the reason these ordinary men and women and countless others (too many too mention) did extraordinary things… so that we could have the right to vote and shape the country in the way we choose. It was never about them, as they have often said in their own words. It was about us as a collective… all the citizens of South Africa. To quote the words of the Freedom Charter in this picture… “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white…
AND is the crucial word here. It’s not black AGAINST white or white AGAINST black. But some quarters of our country believe this to be the case. And, they attempt to use it to sow further divisions. It is wrong. It is mis-guided. It is sad. I’m not saying that racism does not exist anymore. It does and must be rooted out. But it must not be encouraged in the ways in which we have seen and heard recently in the rhetoric of so-called leaders.
We should not be fighting ourselves. We are allowing the real enemy to get away. Corruption.
How did we even get to this abysmal level of corruption? The revelations at the state capture inquiry in the last week alone have been damning to our democracy.
The evil of corruption has permeated South African society and become a way of life- from the smallest acts of bribery on our roads to golden handshakes in boardrooms and multi-million rand state tenders. The time to name and shame has come, and with it, a responsibility on South Africans to realise that we have been cheated by both black AND white and that we need to reclaim our power – the power of the people. How do we do that? By voting, and then holding parties and leaders accountable. These are fundamentals of our democracy and we need to be up to the task.
The final voter registration by the Independent Electoral Commission will be held this weekend. In a statement the IEC says, “The country’s 22 932 voting stations will open from 08h00 to 17h00 on Saturday 26 January and Sunday 27 January 2019 to allow first-time voters to register and existing voters to update and to check their registration details.”
Will you be voting in this historic year of our democracy?
I am reminded of the words attributed to Edmund Burke… “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Good men and women of South Africa, you can indeed change the trajectory of life in South Africa by exercising your right to vote. If you are still I doubt, I urge you to visit the 1860 Heritage Centre in Durban to understand why your country needs you. Visit the centre on your own, with family or friends. Encourage young South Africans and even schools to visit. And as you stand within those walls, wrapped in history, I sincerely hope it helps place your role as a South African in context.
For details about the centre, visit https://m.facebook.com/1860heritagecentre/