FREEDOM DAY: THE ATTAINMENT OF FREEDOM IN THE 21ST CENTURY — BOBBY STEVENSON

History of freedom:  Bobby Stevenson, Legislature Leader (back, second from the left) with ANC-stalwarts Raymond Mhlaba (back, second from the right) and Govan Mbeki (front right) pictured on 3 April 1991, when the DP and ANC signed the historic One City Agreement for a non-racial city council, that heralded the way for Port Elizabeth to become the first transitional local council in South Africa.  ** See article ‘Rainbow nation novelty worn off’ on this page.

History of freedom: Bobby Stevenson, Legislature Leader (back, second from the left) with ANC-stalwarts Raymond Mhlaba (back, second from the right) and Govan Mbeki (front right) pictured on 3 April 1991, when the DP and ANC signed the historic One City Agreement for a non-racial city council, that heralded the way for Port Elizabeth to become the first transitional local council in South Africa.  Others were at the back:  Mike Xego, Eddie Trent and Flippie Potgieter.  Front:  Ernst Malgas, Rory Riordan and Benson Fihla.  ** See article ‘Rainbow nation novelty worn off’ also on this web page.

Nineteen years have come to pass since former president Nelson Mandela, heralded in a new dawn for a country, that had lived for too long in the shadow of apartheid. Apartheid was a system that thrived on building walls of division, a system that stifled the freedom and growth of many South Africans and a system that was rooted in evil, the demolition of the human spirit and the oppression of the human mind.

Today, almost 20 years later, South Africa is fighting for a different kind of freedom, a freedom that will allow the average South African the opportunity to get ahead in life and reach for his or her dream.

Today we are faced with the gigantic task of breaking down different barriers – the walls of poverty, unemployment and inequality. They still divide us today and limit freedom.

It is one thing to have a democracy with an independent judiciary, free press, a bill of human rights. This is one kind of freedom – the freedom to enjoy your rights under the constitution.

But South Africans did not just struggle for democracy.

To quote Amartya Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in his book – Development is Freedom:

“Individual freedoms are influenced, by the social safeguarding of liberties, tolerance and … they are also influenced on the other side by the provision of facilities such as basic healthcare or essential education that are crucial for the formation of human capabilities. There is a need to pay attention to both types of individual freedoms.”

The new freedom struggle in South Africa today is a struggle for socio – economic justice with human dignity at its heart.

If you have to use bucket toilets, are unemployed or suffer the consequences of a poor education system, your dignity is undermined.

On the day of his inauguration Nelson Mandela stood on the steps of the Union Buildings and said “We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

Human dignity is the cornerstone of any democratic country. We cannot boast to be a free and democratic society without human dignity

The biggest obstacle to human dignity in South Africa today is the lack of jobs and service delivery.

The Democratic Alliance’s plan for growth and jobs is powered by Freedom you Can Use because it would cut red tape to free up business, introduce a youth wage subsidy, fix education, rebuild state support for small business and help give ordinary people a stake in the economy.

The Democratic Alliance’s vision of an open opportunity society is underpinned by the four main pillars of redress, reconciliation, diversity and delivery. Without redress and delivery, freedom for all will be very difficult to achieve. Political freedom has been at the heart of every successful modern democracy while economic freedom has powered the largest increase in living standards in human history.

However these are not the only elements needed for freedom. The DA realises that every person in an open society must enjoy the same formal freedoms, but those freedoms are difficult to take advantage of in practice if people do not have the necessary access to or, decent health care and education and a safe and secure environment.

Nobel Prize recipient Amartya Sen states that people are still denied elementary freedoms and remain imprisoned in one way or another by economic poverty and social deprivation. The main purpose of development is to spread freedom and its ‘thousand charms’ to the un-free citizens.

The slow pace of service delivery impacts negatively on the development and freedom of people in our province. The root causes of this slow pace are cadre deployment, maladministration, corruption and greed. The Babylonian spirit of self interest is a cancer that is destroying our freedom by limiting opportunity for people to get ahead in life.

The journey to true freedom in our Province will never be achieved until the child from Mbizana has the same access to opportunity as the child from Beacon Bay and Blue Water Bay.

Learners need a proper education to enjoy the freedom that will allow them entrance into any kind of job that they want, a freedom that is rightfully theirs. New research from the Centre for Development and Enterprise shows that to get employment in South Africa one needs to be a graduate.

Of about 460,000 graduates in the labour force in 1995, 4% were unemployed. By 2011, there were over 1 million graduates in the labour force, only 5% of whom were unemployed. Research in 2012 showed that in the Eastern Cape, only 39 000 pupils passed matric, with only 11 000 of them getting university entrance. This tells its own story.

This journey will never be complete until the open society for all triumphs over the closed crony society for some.

So in this week, commemorating South Africa’s freedom, let us be reminded there is still a struggle to be waged and a battle to be fought. The chains of poverty, unemployment and poor service delivery need to be broken and all freedom loving South Africans must rise to this challenge.