Speech Notes by Bobby Stevenson speaking at the Heal our Metro Rally , Donkin, Port Elizabeth. Freedom Day 27th April 2015

Today we have gathered here in solidarity to demonstrate our anger and sorrow  with the events that have taken place in our country and Metro over the last few weeks.

Let me first commend you for coming out. When we gather together in such numbers around a common cause we draw strength and support from one another and show our compassion and concern to all the families and friends of those who have lost their lives due to brutal and violent acts of crime and xenophobia.Those words an injury to one is an injury to all are so applicable today

Our thoughts are with the family of Jayde Panayiotou,Willie Vazi and Addo farmer Allen Clarke who were so brutally murdered as well as all the other victims of crime and xenophobia.

Today being freedom day, the following come to mind:

  1. We have much to celebrate;
  2. We have much to mourn and;
  3. We have much to change.

When we face situations like this, we need to always take the long view. Our society achieved a miracle in 1994 when we experienced a peaceful transition to democracy away from the harsh and brutal apartheid system.

We celebrate the fact that we have one of the best constitutions in the world, a Bill of Human Rights, and the freedom that all did not have under the apartheid system.

However, we also have much to mourn.

We mourn the fact that our human rights are being violated and trampled on. Today, communities across the city are living in fear. It is a fear of the criminal element. There is no real freedom if you are living in a state of anxiety, insecurity and frustration. Crime is one of the new enemies of our freedom along with corruption, poverty and unemployment.

Our Metro has the highest number of violent crimes in the province. In the last year that crime statistics were available, to name the highest stations,103 people were murdered in New Brighton and 83 people in Kwazakhele. That means every second day someone is being murdered in that community.

But one murder is one murder too many. We all know what’s wrong with our society and what the root cause is.

Today we say no to xenophobia, criminality  and violence and yes to change. We want something different. Our society cannot continue in this direction.

Let me move to my third theme: However we have much to change.

I am someone who has believed in change all my life and I believe that given the right leadership, ideas and policies galvanised into one collective force, as I feel the energy here today, we can bring change to our society.

In this context let me quote Robert F. Kennedy who, in his 1966 speech at the University of Cape Town, noted that “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance”.

There is a spirit of change in the air in our country today. We have seen it through the renewed activism that has taken place. Some of it good, some of it misplaced. We have seen recently in our own continent what has been called the Arab Spring where change suddenly and swiftly came about

How can we be instruments of change? How can we all become vehicles to build the kind of society that we want? How can we all restore our dream for our country?

In this context, let me quote Nelson Mandela who said in his inauguration as president: “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.”

We all have a dream for a  fair society where we can all have a chance of finding employment, where if we  work hard, play by the rules,  our children will receive a good education,  we will be able to live in safe communities and be able to enjoy our retirement. Such a dream does not have to be crushed by the events of the past few weeks.

So what can we actually do to make a difference?

  1. National Reconciliation and Social Justice

We need to continue to take positive steps to promote national reconciliation and social justice. Port Elizabeth was the first city to have a non-racial transitional council. We made history then and we need to make history again by not letting the spirit of negativity that has seized our country, prevent us from having a vision of the future that can be as vastly different now as it was then.

We promote national reconciliation by having an attitude of treating everyone with dignity. We promote national reconciliation by engaging in acts of social justice – that is reaching out to the poor members of our community and trying to make a difference in their lives.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

― Desmond Tutu

Random acts of kindness  when multiplied  are a powerful force for reconciliation.

  1. Building Households and Family Life

We need all need to be involved in building households and stable families however you might define yours. Half the young men and women growing up in our country today do so in a household where there is a missing role model. When young people have no role models, they behave in ways that are deviant and engage in violent behaviour. Maybe some of you here today could be a role model and mentor to someone who needs it.

  1. We need to build strong communities with good moral foundations.

So what steps can we take to build strong and safe communities?

  • Become involved in sector crime forums, community watches and community police forums other community structures. Believe me, when you become involved and take ownership of your neighbourhood, you will improve the climate of safety and security. You might not be able to totally eradicate crime, but it will be a whole lot better than it would have been without your active involvement.

Get involved in those  community structures.

  1. We have much to change
  • I would also not be honest to myself and honest to you if I did not tell you that the most effective way to bring about change and the strongest weapon you have at your disposal is the power of your vote. You have a personal responsibility as a concerned citizen, and by coming here today you have demonstrated that concern, to make sure that you are registered and to ensure that you vote for the kind of society that you believe in.

I have a dream and a vision for this city where factories are going up, unemployment is going down, where shacks are being eradicated and decent housing is being built for and bucket toilets are a distant memory of the past. Imagine a city where the cruise ships are docking in the bay where thousands of tourists are spending money in our new waterfront development and reinvigorating our local economy.

Imagine a city where children of all communities feel safe to play in the streets again, where gangsters and drug dealers have been chased out of town and our religious institutions are packed with people faithful to the morals of a good society.

Imagine a city which is the envy of Africa and idealised by the world. A symbol of change, a symbol of hope, a symbol of what real freedom means.

Such a dream can become a reality if we answer the call of mother Teressa  who said

“THERE IS A LIGHT IN THIS WORLD, A HEALING SPIRIT  MORE POWERFUL THAN ANY DARKNESS WE MAY ENCOUNTER .WE SOMETIMES LOSE SIGHT OF THIS FORCE WHEN THERE IS SUFFERING ,TOO MUCH PAIN.THEN SUDDENLY,THE SPIRIT WILL EMERGE  THROUGH THE LIVES OF ORDINARY PEOPLE  WHO HEAR A CALL AND ANSWER IN EXTRADORDINARY WAYS.

Together we must answer this call

Together we can make an extraordinary difference.

Together we  can heal our Metro.