ON Freedom Day, the following came to mind:
We have much to celebrate;
We have much to mourn and;
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 Rights, and a freedom that all did not have under the apartheid system. However, we mourn the fact that our human rights are being violated and trampled on by crime. Crime is one of the new enemies of our freedom – along with corruption, poverty and unemployment.
In the last year that crime statistics were available, 103 people were murdered in New Brighton and 83 people in Kwazakhele – the two highest recorded. That means every second day, someone is being murdered in those communities.
Today we say no to xenophobia, criminality and violence – and yes to change.
We want something different. Our society cannot continue in this direction.
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, we can bring change to our society. So what can we actually do to make a difference? 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.
Random acts of kindness when multiplied are a powerful force for reconciliation.
We 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 households 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.
We need to build strong communities with good moral foundations, become involved in sector crime forums, community watches and community police forums and other community structures. Believe me, when you become involved and take ownership of your neighbourhood, you will improve the climate of safety and security.
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 to make sure that you are registered and to ensure that you vote for the kind of society that you believe in.
Together we can make an extraordinary difference. Together we can heal our metro.
This letter is an edited version of BobbyStevenson’s speech at the Heal our Metro Rally, Donkin, Port Elizabeth on Freedom Day