South Africa prides itself on being a country with a renowned democratic culture of engagement and negotiation.
South Africans pride themselves on robust and healthy debate, critical dialogue and exchange and a history of resolving seemingly intractable problems by coming together as one nation towards a common goal.
This was the case at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) negotiations, which resulted in a democratic breakthrough, the first democratic elections in 1994, and inauguration of the formidable President Nelson Mandela.
In July we join the world in celebrating Mandela Day. On Madiba’s birthday, 18 July, South Africans engage in various activities aimed at promoting good deeds in the service of mankind, as taught by Madiba. We will be celebrating his life and also his contribution to the struggle for liberation and transition to a democratic South Africa. South Africa is truly proud to have produced a leader of Madiba’s calibre. We urge all our people to find something good to do on the 18th of July, such as helping the less fortunate or contributing to making our country a better place in various ways.
What can we do?
Many people will be cleaning schools, visiting old age homes and orphanages and helping the homeless. Young people should consider cleaning their surroundings as well, removing garbage from our streets and ensuring that we live in cleaner communities of which we can be proud.
In remembering Madiba let us also work harder to make our communities safer, and join the police in fighting crime. We should also work together to end the scourge of violence against women. We receive too many reports of brutal murders of women in the country. This must stop. We urge women to report abuse early enough before it becomes too late. We urge family members as well to report abuse to the police and not treat it as a “domestic matter”. No woman must be beaten or abused in any manner by anyone including intimate partners including husbands.
We also need to make the streets safer for women and girls. If they go to the shops to buy bread, they should be safe and not at risk of being attacked or raped. Madiba, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and many others spent their lives fighting for a South Africa in which all would feel safe and be respected. Let us build safer communities in their memory. Government has declared violence against women and against children as priority crimes. The police have been directed to treat these cases as priorities and to not turn away any woman who comes to report abuse or attacks.
In the month of August, Women’s Month, we should all engage in campaigns that send a strong message that South Africa must be safe for women and children.
Seeking solutions together
As our readers are aware, the country has entered a technical recession, which means a great deal of difficulty for everyone. At the time of the delivery of the national Budget speech in February, the economy was expected to grow at a low 1.3 per cent in 2017. Given the current difficulties, even this low growth rate may not be achieved now. The economy needs to grow so that it can create much-needed jobs. We need to build confidence in the economy, which we can only do by working together as ordinary South Africans, business, government, labour and other sectors.
We will be dipping into these collective resources as a country as we seek solutions to perhaps the most difficult economic period in South Africa since 1994.
Last week, I convened a special meeting of the Economic Sectors, Employment and Infrastructure Development Cluster Ministers, otherwise known as the Economic Cluster of Ministers, in Pretoria to consider and discuss the current economic challenges facing South Africa. We will also be meeting with the business community so that together we can use our collective wisdom to find ways of getting our country out of this difficulty.
We emphasise that in all these endeavours South Africans have the capacity to rise collectively above difficulties and work together to find solutions to problems facing the country.
It is in this spirit that we will continue to work with all sectors to seek solutions that will take our country and its people out of the current economic difficulties into a better South Africa.
We wish all South Africans a happy Madiba Month. Let us strive to make every day a Mandela Day.