Over the weekend, IJR patron Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu published an editorial piece in the Sunday Times that focused on individual and collective responsibility for strengthening South Africa’s democracy, eighteen years after the 1994 elections. His piece also prompted an hour-long interview and call-in show on The Forum @ 8 on SAFM this morning, together with Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba. I have posted the beginning of the article below – the full article can be accessed through the Times Live by clicking here.
Each one of us must help the miracle happen
It seems that every time one picks up a newspaper or switches on the television, there are new stories of corruption in government, of nasty competitiveness for leadership positions in the ruling party, of a crisis in education, of so-called service-delivery protests that regularly turn destructive, of the most horrendous incidents of violent crime.
And, instead of narrowing the gap between rich and poor, we have allowed it to become a dangerously yawning chasm.
Most alarmingly, we have evolved over the 18 years of our democracy from an organised nation of activists for social change – for common good – to a nation apparently preoccupied with the accumulation of personal wealth.
In 1994, when we all voted for the first time, we hung up our activist T-shirts and ceded total responsibility for our lives to our newly elected government. Then we folded our arms and waited for the miracle of better lives to be bestowed on us, a nation of passive recipients awaiting government largesse. When it isn’t forthcoming, we organise service-delivery protests.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with criticising the government where criticism is due, but we equally need to look deep inside ourselves – each one of us – and ask what we can contribute to creating a better society.
What can we do to hold the government accountable for its spending? But also, what can we do, as an active and organised citizenry, to improve conditions ourselves? Surely it’s possible for parent bodies to get together for one day every year to paint and spruce up our children’s schools. Surely our church congregations and our community-based organisations should be sufficiently active to be able to avoid most preventable deaths of infants. Surely if we took responsibility, we’d be able to reduce our terrible road-accident rate. If we raised our children with decent values, surely incidents such as the gang rape of the apparently mentally impaired teenage girl in Soweto 10 days ago could never have happened.
It starts within us, with the recognition that we do not live in a vacuum. Each one of us is a constituent part of a greater organism: our community, our country, our continent, our world.