It’s everyone’s responsibility to lend a hand to efforts to build SA as we celebrate our rights in freedom, says Brand South Africa chief executive officer Miller Matola.
“Freedom Month conjures up the memory of victory over oppression in 1994. A culmination of many people making great sacrifices for our liberty.
Our freedom did not come free.
So much blood was spilt to reverse the disenfranchisement of our people.
The right to vote that we now take for granted was something for which countless people paid with their lives.
Every right comes with a responsibility and the right to vote equally comes with responsibilities.
It is for this reason that this election must stir a new consciousness about our responsibilities as citizens of a democratic country.
Our constitution guides us on how to exercise our rights.
The exercise of our rights should not compromise another’s. How then are we living up to the responsibilities required by the exercise of our rights?
Are we among the millions who will sit at home on May 7 and refrain from expressing our choice about who will run our country for the next five years?
Are we among those who won’t take the responsibility of voting seriously?
After voting, how do we play our part in holding our leaders accountable?
How many times in the past 20 years have we attempted to go through draft legislation that affect our lives?
Are we part of a handful who show up for public hearings to consider laws that shape our democracy?
Or are we among those who complain about the laws after they are passed?
Before we protest, do we give input into how our municipalities should be run? How should we celebrate these freedoms?
Recently there was a big debate triggered by the question: Should graduates do community service?
Medical graduates have been doing it for the longest time.
No one has questioned why.
It was taken for granted that if the state spent seven years supporting and subsidising your education it’s logical that you have to give something back. No one has asked why this only applies to medical graduates and not others who have received similar subsidies.
I believe the time has come for all of us to ask when we are going to give of ourselves to improve the lives of others.
Entitlement – in which we only focus on rights and not responsibilities – has to be replaced by service to others, which is a key ingredient in building a new culture that enables and strengthens social cohesion.
The biggest slice of the national budget goes to education, but this does not remove the responsibilities of parents to be involved in their children’s education.
It is clear that such involvement is scant.
Surely parents should have raised alarm bells way before the June exams. But it is clear that many were not even aware that textbooks were missing.
This is worrisome as it underlines a trend where we believe that the government must do everything.
The culture of volunteerism is poor.
This may be linked to the high unemployment rates, but it is not the end of the story.
Even among the gainfully employed, the culture of giving of time for community is eroding fast. This has to be revived if we are to build a new society.
Ask yourself as an individual, in the midst of hunger: How am I sharing the little food I have?
Are there people next door who can use the clothes you have not worn for the past five years and are about to throw away?
In the midst of illiteracy, what role are you playing in your community to support education? Is it not possible to use some of your disposable income to take just one child to school so they can have a better life?
How are we playing our part in efforts to curb crime? Have we desisted from buying stolen goods?
Do we speak out against corruption where we know it to be going on?
If we consider these effortless things we may well be on our way to ensuring that the rights bestowed on us are matched with responsibilities.
This way we can play our part in building a new society that does not merely look to the government to prosper, but looks deep within its own resourcefulness.”
First published in The Star