After last week’s column, in which I argued that we have failed to deliver the South Africa we promised our people when we were involved in the Struggle against apartheid, I received a query from a reader asking whether I was “hankering after the Apartheid era”. He capitalised apartheid, which properly betrays his loyalties.
Of course, I never said that but sometimes it seems that people read articles to confirm their opinions and prejudices, on which their opinions are often based.
I would never wish apartheid on our country or any other country. Apartheid was evil and destroyed so many lives through laws like the Immorality Act, the Group Areas Act, the laws determining and governing homelands and the Mixed Marriages Act.
It also destroyed lives through the active subjugation of the majority in an effort to create a utopia for the minority. I lost too many close friends and comrades in the Struggle to see something remotely positive in apartheid and its evil twin, colonialism.
But just because we think apartheid was bad, does not mean that we think our democracy is perfect. Far from it. What I have been thinking about a lot recently is the role that those of us who were involved in the Struggle can play in improving our democracy.
Part of the contribution that we can make is to continue to point out flaws where we see them and make suggestions on how things could be improved. This is not negative, in fact, it is part of us trying to make a positive contribution to our country.
We cannot continue to sit on the sidelines while the unemployment rate is going up every quarter, the latest figure being 29%, up from 27.6% last quarter. This is the official figure, but I believe the real figure is much higher, especially in poor communities.
We cannot keep quiet while our economy has been reduced to junk status by international ratings agencies, and when our education system does not produce proper skills. And when it does, those skills flee the country because there are no jobs here.
We cannot pretend not to be concerned when crime is spiralling out of control.
I love this country, but I am pulling out what little hair I have left because, like most concerned citizens, I am desperate to help find solutions.
We are in one of the worst spaces we have been in in our reasonably young democracy. However, I still remain hopeful. I remain hopeful that our president will realise that, while there are people inside and outside his party who are trying to divert his attention, he should focus on the job for which he was elected: to turn our country into the great nation we all know it can be.
I am also hopeful that our political parties will realise that now is not the time for factional fighting or political grandstanding. Now is the time for everyone to put their shoulders to the wheel and work together to get us out of the mess we are clearly in.
Now is also not the time for people to say, “I told you so”, especially not the apartheid-era apologists hoping (and sometimes praying) that we will not make a success of our democracy.
I am also hopeful because I know the resilience of South Africans. We absorbed everything that 300 years of colonialism and 50 years of apartheid could throw at us and we emerged victorious. We have made mistakes since we became a democracy, including allowing some people to think that they are leaders when they are meant to be public servants.
This is the kind of attitude which has allowed corruption and state capture to flourish.
South Africa can do better, but it will require a change of mindset and a willingness to put our country first.
* Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media.
** Fisher is an independent media professional. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher
*** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.