As we take the next steps on this journey into the future together, it might be helpful to look back at where we have come from and what it is we in South Africa hoped to achieve, says Dr Iqbal Survé. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
As we take the next steps on this journey into the future together, it might be helpful to look back at where we have come from and what it is we in South Africa hoped to achieve, says Dr Iqbal Survé. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Dr Iqbal Survé: Let's remodel our Covid-19 recovery on the Freedom Charter

By Dr Iqbal Survé Time of article published May 31, 2020

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Cape Town - As we move back into the mainstream again with the further easing of our living and working restrictions, it would be easy just to forget the past two months or so and move on. Please don’t.

It will be tempting to get back on the saddle and ride along just as you did before and as the weeks tick by and you get used to your freedom again. Please don’t.

Please do…keep an open mind. Continue to question the veracity of what you are told to do, hold your government, leaders and businesses to account.

Please do ... continue to reach out a helping hand to those in need – there will be more than ever before.

Please do take the hand offered to you, pride is humble pie in the face of starvation.

Please do...remember the feelings (good and bad) that you have experienced over this time, and please do consider others’ emotions as we enter the next phase of our Covid-19-dictated lives.

Indeed, as we take the next steps on this journey into the future together, it might be helpful to look back at where we have come from and what it is we in South Africa hoped to achieve in terms of creating one society for all. 

I am, generally speaking, focused on forward thinking and futureproofing, whether this be the businesses in which I am involved, observing new trends or planning ahead. However, a trip down memory lane could well serve us all well at this juncture.

To that end, cast your mind back to 1952, when work on the Freedom Charter began. Many of us were not around then, but we have grown up with the understanding that in some way shape or form, this charter has influenced all levels of our society – on whichever side of the socio-economic
and political divide one sits. It has also served to make its impact known on other countries and formed the basis of our Constitution.

Caught up in the endless pursuit for commercial dominance, one-up-man-ship and power plays, much of the world has lost sight of what it means to be fair, just and objective. South Africa included.

The Freedom Charter was officially adopted in 1955 and is something I have lived my life by, since ever I can remember. It is a blueprint for equality – for everyone. But what does equality actually mean?

In George Orwell’s satirical novella ‘Animal Farm’, equality mutates to where all are equal just that some are more equal than others. This was certainly where we found ourselves pre-lockdown, and it could be more entrenched than ever if we do not take heed of the reprieve that we have been given to look at how we progress as a human race.

I have mentioned before that South Africa has got a lot of things right about how they have managed the transmission of Covid-19. Sadly, however, we have also fallen woefully short. We have applied first world principles to our developing world paradigm, which may have worked in the
beginning, but will certainly not work now.

There has also been a lack of media freedom and engagement during this period, with those tasked with being the conveyors of objective commentary, subjected to dispensing only that which they have been fed by government, forcing many to look outside of the country for answers. 

The president’s ably delivered rhetoric invites no interaction from the media pack. This does not build trust. Instead it does the opposite, leading citizens to question what it is we are not being told.

Withholding information or information obtained from only one source does not make for balanced reporting. It is not an equal footing from which to derive informed opinion to construct forward thinking and plans.

In considering an equal basis and Covid-19, the Freedom Charter also calls for preventative healthcare. Visionary then, necessary now. 

A preventative health outlook will do much to avert a situation in the future where entire economies are shut down to cope with illnesses that swamp ill-equipped healthcare systems, and that are currently designed, in the main, to make as much money as they can. This is in direct contrast to upholding the Hippocratic oath that also speaks to dietetic measures, a key ingredient in preventative and equal health for all.

For while this lockdown has fundamentally changed many things in our country, and has caused untold hardships for many, it has created the chance to redress the balance.

One of the key things about how we deal with a crisis is to dig deep into that which we know and that which we are familiar with, and to rekindle those values, systems and ideas. This in turn revitalises the elemental need within us to reactivate those values and implement them again. Often to do all of these things, one needs a framework, general moral principles and guiding values and ones that take into context of the particular environment in which one finds oneself. That framework exists in the Freedom Charter.

What is needed then, is to revisit the foundation of the South African Freedom Charter (which can also be used by the rest of the world), to model our recovery on, to create one just, inclusive and balanced society, through which we can all find our freedom.

* Dr Iqbal Survé is a physician, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He is the chairperson of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and executive chairperson of Independent Media.

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