Cape Town.070927. The new Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at a press conference at the announcement of his position.
Picture:Sophia Stander
Cape Town.070927. The new Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at a press conference at the announcement of his position. Picture:Sophia Stander

Welcome to the new year. For all of us, although we might not realise it, it could be the most important year of our lives.

This year represents the opportunity to write your own Book of Life. Last year at this time I had hoped that 2014, the 20th anniversary of our democracy, which replaced the inequalities of apartheid, would be a transformational year, a year of rebirth, renaissance of spirit and reconnection with the values of our constitution and our spiritually guided families.

I had prayed that it would be a new beginning when our leaders would awaken from more than a decade of misguided moral navigation – a decade of growing inequality in education, service delivery, health care, economic fairness and, most seriously, the inequality of opportunity, and a decade in which our leaders continued making decisions in the context of “ME” rather than what was best for the nation, the context of “WE”.

Unfortunately for our nation, all one has to do is reread the headlines of South Africa’s media to know that we have lived through another year when our leaders failed to apply values-based decision-making to our nation’s priorities.

We have left 2014 with the majority of our nation still living under the oppression of inequality and corruption.

To me, it seems worse than any biblical disaster.

Corruption is ruining our South Africa. Crooked leaders are betraying every South African. Valueless leaders are pocketing unearned monies, diverting resources from our communities and treating South Africans like a herd of sheep.

And everywhere I travel, more and more South Africans are saying: “We are tired of hearing the promises that are never kept. When will our leaders wake up?”

As a great author once wrote: “In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. Anyone who begins to live and grow away from God, who lives away from what is good, is turning his life toward wrath. And, clearly, it’s the way our nation’s leaders have been living.

Their decisions have created my excitement about 2015 and why I’m welcoming the new year.

I believe that South Africa is ready to begin the New Struggle. How do I know that?

Everywhere I turn I’m hearing, “We cannot wait any longer!”

We cannot see 2015 as the beginning of a new chapter in our lives – we have to see 2015 as the beginning of a new book.

The first book, the Old Struggle, is closed. For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and 2015’s words await another voice.

A voice that wants to make an end to inequality and to make a beginning to equality for black, white, coloured, Indian and every other citizen of our great nation.

It’s time for us to come together and begin on page one of what could be the greatest 365-page book in South African history. The story of the New Struggle. The story of the end of inequality.

Let’s not greet the new with a traditional “Happy New Year” because, candidly, for too many in our national community, life is anything but “happy”.

There’s not much that is “happy” when one simply exists. There’s not much that is “happy” in a South Africa teetering under the weight of gross inequalities.

There’s not much that is “happy” in a country that punishes those brave enough to show courage in fighting the pervasiveness of daily corruption.

To join the New Struggle one must have the courage of faith. Faith is taking the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.

Someone once said: “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be.

“It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personhood, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”

May the new year bring you courage to fight inequality and corruption; open-heartedness to embrace our country’s needs as “WE” versus “ME” and the sense of destiny to join the New Struggle because we see the “promised land of equality” as worth fighting for.

A struggle is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall. Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.

It is time for the New Struggle to begin. It’s a struggle between the future that Madiba envisioned, defined by unconditional equality. With no struggle, there is no progress.

Who will lead the New Struggle?

I call on our nation’s youth to lead the New Struggle.

With no uncertainty, success of any struggle has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the struggle. You have the most to lose in a society crippled by corruption and without opportunity. You will always be hungry in life, and for life, without a mission or calling. You have the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourselves.

As I speak to young people each week in all parts of southern Africa I hear the same message over and over. “I’m angry!” Well, you should be! You are being denied opportunity. The opportunity of success. The opportunity to make your mother and father proud of you. The opportunity for your sister and brothers to look up to you.

The opportunity for your community to see you as a hero who fought to make the lives of those most important to them better.

Face it, anybody can become angry – that is easy – but to be angry for the right purpose and in the right way, that’s hard and it’s not within everybody’s power. Joining the New Struggle will give your anger a purpose, a route out, and a meaning that will be life-defining.

As Martin Luther King said: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

King and I are speaking to YOU!

All life demands struggle.

Those who have everything given to them, even if it is the bare minimum of social aid, become lazy, selfish and insensitive to the real values of life.

The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.

It has been said: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

We must straighten our backs and work for our complete freedom. Freedom without equality of education, health care, service delivery, economic fairness and the freedom of opportunity is not freedom.

Let’s face it: Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions easily cause too many to feel defeat. But today’s leaders have degraded our country enough. Your time is now. Your time is 2015.

The history of the past is the past. You have the chance to shape our country’s destiny. Destiny is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice.

Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself. Believe in the power of WE.

And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true.

It’s time for you to choose.

Face it, the hardest thing about the road not taken is that you never know where it might have led.

It’s a new year, and another chance to get it right.

 

n Makgoba is Anglican archbishop of Cape Town.