Lindiwe Mazibuko says it is the duty of the current generation to fight for opportunity and economic freedom by voting for the right party at the upcoming elections. File photo: Elmond Jiyane

While the country achieved political liberation in 1994, many people – particularly the youth – have yet to taste the freedom of economic empowerment and opportunity, writes Lindiwe Mazibuko.

Like many other South Africans, I remember the day as if it were yesterday. As a teenager of 14, I woke up on the morning of April 27, 1994 and watched as my mother prepared herself for something she had never been able to do before: vote in a democratic general election.

The tension, the trepidation, even the terror that was in the air was palpable.

But over time these feelings gave way to a sense of hope and optimism that was felt across the country.

After nearly a century of institutionalised disenfranchisement and political oppression, all adult South Africans would unite to elect the first democratic government in South Africa’s history.

Like all young South Africans under the age of 38, I am the beneficiary of a freedom for which I did not fight; the beneficiary of a struggle for liberation in which I did not participate.

Today, we enjoy the freedoms the majority of South Africans in the generations before ours were denied: the freedom to move around our own country without restrictions; the freedom to live and work where we choose; to express ourselves openly and to love whom we choose. And of course, the freedom which gave rise to all of these: the right to vote.

Many of those who fought for liberation did not experience any of the political freedoms we enjoy today.

My own father lived to see Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, but was taken by the political strife in KwaZulu-Natal before he was able to cast his vote in a free election.

It is because of his generation’s relentless fight for freedom that we are able to live in a liberated South Africa today.

Our freedom is both a gift and a burden. As the youth of South Africa, our freedom is a gift that came at great sacrifice. We cannot accept this gift unconditionally because we are only its custodians. It is not ours to keep; instead ours is the burden to ensure we are able to pass it on to our children.

We have a duty to jealously guard the freedom that was bequeathed to us and protect it from those who seek to undermine it.

Most important, we dare not take our freedom for granted.

We protect our political freedom by voting for a party that upholds our constitutional rights and freedoms. No matter what it once was, we cannot continue to vote for a party of liberation that now undermines our freedoms through corruption, over-regulation and repressive laws such as the secrecy bill and the traditional courts bill.

We must vest our vote in a party that respects our liberty and works hard to sndure that our political freedom is translated into economic freedom.

Our generation’s struggle is the fight for freedom of opportunity.

Despite the political freedom bestowed upon all South Africans, our government has failed to translate this into freedom of opportunity for our people.

Today, millions of South Africans still live without the opportunity to choose where they want to live, to choose where they will send their children to school.

They live without the freedom that comes from a job and economic empowerment.

Poverty and socio-economic inequality are our Verwoerd and Malan. But unlike Verwoerd and Malan, there is not one face to poverty. There is not one face to inequality. There are millions of faces and they are the faces of our fellow citizens. These endemic socio-economic evils cannot be wished away with the swipe of a pen or through radical policies such as the nationalisation of industries.

In the words of Coretta Scott King, “Freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it in every generation.” The struggle for freedom of opportunity is the struggle of our generation. We must earn our freedom by winning the battle for freedom of opportunity.

In South Africa’s constitutional democracy, we fight for freedom of opportunity not by the bullet but at the ballot. By voting for a party not of the past, but of the future, we can bring opportunity to South Africa. And I believe the DA is the party that will deliver this freedom.

The DA is the party that is working to deliver opportunity to all South Africans. It is only by working towards the DA’s vision of an Open, Opportunity Society for All that we believe the South African government can improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.

To do this, we need a government that will fight corruption, provide quality education and break down the barriers that stifle job creation.

The DA is also a party that protects our constitutional rights and our political freedom. The DA has fought for the repeal of the National Key Points Act, an apartheid law that has no place in South Africa today.

The DA has also fought to safeguard our freedom of expression that could be criminalised under the secrecy bill. The DA is fighting corruption in every sphere of government – from Nkandla to Tlokwe.

In the places where we govern, the DA is working hard to empower South Africans through education and economic upliftment.

The DA-run Western Cape is the province with the lowest unemployment rate at 12 percent lower than the national average.

This is partly thanks to the provincial government’s Works and Skills Programmes and the Advancement of Youth Project which created over 6 000 work-based learning opportunities for young people.

The Western Cape government’s advances in the field of education have improved the pass rate in schools serving poor communities from 56.93 percent in 2009 to 73.05 percent in 2013. Over the same period, the Western Cape government decreased the number of underperforming schools from 85 to 23.

The DA is fighting to bring opportunity to every South African. A national DA government will bring the progress of the Western Cape and the 28 municipalities we govern to the entire country.

It is only by winning the struggle for freedom of opportunity that our generation will earn the gift of our political freedom.

With the vote on May 7, 2014, young South Africans can take up the struggle for freedom of opportunity by voting for the DA.

It is time for our generation to make history. It is time for us to get to work to earn and win our freedom.

* Lindiwe Mazibuko is DA parliamentary leader.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Sunday Independent