A call to action – don’t let apathy determine our nation’s fate

Chris Maxon

Chris Maxon

Published Jan 29, 2024


In the face of a declining nation, it is disheartening to witness those who once fought for our freedom now indifferent to the state of our beloved South Africa. Many claim fatigue with politics, expressing confusion about whom to vote for or simply opting not to vote.

Amid this apathy, two powerful sayings resonate deeply: “We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children” and the words of Hank Stewart, reminding us that it’s our time, our turn, and if we do nothing, it’s our fault.

Consider the courageous figures like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Ruth First, and others who faced adversity to shape our nation. It was in moments like these that true leaders emerged, unyielding in their commitment to a better South Africa.

Acemoglu and Robinson, in “Why Nations Fail”, highlighted the pitfalls that lead to a nation’s failure. One aspect not explicitly mentioned is the self-paralysis of those with the power to effect change.

Parents bear a significant responsibility to inspire both each other and their voting-age children to participate in the upcoming 2024 national and provincial elections. The future of our country lies in our collective hands, and by abstaining, we only contribute to the problem.

Politics is not an abstract concept reserved for some; it is personal and deeply impactful. Our current experiences are a direct result of political failures, the prevailing political culture, and the actions of politicians. Succumbing to “voter apathy” is a silent endorsement of the status quo.

About 2.1 million South African households, constituting 11.6%, are reported to be grappling with hunger. The nation confronts a spectrum of issues, encompassing elevated unemployment at 39.8% within the 24–35 age bracket, widespread poverty, an enduring energy crisis, and escalating living costs.

These figures serve as stark reminders that politics is an intimately personal matter, no longer permissible to be entrusted solely to a self-serving clique of politicians.

The repercussions of climate change are now evident across the globe, presenting escalating challenges in water availability, food production, and the livelihoods of millions. Recognising that these impacts will intensify if substantial reductions in protecting communities living next to dumping sites (like Sobantu township in Msunduzi) or poorly planned small towns, like Ladysmith, are postponed, it becomes clear that today’s children and their descendants will bear the brunt far more than our generation.

The present state of education produces a sense of bewilderment. Students in the upper primary levels struggle with reading for comprehension and basic maths skills. This inadequacy contributes to our dismal levels of productivity and innovation. The looming challenge of high youth unemployability will persist, urging us to embrace fresh ideas and discover innovative solutions.

Let us discard the notion of voter apathy, recognising that being weary of current politics and abstaining from participation only perpetuates the existing political establishment.

When the call for South Africa to rise is sounded, it should be viewed not as a threat but as a generational opportunity to construct something novel and superior. This call must resonate with all of us, compelling us to respond through action, not mere words.

It is time for South Africans to unite, engage, and actively shape the future of our nation, for if we do nothing, the consequences are undeniably “our fault”.

Chris Maxon is a Fellow South African.

The Star