We Honour Our Past and Take Ownership of Our Future

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Leader in Mpumalanga

The following is an address by Anthony Benadie during the Freedom Day Celebrations in eNtokozweni (Machadodorp).

Today is a very auspicious day in the history of South Africa.

Today marks 18 years since all South Africans of all race groups cast their vote in this country’s first fully democratic elections. Where we brought true democracy to this beautiful land of ours.

And like a new baby in the family, we were excited, and sometimes anxious, trusting and hopeful that our ‘democratic baby’ will survive – and as we watched, while fragile at times, our miracle learnt to crawl and walk.

And then our democratic child became a teenager, and as most of you with teenage children would know, that’s when the bad influences starting to come in. We saw, when our democracy was 13, 14, 15 years old, how bad influences had a negative impact on it, and there developed much reason to worry. Even today, as we celebrate its 18th birthday, we often worry about our democratic child’s well-being, decisions and future.

While we celebrate this country’s young adulthood, we have to remember the injustices of the past, and how that led to the creation of our democracy and ultimately Constitution. We have to learn from the past, honour our past and remember those who came before us.

We cannot forget how millions of ordinary South Africans weren’t allowed the freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and of course, the freedom to choose who shall govern us.

Our Constitution, with the Bill of Rights at its heart, protects us all. It is OUR response to the oppression of the past, and offers the best that humanity can provide: dignity, a love of freedom, a commitment to equality and the embrace of tolerance.

As we stand here today, each and every one of can say:

We love our country

We love our freedom

But most importantly today’s celebration is about owning our future. Political freedom is meaningless without economic freedom and opportunity. Our future is in our hands.

But we are not free while almost half of our country’s people are caught up in poverty, when a quarter are unemployed, and when violent protests take place because people do not have basic services.

The struggle against apartheid is over, but the struggle for freedom from suffering continues. We must offer people pathways out of poverty, and the passport to that is a decent job. Our economy is strong enough to provide our people with work, and the opportunities that follow from it.

We must teach our 18-year-old young adult to look after those who do not have an income and access to life’s necessities. We must teach it to care for others by delivering for all, and by treating every person with the respect they deserve.

We have to teach our young adult the value of human life, of dignity, of mutual respect, reconciliation, and kindness. We have to teach our young adult to love our land, and ALL who live in it, and not to forget what we had to go through to get here. We have to teach this young adult that every person has the right and the means to live a life they value.

While our young grown-up democratic South Africa has achieved much in its first 18 years, we have to continue to teach it the values we hold dear. South Africa, thank you, we love you, Happy Birthday.

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