We must stand in solidarity with the ongoing struggles in Africa and fight for the same rights in these countries, for we as South Africans have seen its power within our own country.
For those familiar with South African politics, the African National Congress is considered to be one of the greatest liberation movements in history, also affiliated to world-renowned leaders such as Nelson Mandela who bestowed the gift of democracy on this beautiful country in 1994. In fact, it is quite apt to write on the eve of Women’s Day in South Africa (SA). It is exactly 60 years ago (1956) when 20 000 courageous women played a crucial role in our country’s history by marching against oppressive apartheid policies. Role-models such as Albertina Sisulu, Sophia de Bruyn and Lilian Ngoyi, their lives, their struggles and their values continue to inspire young women in SA today. Today I celebrate these women, I draw on their strength and boldness in granting us the gift of democracy, as I offer an honest analysis of present-day complexities facing the country.
Unfortunately, the moral decay of the ANC, particularly its corruption has become known worldwide and nationwide through the President’s Nkandla scandal- it is a decay which is associated with heartbreak for many young South Africans, including myself. I have always believed in what the ANC stands for, its social policies and the leadership that once reigned the country yet one cannot defend corruption and the abuse of state resources which is meant for the poor and vulnerable in our country. Leaders of this country mocked our democracy and the intelligence of ordinary citizens with ‘fire-pool’ explanations. National elections came and went, with the ANC still enjoying a substantial power, leaving many citizens feeling ‘powerless’ as we watched on when our leaders laugh publicly (including in parliament) at using state resources for their own gain. The gift of our democracy, is however deep-rooted and enshrined in our progressive constitution. The fight against corruption began when our Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela presented and stood by findings linked to the Nkandla scandal. I celebrate you Advocate Madonsela for standing up against injustice; you are undoubtedly the most celebrated women of our time! Our democracy continued to be tested as the Public Protector’s Reports were discarded by some politicians; however opposition parties continued to fight corruption through SA law – constitutional court. The various arms of the democratic state were tested and eventually emerged victorious as the President was ordered to repay money back to the state.
Although, a substantial portion of SA citizens had now used the gift of democracy to hold leaders accountable. Based on rough estimation and interaction with those who aren’t involved in research or in the development world, I would go as far as making a claim that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its specific targets remain unknown to the majority of ordinary citizens. Yet, this past week South African citizens knowingly and unknowingly illustrated the power of SDG 16 – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. We saw at first hand the power of target 16.5 (reduce corruption) and 16.7 (participatory decision-making) during the recent South African local government elections. Results particularly in our metropolitan regions saw a substantial loss of power for the ANC. Of course, there are different political analyses on the matter, though the shift in SA politics is monumental and points to discontented citizens. Perhaps, this is a turning point for the party in dealing with corruption and re-instilling the values it once stood for. May we always enjoy the gift of democracy, to hold our leaders accountable – no party or individual should ever be greater than the needs of the people of this country. At the same time it is critical to acknowledge that while we enjoy the fruits of democracy, we must acknowledge that many of our African neighbours do not enjoy a just state (including Zimbabwe). We as women and young people must stand in solidarity with the ongoing struggles in Africa and fight for the same rights in these countries, for we have seen its power within our own country.