“Even though I was young in the lead up to the 1994 election, I remember a time filled with great hope. There was uncertainty and fear, but great hope as well.”
Part of the reason why my memories of this period are so vivid is that I remember the raw emotion that we experienced when we were able to show allegiance to the ANC by openly singing Nkosi si kele or wearing ANC colours. The sense of freedom impacted people’s lives directly. Political prisoners who had thought that they were imprisoned for life came off Robben Island. People who had been in exile for many years came home to their families. There was a sense of disbelief that, after all the sacrifice and heartbreak, there was finally a chance for a free South Africa.
This was a period of a great deal of consultation amongst progressive organisations. Whilst the negotiations were going forward, separate workshops were held all over the country. I countless childhood memories of sitting in the back of a workshop venue whilst passionate engagements were held about the future of our country. There was uncertainty, but a great deal of purpose, as organisations got together and hammered out what policies needed to look like. There were massive challenges, but a sense of hope as consultations were held to come up with a plan for serving all in the country. It is difficult to describe the sense of emotion that we feel when we read the words “we the people of South Africa…” and knew that they applied, last to all the people of South Africa.
More than 20 years after the country’s first democratic elections, this sense of hope has certainly faded. The massive structural inequalities which motivated activists during apartheid persist and have deepened. The recent poverty report has highlighted the desperate issues with poverty in the country. Unemployment is at an all time high. The gender-based violence in the country is endemic and getting worse. Governance has been undermined throughout the country. Moreover it has become clear that resources which are meant for addressing these challenges have been siphoned for an elite. This is not the South Africa that so many people sacrificed their lives for.
The enormous sacrifice that people underwent means that it is imperative to alter the trajectory of South Africa. Too many have given up too much for us to give up on the national reconstruction project. I believe that the New Deal proposed by Cyril Ramaphosa provides an avenue for tackling the economic challenges facing the country. The plan calls for renewed commitments from government, business and labour to collectively change the trajectory of the country. It outlines key actions needed to develop a thriving economy. The New Deal builds on the National Development Plan, which was the product of intense consultation and negotiation. It was endorsed by Pravin Gordhan precisely for these reasons.
I believe that, with a renewed focus on the values of the Freedom Charter and Constitution, an economic plan that includes everyone and a commitment to delivery, it will be possible to alter the trajectory of this country. I believe that the future for which so many people sacrificed is within our grasp. I have faith that Cyril Ramaphosa and his leadership team have an uncompromising vision which will push us all to tackle the hard issues of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
– Hannah Schultz
*This blog has been published in its original format as submitted to the CR17 website. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Cyril Ramaphosa or the CR17 campaign.
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