This coming Saturday our country celebrates Freedom Day, marking 25 years of freedom and liberation of our country and its people from a long period of colonialism and apartheid.
As we celebrate this hard-won freedom it should inspire us to put into place programmes of action to bring about the free society that we had envisioned. To guide us through the exercise of bringing about this vision, we are fortunate to have the most liberal, generous and empowering Constitution.
Yes, our country still suffers from poor economic growth. The rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer in the last 25 years, and the gap between the haves and
have-nots has increased. Yes, we still suffer from mass unemployment and poverty. Crime and violence against children and women continues even though efforts are being made deal with it. As we reflect on the 25 years of freedom, let us celebrate the goodness that surrounds us not only as individuals, but as a nation. We have been spared experiences of catastrophic natural disasters, wars, turmoil and pain on the scale experienced by many other countries. We should not to take this for granted. It is time to count our blessings. We thank God for Freedom of speech – that people are free to express what they want to express. This is a right that is protected; you can speak your mind as long as it is not hate speech.
We ought to be grateful for freedom of press. We are one of the few African countries where freedom of the press is so protected, for example the right to expose corruption without fear of being arrested, jailed, beaten up or other forms of action taken against you.
It is this freedom of the press that has helped us over the past 25 years to keep political parties and the government – or any other person involved in corruption – to account.
We have freedom of religion and we thank God for it. We are one of the few countries where all faiths have the right to exist, to worship and express their faith without interference or being dominated by the state, other religions or people.
The freedom of association is another freedom that our country enjoys. People can live wherever they want, go wherever they want and go to schools of their choice –no longer based on the colour of their skin or the disadvantaged background. Then we have Freedom of choice. As we are in an election year, it is a beautiful and encouraging thing to watch - all our political parties are free to go wherever they want, to campaign wherever they want and to speak to whomever they want.
The Human Rights Commission protects our rights and will investigate and address the violation of anyone’s rights. The Public Protector protects the rights of the public – ensuring the resources of the state serve the people. Our judiciary has proved to be independent and fair, without fear, and always puts the interests of South Africa first. We have the Electoral Commission of SA, which oversees our various elections. These are some of the freedoms and rights we enjoy as South Africans. Despite the challenges we face, we should never forget the freedom we have enjoyed over the past 25 years.
PASTOR RAY McCAULEY IS PRESIDENT OF RHEMA FAMILY CHURCHES AND THE CO-CHAIRPERSON OF THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL (NRLC)