I’ve always bought into the concept of economic freedom. Economic freedom is entwined in the fabric of the Freedom Charter, which was adopted at the Congress of the People on 26 June 1955. It’s there in the South African Constitution as well. I am just waiting for Juju to get rid of the reckless race rhetoric, and exchange it for rhetoric on innovation, art and setting hands to that old rugged plough. As younger people, myself included, we owe our country – not the other way around. We owe our resourcefulness and our vuma. When I consider young people, especially the Black taxed, I believe we are delivering on that obligation. When you take a public position on imperatives, hold leaders and systems accountable, struggle through societal prejudice and economic bias – contrary to popular belief, this is not wishbone philosophy, this is backbone stuff. The young people make me realise the dream of the New South Africa is alive.
There are too few countries in the world that provide stand-up comedy in parliament like we do. But we need to give our parliamentarians credit for getting the business done, too – consider “pay back the money.” The fun we see in parliament, together with exposure in the press on state capture, lending downgrades, shebeens, Zumadom, and so on – this is evidence of transparency in a working democracy. Equal opportunity, freedom of speech, tolerance and other manifestations of democracy ironically work this way, too. Perhaps an example might help make the point. The great thing about living in South Africa is freedom of worship and religion. You can worship a frying pan if you wanted to and nobody will bother you. This lavish freedom encourages expression of worship, and more so, because we live in a democratic society, it is required of the rest of us to practise tolerance of that expression. This is what a free and democratic society is all about – and a mature society too. Transparency works that way, too. Those who want rain must also accept mud. This is the premise upon which we relish democratic liberties. Our young democracy is pulsing with life.
There are days when I have breakfast with my family in Johannesburg, lunch in Durban, late-afternoon tea in Cape Town and back for dinner with my family. I could do this in Europe with some difficulty. Furthermore, having developed a penchant for the outdoors, I am mesmerised by the beauty of the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, together with the variety of breath-taking mountains and charming little towns like Clarens, Coffee Bay, Graaff Reinet, Montagu, Prince Albert and others. I must not forget the Mediterranean in Cape Town, India in Durban and New York in Johannesburg. As a single destination, South Africa is alive with travel diversity and a salubrious climate under which to do it.
Here’s the one thing that has me stumped – and quite frankly, being a father it scares me too. We need to contend with crime, especially violent crime. We should not have to live in anxiety. Life is sacred, so too are our properties, belongings and relationships. As South Africans we need to do more to root out the iniquitous rhizomes of crime – poverty, lack of education, lack of job creation, lack of adequate policing, poor community awareness. Some of the Ten Commandments, it seems, are dead in South Africa.
If you are reading this little piece, you are probably employed in the most beautiful profession – civil engineering. You get to serve people by improving the quality of life through the development of infrastructure. And you get paid to do it, too. In South Africa – because we straddle both First World and developing economies – we get to do innovative engineering, providing unique solutions to the assortment of infrastructure engineering challenges. This region is prime territory to become accomplished engineering practitioners and to make a difference as civil engineering professionals. The prospect of making an impact through civil engineering in South Africa is alive.
So what is this about? I am writing to you from New Zealand, and I’ve had some intriguing encounters about South Africa. I’ll stop at that. Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about the quality of life back home – politics, property, safety and security, education, sport, our people, music, the taxis, e-toll, and so on. Quite frankly, we are spoilt in Mzansi. I have been pondering the things that are important to me, like making a difference in the lives of others through my work, my career, education, and my family, and, after having travelled to more than 35 countries, my South Africa has a soul, and is alive to meaning and purpose – if one has the appetite for it.