Active citizens help build a better South Africa

By Niko Allie

South Africans are a beautiful fusion of cultures, religions and heritage from across the globe. What unites us even before the dawn of democracy aptly captured in Freedom Charter our determination to build a better South Africa for all - ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it – and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all people’. Over the past 30 years, our nation has advanced in many ways, and we have succeeded in building a new society from the ashes of the past.  

This is only through efforts and commitment of ordinary citizens who have dedicated their energies to taking South Africa forward by working together to build a better tomorrow.  Active citizens have been at the forefront of leading our country since 1994 and will continue to do so as we embark on a new chapter.

A reflection of our 30-year journey shows that life is indeed better in democratic South Africa, however much work still remains.  As with all developmental journeys across the globe we have had many highs and lows but our focus on ensuring a better tomorrow for all has never waivered.

A big part of this journey has been our people who are socially diverse, yet united by their love for our country, embracing our constitutional values, principles and ideals.  
The National Development Plan underscores how leadership, an active citizenry and effective government can help drive development in a socially cohesive environment.

This shows a strong correlation between active citizenship, government accountability and responsiveness, where holding government to account is viewed as a civic duty. This is extended to citizen participation in shaping policies and their implementation at a national and local level.

Our society is built on the values of democracy, equality and respect for all.  The values of non‐racialism and non‐sexism are central to our democratic values and principles. We have also strived since 1994 to build a society based on volunteerism and active citizenship.

This has helped us to move our nation forward, despite the many obstacles we face in undoing the ills of the past.  Active citizens are key in ensuring that we arrive at solutions that enhance our unity, yet also begin to undo the social and structural damage of our past.  

When South Africans stand together there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome, therefore every South African has a role to play in navigating us forward. 

People might well ask, but what can I do?  A good starting point would be to ask yourself how can I become a better citizen in 2024. Being a better citizen can be as simple as making a positive contribution in your community daily to make South Africa a better place for all to live in.

This could be cleaning your community, picking up rubbish from public spaces, helping the sick and aged, reading to children, even wearing a smile and being courteous and respectful could make a difference in all our daily interactions.

Being a responsible citizen means being accountable for your actions and always consider what effect your actions will have on those around you.  Now imagine if this process was replicated thousands of times over in households across the nation.  The change would be immediate and it would no doubt inspire others to do the same.

With just a few small changes, active citizens can be the catalyst for greater change throughout society. Let us therefore make 2024 the year where all of us work to create the country and society of our dreams.

We can do so by standing up to ensure that we protect the rights of the vulnerable within our communities. Active citizens always stand up for what is right and should report cases of suspected abuse against women and children. 

Active citizens also take an interest in the running of the country, and make their voices heard on issues that affect them or their communities. Our democracy is built on listening to the voice of the people and provides many avenues for people to make their views known.

Throughout society there are ways for active citizens to make a change.  Whether it be partnering with your local police station to fight crime or fighting the scourge of drug abuse.  Being an active citizen can be as simple as taking an interest in your child’s education and supporting them through their learning journey.
Whatever you choose, let this be the year where you take the lead in ensuring that the promise we all dearly wanted at the dawn of democracy is finally brought to life.  

Niko Allie is Deputy Director: Communication Resource Centre at Government Communication and Information System