Let us make South Africa great

gillBy Gill Price

In 1994, we had a dream of forging a new nation. We imagined a country that worked for everyone and offered all people a chance to live their dream. Having emerged from decades of white minority rule, which was characterised by abuse and tyranny, we chose reconciliation instead of war. 

Together we have built a new society from the ashes of a system that sought to entrench racial and economic discrimination and oppression. The government of the time destroyed many families, broke down traditions and cultures and caused generational trauma, which persists today. 

In hindsight, it was never going to be easy to build a new society with so much proverbial baggage of the past, which still unfortunately continues to shape the future of many today. However, even though we have many obstacles to overcome the dream of 1994 has not died.
 
It lives on in the determination of South Africans to build a better tomorrow and in the change brought about by the work of successive administrations since 1994. Living in 2024 democratic South Africa it is easy to forget the tortuous road we have travelled, and how different life was for the majority before 1994.
 
The milestone of 30 years of Freedom, which we celebrate this year, is an opportune moment to reflect on our past and how far we have come. 
In apartheid South Africa most people were not provided with access to basic municipal services such as clean water, sanitation, refuse collection and electricity.

The lack of basic services contributed to outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. The absence of electricity resulted in people using coal stoves, which contributed to high incidences of respiratory diseases. 

Because of apartheid spatial planning, black people had to travel long distances to get to work and families were fractured, as breadwinners often had to live far away from their homes. Health services were also racially segregated and black people were provided with an inferior public health service compared to their white counterparts.

Today citizens have access to improved healthcare and we continue to work towards the implementation of universal healthcare for all.  We have also succeeded in ensuring a healthier population. The average life expectancy at birth in South Africa has improved from 54 years in 2005, reaching 65.25 years in 2020.
 
Gross enrolment for children of compulsory school going ages, increased from 51 percent in 1994 to well over 90 percent at present. Enrolment in public universities has increased from 494 356 in 1994 to over one million at present, steadily edging closer to the NDP target of 1.6 million enrolments by the year 2030. 

The number of people in employment has doubled from about 8 million people in 1994 to more than 16.7 million now.
Despite these notable advances, there is still much more work to be done. Poverty, unemployment and inequality still define the lives of millions of our people. 
Declining levels of service and increasing stories of corruption or maladministration are still huge obstacles the state has to address.
 
It is also true that the COVID-19 pandemic took a massive toll on our people, our economy and our way of life.  
As we seek to rebuild and overcome these challenges, we will need the help and support of all South Africans. Our history since 1994 has shown that we are at our strongest when we are united and focus on a common goal.  

The dream at the dawn of our democracy was to make South Africa great. It was to build a common destiny, and a better tomorrow for our children and generations to come.  The only way we can make this dream a reality is to work together; by harnessing our collective endeavours we can begin to undo the many challenges we face.  
Former President Nelson Mandela once said, “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.

You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” The success of our country rests in our hands and by working together and harnessing our collective strengths we can become the generation that seeks to address our past in a manner that builds our future. 

As government, we are aware that we lost much during the state capture era but having emerged from one of the lowest moments in the post-democratic era, we now have a chance to rebuild our nation, while also ensuring that we address the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our system. 

Through the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, and in partnership with business, labour and civil society we have embarked on a new path defined by a fierce determination that we build back better and stronger and ensure that we leave no-one behind
However, we cannot do it alone; we need the help of individuals and communities to drive the change we want to see. Some might wonder how they can make a difference or think that their contribution means very little.

In isolation, single actions might seem insignificant but they are key in driving social and societal change, and when multiplied across communities they can morph into an unstoppable force for change.
The change we so dearly want resides within our collective hands.  We can all drive the change by working to better our communities and public spaces, and one of the things we can all do is help to keep our communities clean. 

Many of our communities have become toxic waste dumps, and the practice of illegal dumping often happens right on our doorsteps. We encourage South Africans to organise a clean-up drive in their street or in the wider community and to practice recycling.  

With just a little bit of extra effort we can ensure recycling becomes a way of life. Most things we use or consume can be recycled. Sorting your waste will ensure that material such as plastic, glass and paper can be easily recycled and reused. 

This might seem like the smallest of things, but change will only happen when everyone plays their part.  There are so many things we can do and although seemingly simple, they will bring about lasting change. By working together, we can ensure that the dream, which burnt brightly in 1994, continues to take shape. The future is truly in our hands now and we have the power to shape a better tomorrow for the coming generations. 

Gill Price is Director: Communication Resource Centre at Government Communication and Information System