You have a voice, a vote and a choice

Is heritage always something of the past, or could today’s contribution to heritage be what happens in the future?

The next general election will take place early next year, just a few months from now. And already, political parties are being formed and reformed.

Established parties are gearing up for a victorious result – to be earned at the expense of each other.

Above all, a new generation of young South Africans will be eligible to vote for the first time without having lived under legalised racism. I do not say apartheid because I don’t think it is gone.

Legalised racism in South Africa is happily no more, thanks mainly to a Constitution that protects everyone, often to the chagrin of those who wrote it and who now try to undo it.

The born-frees could change the future of our democracy, that is if they register to vote and they cast their ballot on election day. Also, this is if they understand that their vote is sacred and secret.

Every citizen – young, middle-aged, senior, doddering or not yet quite dead – has work to do. We all owe our 20th anniversary of this remarkable “second chance to make our dreams come true” our active support as citizens, not passengers, and a full commitment to the future of our children.

No second choice here.

A future of freedoms? A future of constitutional protection? A future of enshrined rights for each person? Absolutely, but only if we become totally involved in the run-up to election day, this by encouraging our families and friends to take part.

If we do not do what democracy demands of us, which is to exercise our freedom of choice, our insistence on the secrecy of the ballot, our trust in the impartiality of the Independent Electoral Commission and our respect for those who disagree with our point of view, we will lose our nation.

Next year’s elections could well be the last flickering colour in our fast-dimming rainbow. The joke used to be that black and white were never colours of the symbol. Ironically, today, among the many shades of grey, our black and white is all that is left.

Throughout the world, we see democratically elected governments use democratically accepted ways to diminish democracy.

We will no longer be able to fight repulsive fascist laws of suppression as in the recent decades of wars and revolt.

The moral high ground has been sold to the highest bidder. And in most cases, that bidder has enough support through money and power to cut all our feet to fit their shoes. There is no safety net.

If the people lead, government will follow. So stand up and be different. Use your freedom of choice.

Too many South Africans sigh and say: “What’s the point of voting?” It’s like looking at the key in your hand to the door of the future – and then with a shrug tossing it into the dam of apathy. That door will not open for you ever again.

Besides being an addicted democrat, I am also a terminal optimist. Because of my work, I will always recognise the “moc-k” in democracy and the “con” in reconciliation.

I am an optimist because I have learnt during these mature years of struggle to always expect the worst and hope that the worst will never be as bad as I imagine.

So far so good, but the old blueprints of expectation are now faded and fragile. We have to reinvent the excitement of being in charge of our future.

You have a voice, you have a vote and you have a choice. In South Africa, we still have freedom of expression, so I suggest you express it and strengthen it.

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