By Minister Faith Muthambi
It was our icon, the late former President Nelson Mandela, who made the profound statement: “The time has come to accept in our hearts and minds that with freedom comes responsibility.”
Mandela said this in February 1995, less than a year after we attained our freedom in the first democratic elections of 27 April 1994. As we once again prepare to honour Madiba and celebrate his legacy through the International Nelson Mandela Day on Saturday, it is important that we remember the responsibility that our freedom has brought to us.
This year’s celebrations are particularly poignant in that they offer South Africans an occasion to honour the ethos of the late Madiba in the year that marks the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, a document Mandela and others worked so hard to bring to life.
Three themes will mark this year’s commemoration. During the first week of July, we honour our icon under the theme “Celebrating the legacy of Nelson Mandela”. During the third week, our activities will be guided by the theme “Making a difference in people’s live”, and finally we will wrap up the month-long activities with the theme “Mandela’s legacy continues to live on through our actions”.
This day has taken on a special significance in the country, where it has become more than just a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy; it is an opportunity to reach out to those in need and contribute to a better country and a better world. Individuals, groups and corporates readily pledge 67 minutes of their time and every day thereafter to change the world through community work.
The 67 minutes symbolically represents the number of years Mandela fought for human rights and the abolition of apartheid. All of us have the opportunity to play our throughout July, particularly on the 18th, by doing something for 67 minutes that will make a difference for a lifetime. No matter how small the action, let us all remember, the aim is to change the world for the better.
Your responsibility could include organising a litter clean-up day in your community. You could choose to volunteer at your police station or local faith-based organisation. Some of us may choose to use our skills to, for example, train kids to use a computer at a local library, or community centre.
Since we are in the middle of winter, you could put a smile on someone’s face by buying a few blankets, or grab the ones you no longer use and give them to someone in need.
Undoubtedly our country stands as a symbol of freedom throughout the world. It took sacrifice and determination on the part of all of us to get to where we are today. All of us have a responsibility to promote freedom and defend our democracy in honour of Madiba’s commitment to these ideals. His legacy lives on in our commitment to ensure a just and fair society for all, including the right to dignity and freedom of expression.
South Africa is also now guided by the National Development Plan (NDP), our blueprint for the country. Just as we pledged as a nation under the leadership of Nelson Mandela that never again shall one person be oppressed by another, we have pledged to ensure that the vision and goals contained in this plan are carried through.
To give effect to the NDP, President Jacob Zuma has unveiled the Nine-Point Plan to ignite growth by unlocking new industries and job opportunities. The government will tap into the agriculture sector, ocean economy, tourism industry and minerals beneficiation in mining for new growth opportunities.
For example, we will roll out Agri Parks in all 53 district municipalities which will start in the 27 poorest districts. An agreement is being finalised with mines to procure up to 70 percent of mining inputs from local manufactures.
The plan will also address constraints to the economy such as the energy challenges that we are experiencing. In the spirit of Nelson Mandela Month, let us do everything we can to support our economic interventions to grow the economy.
You can also support our national electricity grid by switching off all non-essential lighting and high - energy appliances.
In recognition that South Africa is a water-scarce country, you can further play your part by conserving water and reducing demand, and by doing so preserve a legacy for future generations.
Above all, we should live up to Madiba’s ideals and take responsibility for improving our communities. We have to ensure that our democracy and freedom is maintained and strengthened for future generations.
Let us all remember Mandela’s words that with freedom comes responsibility, and we now have the responsibility to move South Africa forward.
Faith Muthambi is the Minister Department of Communications.