Another Human Rights Day on our calendar, a day during which we mark the Sharpeville Massacre and celebrate our ability to exercise several freedoms we have begun to take for granted. These include: freedom of speech, a much-valued right we only had from April 1994 and a completely free press – yet also a controlled press.
The old guard press moguls are intolerant of newcomers and work for the destruction of any new media group. A state of affairs we will live to regret as megalomaniac editors set the agenda for the country by simply connecting floating dots. A less than generous press with the dignity of citizens but free nonetheless. Freedom to associate with whomsoever one pleases.
A wonderful aspect of our democracy is seeing the birth of many new political parties. Of course some of these so-called political parties are being formed to curtail our freedoms. Others a challenge to the aspect of choosing a religion of one’s choice and threatening to cross the very important divide between state and church. The advent of charismatic money worshiping churches, threatens the foundations of human dignity.
Equality before the law is compromised as it depends on who you are and how much money you have to fight for your innocence because we lost the plot along the way by tolerating trial and conviction by the media. The right to assert one’s own sexual orientation is being challenged by the abnormally high homophobic atmosphere in our country. The voice of women is being muted in the politics of doek-wearing and being loused.
The real issues of our emancipation are caught up in elite representation in government, yet tribal customs and patriarchy hold sway. A strong woman’s voice is vilified while feminism is reduced to marches and once off displays of solidarity. We need a genuine voice – a new young voice to arise.
Our freedoms are tangible, but fragile. our democracy is deepening but tending towards rightward thinking with the markets being the driver of our social development. Progressive thinkers are in hiding for fear of being purged and demagoguery is on the rise. We need to strengthen progressive voices and the wall of meek silence and pseudo diplomacy engulfing us.
Jessie Duarte is the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC