articles from 2013

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You have a voice. You have a vote

Pieter-Dirk Uys has written an open letter to all who believe in the future of our heritage

– Pieter-Dirk Uys, Cape Times, 18 September 2013

CAPE TOWN — 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 in early 2014, mere months from now. 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 don’t say apartheid because I don’t think apartheid is gone. Legalised racism is happily no more, largely thanks to a constitution that protects all and sundry, 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. If they register to vote. If they cast their ballot. If they understand that the 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 20-year celebration of this remarkable “second chance to make our dreams come true” our active support as citizens and not passengers, a full commitment to the future of our children. No second choice here.

A future of freedoms?

Of constitutional protection?

Of enshrined rights for each person?

Yes, but only if we become totally involved in the run-up to election day, encouraging our families and friends to take part. If we do not do as democracy demands — which is to exercise our freedom of choice, our insistence on the secrecy of the ballot, our trust in the impartiality of the IEC, and our respect for those who disagree with our point of view — and use our voices to defend our rights as citizens of a country and not as mere members of a political party, we will lose our country.

Next year’s general election 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’s left. Throughout the world one can watch democratically-elected governments use democratically-accepted ways to diminish democracy.

We will no longer be able to fight obviously 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. Stand up and be different. Use your freedom of choice! Too many people 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. I will always recognise the ‘mock’ in democracy and out the ‘con’ in reconciliation.

I am an optimist because I have learnt during these mature years of struggle to expect the worst, hoping 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. You have choice. We still have freedom of expression. Express it and strengthen it!

* Pieter-Dirk Uys is an author, actor and activist.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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