Celebrating 25 years of democracy and changing lives

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Celebrating 25 years of democracy and changing lives

Published on: July 25th, 2019

This year marks a quarter of a century since the birth of democracy in South Africa. How far have we come since then?

According to sources such as the World Bank and the World Economic Forum (WEF) South Africa has the second largest economy in Africa and one of the most diversified, technologically advanced and integrated economies on the African continent. We are classed as an upper-middle-income country and we remain a favoured destination for investment in Africa, acting as an important gateway for business throughout the continent. Yet, South Africa is an anomaly among developing countries as it boasts great infrastructure and investment opportunities somewhat marred by social and economic problems.

In general, there is a sense of freedom and equality, and yet there is still so much to be done. Although the democracy that today’s youth are born into is vastly different to the world their predecessors grew up in twenty-five years ago, the reality is that life remains harsh for most South Africans. Can you imagine living without hope? Well, for millions of South Africans there’s no need to imagine… and this is precisely why the combined effects of government, corporate and NGO interventions are essential.

We asked a couple of our young people at Afrika Tikkun – who share a birthday with South Africa’s democracy – how they feel about the state of our nation and their future prospects. To be expected, we received varying responses – where some see a failing economy others acknowledge the process of rehabilitation; where some see government as a hotbed of corruption, others do not.

Tsholofelo Molokwane says that in general, “We are all equal and have access to quality basic education. We have a lot more opportunities and we’re able to choose our own career paths”.

Thabiso Mnisi says that she’s very grateful for our democracy because she will not have to experience the same challenges and difficulties that people used to. “My life is already better compared to that of my parents and grandparents because I have more opportunities and support than they did getting through life’s challenges”, but in saying this Mnisi also touches on the country’s leadership, “I feel that we have not yet started rebuilding and improving our country to its full potential because we’re still dwelling on the past. I believe that South Africa has the potential to become one of the top countries in the world and for that we need leaders who will help build a well-developed nation”.

Continuing the topic of leadership, Phamela Dlamini says, “Our lives are very different now than our parents years ago. Our voices have been recognised and systemic racism no longer exists like it did with our parents. But I don’t have much confidence in the state of our nation. As long as people keep violating the rights of our constitution, South Africa will continue to be a dangerous country and our poor economy will affect the next generation”.

On this, Lebohang Rametse adds, “I feel like our government is not investing in us as the future leaders of South Africa. We are educated and we’ve graduated but still most of us are unemployed. I even feel guilty for wasting my parent’s money sending me to college, I should have taken that money to invest in my future or start my own business”.

Neliphiwe Mbhaswana also commented, “Although there is a huge difference between my life and my parents, I don’t feel good about the state of the nation because there have been a lot of empty promises. Hopefully over the next 25 years the future of the country will get better and tertiary education will be free so that more people can have the skills needed for employment”.

Recognising what is needed for the fourth industrial revolution Zandile Mthethwa says, “I’m confident that we have a great and humble president who is the perfect ambassador for the country, and with the current focus on technology I believe that the next 25 years will see South Africa become more technologically advanced and ready for the changing work space”.

On a positive note Busisiwe Mzalamba says, “I’m happy that our democracy provides equal freedom, rights and opportunities for all our people now. I believe that the country is changing for the better and I see a much more developed country in our future”. And Thelma Mwale adds, “I consider myself lucky to have been born and raised during this beautiful era of liberation and reconciliation in South Africa where I have an opportunity to open doors my parents could not access before. I do recognise the challenges we still face as a country, but I appreciate the direction our country has taken post-Apartheid. This year was my first time voting at the national election and I felt so proud to be a South African because I know that generations fought to give me this opportunity. South Africa is a country full of so many possibilities and the future of our country is exciting”.

In the 25 years since Afrika Tikkun was first established, it has brought impactful and lasting change to tens of thousands of young South Africans. Throughout those 25 years the organisation has provided aid to 28,000 children aged two to six, a further 62,500 school going children aged seven to eighteen and has focused on preparing and upskilling young employable adults aged eighteen to twenty-five. In addition, the organisation has assisted a total of 75,000 families; provided primary healthcare services to more than 480,000 individuals and served more than 20 million meals. All of this has been made possible through Afrika Tikkun’s award-winning Cradle to Career 360˚ model, which oversees all aspects of an individual’s development from early childhood to adulthood. But Afrika Tikkun is just one of many compassionate organisations trying to assist the most vulnerable of South Africa’s society.

In the words of Afrika Tikkuns Patron-in-Chief, Mr. Nelson Mandela, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.

Years later and Afrika Tikkun is a fully-fledged not-for-profit company and organisation with public benefit status, still living up to the inspiring ideologies of Tata Madiba with the simple goal of providing a helping hand and supporting the goal of sustainably eradicating child poverty and youth unemployment in our lifetime. We live the philosophy of ‘Ubuntu’ – that of compassion, kindness, sharing and community – transforming words into actions.

Now, as the organisation celebrates its silver anniversary, Afrika Tikkun looks forward to opening the door of hope for many of South Africa’s young people, giving them the chance not only to dream but to turn those dreams into a reality in the new South Africa.

Chapter 2 of South Africa’s Constitution includes the highly comprehensive and inclusive Bill of Rights, arguably one of the most progressive in the world today, and yet we are not without stumbling blocks to fulfilling all the aspects set out within it. As such, many NGO’s across the country work with government and the private sector to assist the Bill of Rights come to fruition for all South Africans.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) reports in their 2016/2017 Trend Analysis[1] that “in the five-year period from 2011/ 2012 – 2015/ 2016 human rights complaints and enquiries rose from 8,149 to 9,238. The highest number of human rights’ violations reported to the Commission was in the category of equality where between 2014/15 and 2015/16 equality complaints jumped from 493 to 749, representing an increase of 34%. In addition, socio-economic rights have consistently been in the top five complaints reported to the Commission, and between 2015/16 and 2016/17 increased drastically from 428 to 631 – an increase of more than 30%”. More significantly, “when these complaints (631) are taken together with other socio-economic rights’ complaints relating to housing (297) and education (289), the total number of socio-economic rights complaints (1,217) exceeds equality complaints (705)”.

Our Bill of Rights stipulates the everyone has the right to life, the right to equality before the law, the right to have their dignity respected and protected, the right to freedom and security, the right to freedom of religion and opinion, the right ­to a basic education, the right ­to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and the right to have access to ­health care services, sufficient food and water; and social security.

More importantly for us at Afrika Tikkun are the rights of children, the most vulnerable of our society: every child has the right ­to family or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care; to basic nutrition, education, shelter, health care services and social services; to be protected from maltreatment, neglect or abuse; and to be protected from exploitative labour practices; to freedom and security.

Do you see how that word ‘freedom’ keeps popping up? Possibly more so than adults, children need freedom. The guarantee of security, a stable environment and care enables children the freedom to learn, play and grow as individuals, which in turn encourages problem solving, self-reliant, capable and responsible adults. The freedom to express themselves and have opinions inspires confidence and a positive sense of self.

That said, in the 2017 Child Gauge by the Children’s Institute of the University of Cape Town[2] it was reported that one in three children will experience sexual or physical abuse before the age of eighteen. And more recently, Parliament heard from the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, that 99% of children in South Africa have experienced or witnessed violence, and that 41% of all reported rape cases in the last three years have been of children.

Further, the 2018 Child Gauge[3] notes that South Africa has very high rates of child poverty. “In 2017, 65% of children lived below the upper-bound poverty line… and 36% of children were below the food poverty line, meaning that they were not getting enough nutrition”. They talk about “glaring racial disparities in income poverty: while 72% of African children lived in poor households in 2017, 45% of Coloured children were defined as poor, only 2% of White children lived below this poverty line”. In terms of employment, education and training – according to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for Q2 of 2018 released by Statistics South Africa[4], “Of the 20,2 million young people in South Africa aged 15-34 years in the second quarter of 2018, 39,3% were not in employment, education or training (NEET) – an increase by 0,4 of a percentage point compared to the second quarter of 2017. The NEET rate increased for black African males and white males… The female NEET rate was higher than that of their male counterparts for all population groups.”

This is not freedom for the children of our nation… who we say are our future and the hope of the nation.

Afrika Tikkun is one of a network of organisations working to make SA a better place, protecting the rights of children and young people, and lending support to enable them develop into young adults with the education, skills and value based attitude that gives them the ability to access the economy in real time. We aim to economically empower young people through our Cradle to Career 360° model from early childhood development through to job placement and beyond. Moreover, we offer outreach and support services to children of all ages with programmes such as nutrition and food security, health care, gender-based violence and child abuse programmes, family support and an empowerment programme for children and families living with disabilities.

At our five centres of excellence in Gauteng and Western Cape we have over 12,000 registered young people every year who each receive a comprehensive set of services designed to propel them into success, and we provide additional services to over 10,000 beneficiaries on ad-hoc interventions. In 2018, 2,102 vulnerable families received psycho-social support; 2,206 received primary healthcare services; 659 families of children with disability were supported; 1,381,572 meals were served; 2,143 food parcels were distributed to families in need; 941 kilograms of food was harvested from vegetable gardens; and we handled 57 child protection cases. We also advocate for the rights of women and children, freedom of speech, empowerment and child protection throughout the year with campaigns such as Memeza Bazokuzwa.

All of this in an effort for the children of South Africa to be productive citizens of the future. If we want the country to grow, we have to acknowledge the human rights of all its inhabitants and work together to ensure their safety, freedom, economic advancement and well-being. It takes a village to raise a child.

[1] https://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/SAHRC%20Trend%20Analysis%202016%20-%202017.pdf

[2] http://www.ci.uct.ac.za/sites/default/files/image_tool/images/367/Child_Gauge/South_African_Child_Gauge_2017/Child_Gauge_2017_lowres.pdf

[3] http://webcms.uct.ac.za/sites/default/files/image_tool/images/367/South%20African%20Child%20Gauge%202018%20-%20Nov%2020.pdf

[4] http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=11361