Leontine Sitzer-Thomas, Kenwyn
Dear Mr President and the Executive, please accept my sincerest thanks and heartfelt gratitude for winning the fight against apartheid.
It is with thanks and appreciation that I can say, with certainty, that our Constitution is the best defence for almost all circumstances. And I am grateful that I am now free from the shackles of oppression. Or am I?
Now, aged 48 years, I decided to study law. Allow me to tell you why.
For many years I have challenged unfair arbitrary decisions, and succeeded. It made me realise that so many of our previously disadvantaged people are ignorant of the law.
This ignorance is costing our people dearly. Hundreds, if not thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people, have lost their primary residences, their movable assets, and everything they worked hard for. Unfairly, unjustly and unconstitutionally.
I plan to use my degree to serve such people – nobody should be victimised for financial distress. Thank you for affording me this opportunity.
However, this is not what I wish to address today. As a law student, I am concerned. My concern is that the same Constitution which protects us, is being abused. This places me in doubt that it is worth learning the values of this fascinating Constitution. The Constitution of South Africa is the cornerstone of our democracy – it is akin to the bible by which we as South Africans are alive, finally free. I am certain you, Mr President, must be familiar with the saying “lead by example”? Sirs, how am I going to respect this fantastic law I am studying, when the people I voted into power, blatantly and openly defy the same laws? How am I going to defend an innocent party one day, when our judicial system is blatantly and openly biased?
How are we, the historically disadvantaged individuals, ever going to achieve equality, when the leaders we voted into power (to serve and protect us), do not consider our needs as important or relevant?
Sirs, how will I ever achieve my ambition of assisting our people to retain their dignity (one of the core values of our democracy), when our leaders are guilty of stripping us of our dignity?
I respect our laws, in fact, I love it, but let me hasten to add though that the textbook version is in contrast to the reality and practice.
I am, fortunately, mature and exposed enough, to realise and identify this contrast.
I pity the thousands of ambitious teens, who are sacrificing years of their lives, to study the law.
Their excitement at graduating, their enthusiasm at the type of law they wish to practise, is infectious.
However, they are oblivious of the stark reality that the law of South Africa – the judiciary – is a farce.
Sirs, you owe it to this future generation of leaders, to lead by example. Exemplary leaders will not allow, nor tolerate, the current anarchy we are faced with. We are faced with the murders of innocent people daily – regardless of race. We are faced with burglaries and theft, rape, kidnapping, hijacking, drug abuse, homelessness, high unemployment, violent protests and abuse of authority.
Sirs, these are only some of the issues we face daily. But these are issues which could easily be resolved, when and only if it is addressed.
This, my dear sirs, is not only our responsibility as citizens.
No sirs, it is what we elected you to manage on our behalf. Of course we, the citizens, pay you handsomely for this service. But, like everything in life, if you do not meet the standard of service we are paying for, we have to take our business somewhere else.
Funnily, (allow me to digress for a minute) I defended the ANC when we held our very first truly democratic election.
You see our older generation of coloured people had been brainwashed, to an extent, into believing that white is supreme. It was hard work going up against my parents, aunty so and so, and Mrs so and so. Better believe I had my hands full. And then, boom! Years later I am left red-faced, with taints of “we told you so”. Imagine that sirs – a finger-wagging coloured aunty, in your face “I told you so! Maar nee, jy wil mos! En nou? And now? Where did your beloved ANC bring you now ha?”
Back to the business of business… My dear President and the Executive, please do not wait for us to take our business somewhere else.
We would not have voted you into leadership if we did not believe in your ability and ideals.
You have to return, and submit yourselves to those ideals again. Anything else will continue to cause destruction, chaos and rot.
Sirs, our elective, please do not disappoint us ordinary citizens. We have rights too, we have recourse too. And we implore you to serve and lead and protect our rights and recourse. Allow us to return to that excited place in the history of South Africa, when we stood in queues for hours, to cast our first truly democratic vote. You see sirs, my emphasis on truly is because previous constitutions granted a vote to non-whites too. But it was by far and large not representative of the people of South Africa.
Please do not let me down, do not let our people down, do not let your convictions down.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.