OPINION

About hope, unity and national pride

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The time has come for us to take stock of the progress we as a nation has made towards the attainment of Nelson Mandela’s dream, writes Fred Platt, CEO of Accentuate Limited.

President Nelson Mandela said in his Inaugural Address on 9 May 1994: “We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without and fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

This is the dream for which many sacrificed their lives! In 1994, South Africa saw this dream become a reality when Nelson Mandela addressed the nation - and the world - with these words that brought hope, unity and national pride to a nation that had suffered some of the greatest injustices the world has ever seen. This new democracy was entrusted with the hopes, aspirations and dreams of millions of South Africans.

Twenty years later, we need to take stock of the progress we as a nation has made towards the attainment of this dream. The stark reality seems to be that we, as a nation, are now bowing our heads in shame. Dishonesty and a lack of moral fiber seem to have taken our dignity and replaced our dreams with fear! Our dignified existence and the national pride that existed have been replaced with fear and we no longer walk upright.

As leaders in South Africa, whether in the private or public sector, we need to take time to reflect on the current state of affairs. Corruption and dishonesty has become entrenched and endemic in society.

According to Edmund Burke, Irish statesman, author and philosopher, said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing”.

Over time, we are gradually seeing dishonesty and corruption manifest itself in almost every facet of our daily interaction, with the result that we are being sensitised to it until we finally accept it as merely a way of life.

Business and civil society are very quick to point fingers at the excesses of government and the public sector, and graft and corruption are very often portrayed as being a particular problem faced by politicians and civil servants. Although we need to recognize this problem as a society, it is important to accept and understand that for every dishonest politician involved in bribery and corruption, there is a businessman facilitating such activity.

Furthermore, we need to understand that many of the actions of business, be they collusion, influencing or outright bribery, may be fueling our individual greed, but the price paid by society can never be determined. This decline in moral citizenship will ultimately lead to the demise and destruction of this dream that many thousands were prepared to die for.

In evaluating how far we have moved over the past twenty years, we also have a responsibility to account for our moral decay and that of the society in which we live and operate.

The standards set by Mandela would not even allow his entourage to remove soap and toiletries from the hotels they frequented, as he understood the concept of leadership being beyond reproach when it comes to issues of morality and ethics. Madiba understood the concept of leading by example and being the change that you want the world to be.

In the evaluation of our progress, we need to determine the extent of our moral decay and the interventions that are needed by leaders in business, government and civil society in order to restore the hope that we held for this magnificent country in 1994.

South Africa has overcome some of the greatest challenges that a nation could possibly face and we surprised the world with our resilience and innovative nature in finding solutions to these complex problems and issues. Mandela believed in the concept of a rainbow nation where its citizens could walk tall in the knowledge that we are part of a miracle that can serve as an example to the entire world. Once again South Africa is facing a challenge, that left unchecked, will rob all citizens of their dignity and their pride. We have a duty to fight this scourge with our entire being in order to ensure justice, freedom and dignity for all.

“When people are determined, they can overcome anything” – Nelson Mandela

Fred Platt

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