A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend an Immigration Seminar (just in case you are wondering- lol, no I don’t want to immigrate- just curiosity got me there!) anyway, I arrived thinking it will be a small seminar room. Boom, I enter, it was one of those massive conference rooms in the hotel, packed to its fullest capacity.
The first thing that shocked me, was the diversity in the room – meaning different races, genders and ages were present. I always assumed, based on passed observations that it was old white people who would want to immigrate and leave the country. This happened a lot in the days prior to 1994 and the early years after 1994. This was due to uncertainty around what the “new democratic South Africa” would bring.
As I listened to the speaker, who was so eloquent in his explanation of the migration process, I was particularly drawn to two interesting statements he made. He said, “I want you to bear in mind that South Africa is like any first world country, the only difference is that there are still some developing world issues. People in this nation leave the country hoping for something better, but there are no guarantees in country X and Y.”
“Migration is always a compromise, there is always something you will gain and something you lose.”
I sensed a bit of un-comfort in the room when he made those statements, but people soon shared sentiments that, it’s a risk they willing to take. The gentlemen sitting next to me, a black man in his late thirties I assume, said to me “You know sisi, truly speaking I love this country, but recently I got retrenched and have been struggling to find work. I am here because country Y looks very promising. I started my own business last month and have been seeking funding assistance from the government, if nothing changes in 3 months, sadly I will leave and immigrate to country Y.”
As I sat there listening and hearing the sentiments of why people wanted to leave the country, I was truly overwhelmed. I know there are a lot of things South Africans are unhappy about, to name a few, corruption in government, crime, poverty, unemployment, high cost of living etc. I always hear people complain, in fact I get annoyed when people complain about South Africa. In my mind, I reason that South Africa is not perfect, we acknowledge that. But no country is perfect. In many ways South Africa, has a lot of good things and she has opened her arms to millions of people who are not citizens of the land.
I think being in that room and hearing some of the real struggles that people are going through- got me thinking about whether democracy is not just a “feel good” “sound good” word on a page.
The United States and South African constitution preambles are very similar. The first sentence of the United States constitution reads “We the People” and the first sentence of the South African constitution reads “We, the people of South Africa”. I am highlighting these two constitutions because they have been applauded as the most progressive constitutions in the world. Both nations claim to uphold the highest forms of human rights and democracy. But we know that there seems to be a mismatch between this ideal and the realities of these nations.
The whole premise of “We the people” bestows power to the people of the land. These words advocate that it is the People who govern the land and the laws of the land should favor its people, thereby entrenching Human Rights in all factions of society.
If this is our constitutional foundation, why are so many people in this nation feeling disgruntled?
How do We,the people of South Africa,ensure that we don’t surrender all power to the Government in bringing about the change we want to witness in the land?
History has taught us that civil rights movements are very effective in bringing about social change. Real difference making doesn’t have to be big and complex, it starts small. Wherever you find yourself able to influence, please do so. If we all embrace the ideology of “We the people”, we, can start slowly but surely reclaiming this nation. You have the power, use it. I am saying to the people of South Africa, let us begin to engage in constructive dialogues on how we can make our country the glorious rainbow nation it was meant to be.
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