News / Opinion / Columns

Martin Williams
3 minute read
14 Nov 2018
9:35 am

Get involved and join the struggle for a better life

Martin Williams

We need to feel safe in our homes and everywhere else. But we don’t. What are you and I going to do about that? Complain, complain, complain?

Pro-democracy activists hold up their mobile phones during protests in Hong Kong following China's refusal to grant citizens full universal suffrage. Picture: AFP

Almost everyone seems to know what’s wrong with the country, yet few are actively involved in making life better for the wider community. Active citizens are a rare breed who seldom get the recognition they deserve.

Every elected politician should gratefully acknowledge unpaid active citizens for countless hours of groundwork, on and off the campaign trail.

These thoughts came to mind during the weekend funeral of an activist colleague who was murdered in her home for a laptop and cellphone.

One jab at a carotid artery swiftly ended a life dedicated to caring and service.

Shock, disbelief and anger are among the natural responses.

Heads shaken in dismay, for this was not the only housebreaking-turned-murder in the area. Another funeral was held at the same church a day earlier.

Another woman slain in her own home.

Truly there is evil afoot, we say. This country, this place. We cannot go on like this, it is said. And yet we shall go on.

Significantly, eulogists said they knew the victim would have forgiven her killer. Within that startling observation lies a clue to the way forward.

Forgiveness is central to Christian belief, and we were bidding farewell to a long-standing, faithful congregant.

Jesus preached forgiveness, even during his crucifixion. Martin Luther declared: “Forgiveness is God’s command”.

The relevance of all this to the current situation is that our colleague understood the circumstances which lead people to commit terrible crimes.

Please don’t misinterpret this as a justification or excuse for murder. But forgiveness is an understandable Christian response.

We definitely need tougher law enforcement, better policing and more effective prosecution. We need to feel safe in our homes and everywhere else. But we don’t.

What are you and I going to do about that? Leave the country?

Write angry letters to newspapers? Phone a radio station?

Complain, complain, complain?

While those legitimate options might bring personal relief, lasting or temporary, they will have no effect on the bigger picture for the country.

We should rather do whatever we can to make South Africa a better place for all, not just for the privileged few who have jobs. Right now, there are more South Africans unemployed than in formal employment.

Social grant recipients outnumber those who receive pay packets. And economic growth lags behind population growth.

Logically then, the army of the unemployed enlists new recruits every day, and crime gets worse. Again, this is not to say that joblessness is an excuse for murder. But desperation surely increases when the prospects of finding work recede.

In this context, the gung-ho “positive thinking” messages from business award winners such as Discovery’s Adrian Gore may seem out of touch. We don’t all have the actuarial prowess and business acumen to build multibillion-rand enterprises.

But if we are determined enough, we can help steer this country in a positive direction by being more active citizens. We owe it to the youth, and generations to come, and to those who have fallen while trying to make South Africa a better place.

Get involved. Join the struggle for a better life. For change.

Martin Williams, DA councillor.

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