SA's long walk to the promised land

Jack Bloom says eternal vigilance is required to protect our freedoms

Every year the public holiday of Freedom Day comes shortly after the Jewish Festival of Passover which recounts the great epic of the Israelite liberation from slavery in Egypt.

This is a happy coincidence as the freedom struggle in South Africa drew inspiration from this Biblical story.

The autobiography of ANC Leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Chief Albert Luthuli is entitled "Let my people go", a cry that has rung across the centuries to oppressed people everywhere.

Last year, in an address to the Rhema Church, Jacob Zuma said: "The story of Moses and his mission as a man of God inspired many an oppressed people and made them realise that indeed God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed."

But it is striking that shortly after escaping Egypt, the grumbling starts in the desert: "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?"

They even reminisced about life in Egypt, including foods that they are unlikely to have had as slaves.

This shows us that freedom can be seen as a burden compared to the certainties of the old order.

The psychologist Erich Fromm called this phenomenon "the fear of freedom". Choices have to be made that were not previously possible, and responsibility must be taken for these choices.

Old habits die hard, and it was the slave mentality of the Children of Israel that doomed them to wander in the desert for 40 years. Only the new generation would merit entry to the Promised Land.

We in South Africa have been free for 16 years, yet some people still hanker for the old apartheid order.

Others still blame apartheid for why we have not progressed further.

Another reaction has been the plunder of state money by those with political connections. They seem quite unashamed - after the years of deprivation, it's their time to benefit regardless of the damage to society.

People like Julius Malema send out a terrible signal - don't bother to work or study hard when the road to riches is through your local ANC branch.

Playing the eternal victim has its attractions, but successful countries have focused on individual hard work and self-reliance.

They encourage private enterprise rather than a parasitic state. Wherever possible they provide a hand-up rather than an endless hand-out.

The benefits of freedom are best realized within a framework of law as well as internal self-constraints.

The liberation from Egypt was followed by the 10 Commandments at Mt Sinai, some of which cannot be enforced by police e.g. honour parents, don't covet your neighbour's goods.

Moses was the perfect example of the humble leader, rather than the arrogance of our blue light brigades and attempts by leaders to put themselves above the law.

In Gauteng, Premier Nomvula Mokonyane's failure to pay 17 traffic fines totaling R50 000 invalidates all her fine words about civic obedience.

The past must be remembered, but as the late Bishop Alpheus Zulu observed: "The fact that God is on the side of the oppressed does not mean that the oppressed are on the side of God."

The long walk to freedom in all its facets continues, requiring eternal vigilance from each and every one of us.

Jack Bloom MPL is a DA Member of the Gauteng Legislature. This article first appeared in The Citizen.

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