Being a better citizen in 2014

Phumla WilliamsMany South Africans will have entered the New Year with new resolutions as a way to improve their lives in 2014. Whatever your resolve for the year, it is not too late for one more resolution which could have a lasting change on you, your family, community and country.

It is to be a better citizen in 2014. This year let us all commit ourselves to become good and active citizens dedicated to making South Africa a better place for all who live in it. It is by being someone who pulls his/her weight, is accountable and considers what effect their actions and decisions will have on those around them.

It is this type of person that the National Development Plan, South Africa’s blueprint over the next two decades, calls for as part of an active citizenry to take the country forward.

One way to be a better citizen is to honour our history and continue to strengthen the legitimacy of our democracy by participating in this year’s national general elections.

As citizens of the country we have the right to elect representatives of our choice and have a say in the way in which the country is governed. To strengthen our democracy, South Africa needs an active citizenry that cares about our democracy and takes part in elections.

Therefore ensure that you are registered to vote and if not visit your nearest polling station during the next voter registration weekend on 8 and 9 February 2014. It is also our duty as good citizens to encourage young people in our communities; especially those who are eligible to vote for the first time to register.

The 2014 general election is a historic milestone for South Africa as it marks our 20 Years of Freedom. It is a time for us to reflect on how our freedom and democracy were achieved and the progress we have made in the past 20 years.

This year make a commitment to be a part of our 20 Years of Freedom celebrations. There is indeed cause to celebrate because South Africa is undoubtedly a better country than it was in 1994.

Moreover, participate in the national conversation on how far we have come and how we can work together to overcome the challenges that we continue to face.

Addressing the nation at the start of the year, President Jacob Zuma said: “We must continue working together in 2014, to build the South Africa of our dreams. Informed by the National Development Plan, we must continue to build a South Africa which inspires people to achieve greater things for themselves and for their country.”

Be a South African that is aware, involved and who takes an interest in the running of the country and solving our problems.

As part of being an active citizen familiarise yourself with government’s public participation processes. If an issue affects you, comment on the green paper and attend public hearings. You can also commit to raising community problems with your ward councillor.

However, being an active citizen means doing more than just voicing an opinion but being part of the solution.

In the fight against crime let us partner with our local police station by joining the local Community Police Forum (CPF). Be the first to report any criminals or illegal activities in your area and do not buying pirated and counterfeited DVDs, CDs, cigarettes and clothing.

If you are a parent, take an active interest in your child’s education by ensuring that they are on time for school; check that the school transport is roadworthy; and that they have the correct textbooks.

This must be the year where we create safer roads in our country. Road safety is a responsibility of every South African, the success of our road safety campaigns depend on each one of us doing our part.

Many South Africans use public transport but often just accept the overcrowding of taxis or get into vehicles that are clearly not roadworthy. If we refuse to get into an overcrowded or unroadworthy taxi, we are taking a stand for what is right.

Change often starts on an individual level and by being the change we want to see we can impact our society. Litter has a simple solution, it belongs in a bin. South Africa could be litter-free if all 52-million of us placed our litter where it belongs

Let us make a commitment as part of our financial plan to saving. Saving even in the smallest way has the power over time to have a big impact. It can also spur us into a nation that invests and saves.

Let us strive for a healthy nation by stop smoking; cut down on alcohol and convert to healthier eating habits.  This year commit to regular HIV tests to know your status. Parents must take it upon themselves and educate their children about responsible sexual behaviour.

Let us all contribute towards protecting the rights of the vulnerable within our communities. Government calls on South Africans to ensure that we treat women and children with respect and report abuse to authorities.

A good society is built by active citizens. If thousands of people begin making the same decision, soon it will become the norm. So let our actions this year speak louder than words.

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)

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