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The Rise of The Citizen
Source: The Good News
Source Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs
Country: South Africa
Created: Aug 18, 2010

And, Mr Traffic (as he's known) is doing exactly that...

As one of South Africa's many unemployed, he realised that he has time on his hands; time he could put to good use for the benefit of others.

So, morning after morning, he takes to the streets, clad in his reflective jacket, and braves the biting cold to take his position at a busy pedestrian crossing on Sontonga Street in Katlehong, a township in Ekurhuleni (formerly known as the East Rand).

His duty - to ensure that pedestrian learners cross the busy roads safely on their way to school.

He stands with the little children, some as young as six-years old, teaching them the rules on road safety. At the end of it all he won't be paid nor will he receive a reward. He's doing it out of the goodness of his heart.

He's what I (and Madiba!) call a 'good citizen.' There are hundreds of thousands like him, unsung heroes who toil tirelessly for the benefit of others. In South Africa there are 58 000 registered NGOs, and while corporates give R5 billion to social investment it is estimated that private individuals donate R9 billion to social causes.

As John F. Kennedy said in the 60's when the cold war was at its height 'ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.'

Mr. Traffic realised that working parents weren't able to accompany their children to school in the morning and supervise their journey across dangerous busy roads.

He decided to do something about it, and it seems that many South Africans are also waking up to the call of doing good for the country in the name of nation building.

This couldn't have come at a better time. We are a nation beset by many challenges; xenophobic attacks; youth apathy; affirmative action; BEE; unemployment; poverty; crime and lack of service delivery.

It seems that the staging  of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, rather like the 1994 elections, have signalled that as a nation we are capable of great things. In 1994 it was the power to forgive. Now, in 2010, it is the power to actively demonstrate good citizenship.

"Volunteers played a critical role and were the backbone of the 16 functional areas of the World Cup. Whether it was showing a spectator to his seat, escorting a VIP, driving a FIFA delegate, welcoming guests at the airport or moving boxes from one site to another, volunteers worked hard, smiled and did what was asked of them," enthused Andile Lungisa, executive chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), which was involved in training and mobilizing volunteers.

And according to the NYDA, the youth came out in droves to support and show their patriotism to the country and in return ensured that the event was an astounding success.

One of these volunteers, Obakeng Mosetlhe from Rustenburg explains how it felt to be involved.

"It's great to be a volunteer because you are an ambassador for your country, so everything you have to do you have to do it perfectly and with a smile." 

Of course this augurs well for the country's future as it breeds a culture of South Africans who are becoming publically minded.

It has taken plenty of preaching though, from politicians, civil organisations, and prominent individuals, to inculcate a culture of good citizenship.

One's reminded of former president Thabo Mbeki's call in 2002, where he pleaded for 'people to be active participants in developing their communities' and encouraged the process of people-driven change by being part of volunteer programs in schools, police stations and other government institutions.

But change doesn't take place overnight and as Ghanaian diplomat and former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan once observed, it's a process.

"No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime."

Close to 70 000 ordinary South Africans applied to be part of the volunteer program and only 18 000 were chosen.

Working in various fields such as transport, hospitality, media, accreditation and marketing, the World Cup volunteers were the unsung heroes of the tournament.

They once again demonstrated what could be achieved if we work as a collective towards a shared vision.

So, is writer and musician Sam Mokorosi's dream of the South African citizen rising from the pit of indifference coming to fruition? He once wrote on his blog:

"I am eager to see the rise of the South African Citizen. For too long we have pinned our hopes on government, as if they are the answer to all our problems. I submit that government cannot, and should not be seen as holders of a magic wand. Sure they have responsibilities, and must be called to account. But the more responsibility we give to the government, the more power we inadvertently give away. There can be no responsibility without authority!"

Well not yet, there's still work to be done. And it helps that initiatives such as Heartlines, Mandela Day, the SABC and the recently launched LeadSA campaign to name a few, are making their presence felt in various aspects of people's lives.

And as we labour towards our goal of a 'better life for all' the actions of Mr Traffic and the World Cup volunteers should continue to inspire us into being good citizens and dedicating our time to the good of others. It is well-documented that the greatest source of happiness is in "doing good", making a difference to the lives of others. But most of us don't know where to start. Happily more and more 'public good' initiatives are becoming part of the South African character. So, if you want to emulate Mr Traffic, tap into the growing social network of South Africans who want to demonstrate good citizenship and make a difference. You'll be amazed at the results!  

(Call us, we can connect you!)


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