Stand up for you rights

I attended a talk recently by F W de Klerk, Nobel Peace prize winner, former President of South Africa and currently, as head of his own foundation, champion of the South African Constitution.

De Klerk was speaking at a public meeting on the same day that Table Mountain National Park rangers arrested three suspected muggers accused of attacking a group of women enjoying a picnic in Deer Park below Table Mountain.

Not enough of us, said De Klerk, are aware of the protections afforded to us as citizens of South Africa by the constitution and not enough of us take the trouble to demand that these protected rights are upheld.

It’s our own fault, he implied, if things are allowed to carry on going bump all night long without serious complaint from the citizens, and corrective action from those in whom those taxpaying citizens have put their trust.

Quoting a former president on the merits of a popular uprising against the ineptitude of government may seem a bit off beam for Footloose which for the past year of so, has sought to share those places close to home where we can find refuge, albeit one or two days at a time, from the nerve-jangling life we live in this our famine of time.

But the more I travel to local destinations the more aware I am of just how vulnerable we have become to attack no matter where we are. How ironic that the very places to which we turn to find peace and quiet are also those places where we are least protected and most vulnerable.

I know, for example, that the Mountain Club of South Africa has seriously considered closing their Du Toit’s Kloof hut, already shuttered with steel. like a blockhouse from World War II, as a result of the assaults on it by would be thieves and vandals.

Closer to home visitors to Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) particularly over the past few months, have been mugged, sexually assaulted and robbed of their possessions.

There have been victories where local police working in concert with park authorities have made successful arrests — but still the violation continues.

Crime we might say, like death and taxes, respects no class, race, creed nor religion, and is everywhere — why should nature parks, wilderness areas and places people go for fresh air, spiritual rejuvenation and refuge from the insidious assault of commercial noise, be exempt?

No reason I guess, except that offered by Mr de Klerk, for all of those who cherish our freedom to get up, and stand up, like Bob Marley sang, for our rights — spelled out in several clauses in the Bill of Rights, in chapter two of the Constitution.

Among them the right to freedom and security of the person, the right to an environment which is not harmful to our health—like not being attacked while enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the park — and even, if you like, the right to freedom of movement.

No crime anywhere is acceptable. But instead of rallying against the criminals who threaten our freedom of movement, we tend to stay at home.

“I can’t walk on the mountain, on the beach, or anywhere on my own anymore,” has become a common phrase particularly from women.

And while an inability to savor fresh air and freedom on walk in the hills may be small potatoes in terms of other violations, it represents nevertheless, one more victory for the criminals and one more curb to our right to relax and enjoy the country we love.

De Klerk is right. If we value our freedom— even in such a small dose as represented by a picnic in Deer Park — the time has come to read the constitution and demand it be upheld by those people whose salaries are paid by the tax we pay for the privilege.

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