Imagine a society in which even a child born into the most desperate poverty can become a brain surgeon, a concert pianist or a sports hero.
Our dream for South Africa is of an open opportunity society in which every person is free, secure and equal, where everyone has the opportunity to improve the quality of his life and pursue her dreams, and in which every language and culture has equal respect and recognition.
This is the dream we will deliver – the South African dream of one nation, with one future, living together under the constitution in peace, security and prosperity, with opportunity and recognition for all the rainbow people.
The three components of the Open Opportunity Society for All
The term “Open Opportunity Society for All” brings together three key concepts:–
- Individual freedom under the rule of law – an open society;
- Opportunity with responsibility – an opportunity society; and
- Full equality for all.
In doing so, it creates a fourth concept that underpins our vision of the proper relationship between individuals, the state and society in South Africa today. Our vision is grounded in the idea that every human being has a right to dignity. Human dignity is the foundational concept that informs our values and vision.
The open society
The two key ideas that unite all the elements of an open society are the related ideas of individual freedom and the limitation of state power. They are related because an extension of state power necessitates a limitation of individual freedom and vice versa.
In protecting and promoting an open society in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance must identify and oppose attempts to limit the space for individual freedom and actively promote the extension of such space.
The opportunity society
In an opportunity society, your path in life is not determined by the circumstances of your birth, including both your material and “demographic” circumstances, but rather by your talents and by your efforts. That is why, in an opportunity society, a child born in poverty should nevertheless be able to become a brain surgeon, provided he or she has the talent and puts in the effort required to succeed.
Both civil society and the state have a role to play in creating opportunity for citizens, while individuals have a responsibility to make use of the opportunities on offer.
The society with a place for all its people
The final concept is the idea that South Africa is “for all”, or as Nelson Mandela famously said, “belongs to all who live in it, both black and white.”
There is a long history of racial and ethnic division in South Africa; of racist discrimination; of racial suspicion and competition.
In order to transcend this past, and usher in an era in which people are judged by their character, their effort and their contribution – and not by their race – we believe that attitude and policy should be based on the following:
- An absolute rejection of discrimination on grounds of race and other characteristics of birth.
- A clear acknowledgement that there is a long history of racial discrimination and oppression in South Africa, that it was wrong and that positive action is now required to make it right. That positive action must be targeted at individuals who still suffer the effects of discrimination, not at groups. It must provide opportunity to the disadvantaged without shutting off opportunity to the advantaged.
- A clear acknowledgement that all South Africans are legitimate and enjoy full moral equality – that is what it means to say South Africa “belongs” to all who live in it.
- The active protection and promotion of the language and culture of all South Africans.
The proper relationship between the state and the individual in an Open Opportunity Society for All
In acting to extend opportunity to all, the state must ensure that it does not compromise the freedom of the individual. To do so would be to shut down the open society. On the other hand, to neglect those without the wherewithal to direct their own lives in the name of freedom is to shut down the opportunity society.
Therefore, in an opportunity society that also values individual freedom, the state’s role must be to facilitate, not direct the activity of citizens. If it provides services, it must seek to expand choice, not determine choices; it must not simply “deliver” to a passive citizenry, which takes what it is lucky enough to get, but must allow the citizenry to determine which opportunities it requires; it must encourage independence, not dependence.
In other words, the free, independent, active individual is at the heart of the opportunity society, both in determining the opportunities required and in taking advantage of them.
The DA’s vision for South Africa is achievable. Our cause is to promote it and, through winning support for it, to put it into action.
Where we govern, such as in the City of Cape Town and other municipalities throughout the country, we are already putting it into practice. We have created more economic opportunities, accelerated service delivery and cut crime. We are helping to improve people's lives
We believe our vision is compelling, harnessing all that is best in human kind, grounded in a rightly optimistic view of our capacity to live well together, and to succeed.
As one nation, with one future.
Click here to unpack the Open Opportunity Society for All further, and to read more about our updated policy platform – the Open Opportunity Society in Action.