Chair, we should perhaps look at this from a number of angles. We are an open and constitutional democracy where citizens are allowed to express themselves, and I think all citizens are aware of that. I also take it that when people protest, they know they are exercising that right.
It is important that all of us, as citizens, appreciate that. It is not a matter to be appreciated by Members of Parliament only, or government only. It should be appreciated by all of us, if we understand and appreciate our freedom fully. I don't think some people should occupy a different place and understand our freedom, democracy and rights differently from others.
Moving on from the point that the hon member is raising - whether these protests pose a threat to the country, or could lead to instability - when we commemorated Human Rights Day, I made this point very seriously. All of us have a responsibility to appreciate our rights as individuals, as collectives and as a nation. Equally, we have a responsibility to appreciate the rights of others, so that when we protest, when we advance our plight in regard to our rights, our protests don't interfere with the rights of other people.
It is also important that we all participate in educating others about this because, besides the fact that our people are highly aware and conscious, we are one of the few democracies where the masses participate in activities regarding their rights. I don't think you find this in many countries. Although people view this negatively at times - they regard it as a sign of failure - this is what our people do. It is absolutely their right.
However, that right must go with responsibility, so that the impression that the hon member is talking about is not created. By protesting in the wrong way, you create the impression that there is a problem in the country, that there is instability. That is not right. You have got to protest within the framework of the law and of the Constitution. At the heart of it is your right. You are protesting to advance your right to have x, y and z. But other citizens have the right not to have your protest impact negatively on them. This is a matter that needs to be addressed very seriously.
I am aware that ours is a culture that comes from the old days of apartheid. Apartheid never listened to the people and never allowed them to protest. Consequently we developed this culture that whenever we want something we must fight for it. I think it's going to take time to change. In a sense, this is a feeling left over from the way issues were dealt with in the past. We should not create the wrong impression, that there could be instability in the country. Instability is experienced by countries that have oppressive laws. The very fact that you are repressive will cause people to react to that situation. We have no reason to think about instability in this country. I think people are just protesting.
However, at times, protests are coupled with a feeling of entitlement. People think they can sit down and government must just provide. They don't participate in the processes of changing the quality of their lives together. Hon members here, as the public representatives of those very citizens, need to provide a lot of education on this matter. That education needs to take place. We must not create the impression that there is a threat to stability in the country, not at all.
What I have heard is that in some cases these protests are due to specific issues that people are confronted with in a particular area. In some areas people are demanding development and service delivery. They are able to say that councillors in a particular area are not doing anything. There has been no protest alleging that this country, in general, is failing. There hasn't been. Therefore I think we should disabuse ourselves of the impression that there are conditions in this country that could create instability.
If you compare what South Africa has done in 18 years to what countries that have been free for decades have done, you will see the difference. The amount of progress we have made is phenomenal. In fact, many countries acknowledge that there is no country on this continent which has done what South Africa has done in 18 years. [Applause.]
As public representatives we need to conscientise people about this. I don't think we should be the ones to tell people to create instability. On what basis would we do that? You can look from Cape to Cairo, from Morocco to Madagascar and you will find no other country with a scorecard to rival South Africa's scorecard of what we have done since we decolonised this country. [Applause.]
I think it is important to understand the protests that arise in their proper context. The last one I saw was in Rustenburg. It arose because there was a specific issue - an electricity cut. It was not because there were problems that could have led to instability in the country. People were irritated by the power cut. So, there was a very specific issue. That doesn't suggest instability.
I know that some "gifted" people love to come and provide an incorrect analysis. I'm just quoting the Rustenburg case because it is the latest one. It was very specific. Because the people had had their electricity cut, they were demanding to know what they were supposed to cook with. They were angry. You can't make that into a national problem that could lead to instability. I think we should disabuse ourselves of that notion.
You have an obligation, as public representatives, to help people understand what has happened in this country. I think that is very important. [Applause.]