Growing up in a new South Africa, I was enlightened by the many courageous men and women who have sacrificed their lives so that I can enjoy freedom.
Some of these leaders have been exalted to positions of influence while many others live as unsung heroes in our communities.
These leaders who carried South Africa out of oppression were ordinary citizens who did something extraordinary – they spoke out against the injustices of our society.
They committed their lives to the struggle and neither exile nor detention strayed them from their path to achieve the goal of democracy. Many possessed admirable characteristics such as bravery, valour, determination and morality.
The mixture of these leaders with a one-person-one-vote system seemed like the perfect combination for a new beginning. But 21 years later, somewhere along the line, our leadership failed us – they lost the plot.
So, I write this letter to all those who dedicated their lives to a better South Africa and I ask, where are you now and why are you silent during this time of complete moral crisis?
Did you ever think, that while you were being detained without trial, one day in the new South Africa it would be so easy to escape the law with a mere cold drink as a bribe?
Or did you think, when you were fighting for the right to an equal and fair education, that in 2015 children would have to have sex with their teachers to get the marks that they need to pass?
And when your life was in constant danger, did you ever think that one day a fire pool, cattle kraal and amphitheatre would be considered as important security features?
This is the sad state of our country and your silence is partly why we have reached this point.
We anticipated that from 1994 we would have many bumps in our new journey, trying to bridge economic and social gaps and mending racial tensions. However, it might not have occurred that we would have to encounter such weak and compromised leadership along the way.
We have experienced many sore points under our current leadership. Nkandlagate is an example of how we have been disrespected as citizens of this country and how our intelligence has been insulted by lame, implausible excuses.
Those who have been entrusted with power mock us every day with their ostentatious and unnecessary expenses on catering, cars and lavish trips – while the average person on the street still struggles to feed his family.
Our leaders have become greedy for power, money and status and have corrupted a system that had the potential to lift our country to new heights.
I know that many of you have taken a step back and rightfully so; you compromised most of your life for the struggle. But you cannot let go of the South Africa that you once carried on your shoulders, because those that you have handed over to are letting the country slip to new lows.
Our corrupt leaders have cracked the nation, the Madiba magic of 1994 has disappeared and we are now faced with a gloomy reality of increased violence, high unemployment, mass poverty and a complete breakdown in ethics and values in our society.
As leaders, you guided us during our darkest days and inspired people to want to work towards a better South Africa. You stood up for your beliefs and you were punished harshly for it. But today, your silence during injustice is the greatest punishment to my generation.
I know that this is my journey and I have my own struggle to fight, and in no way am I asking you to fight it for me. All I ask is that you speak out once more against issues that are destroying our democracy.
I do not know whether your opinion will be valued or if it will even make a difference, but as a citizen of this country who wants to see improvement, it is your duty to embrace the freedom of speech which you fought for and speak out.
I know from my own work that there are many extraordinary men and women who are battling against corruption and graft but they need leadership; they need to know that those who led the battle against apartheid are with them.
Although my struggle has just begun, yours is not over. I ask that you do not leave a legacy of silence. Speak out in times of injustice and moral crisis.
Don’t let loyalty and nostalgia for the past hold you back in confronting issues of the day. You have fought hard and made sacrifices that many would never know about to build the South Africa that we live in today.
Don’t let our current leadership cripple your hard work, let your bravery and courage shine through once more and help correct the wrongs in our society. So I appeal to you, for one last time do something extraordinary.
• Pillay is a writer at Corruption Watch