OUTA Supporter Esmé van Heerden hails from the Western Cape. She has committed most of her working life to the health profession and uplifting vulnerable women in society. An avid reader with a keen interest in world affairs, she keeps abreast of local and international news.  Esmé signed up as a Supporter two years ago, because she felt that civil society has a greater and more critical role now more than ever in directing our country.

“As citizens, we have become accustomed to the half-truths and blatant lies we are fed every day,” she says. “We have become desensitized to the levels of violence and corruption in our country. We have reached the stage where we dare not sit back and bemoan the state of South Africa. We need to stand up and make our voices heard.” 

Esmé, why are you an OUTA Supporter? 

I follow mainly OUTA and a few other civil activist organisations very closely. I listen to the weekly OUTA Hour without fail and check in regularly on Facebook for updates on projects you are engaged in. I believe in staying up to date with current affairs; I believe you have to be an engaged, active citizen. For me, this means you need to read widely to keep up with the changing landscape, not only in South Africa, but throughout the world. A good example of keeping up with current affairs is following the State Capture Commission under the supervision of Justice Raymond Zondo. I have followed this since it began broadcasting.

I am inspired in a very positive way by the manner in which OUTA approaches its projects. The team is fresh with new insights; the information I receive on the show is put across in such a manner that any person who has an interest in this country is able to understand; and the emphasis on the legal process is impressive and has certainly helped me understand the importance of presenting a case with prosecution in sight – I do have a love of the justice system and how it operates. I love the energy of Advocate Stefanie Fick. As for the CEO Wayne Duvenage, I see him as a philosopher and always enjoy listening to his unique truthful insights.

Are you hopeful about South Africa?

That’s a loaded question. On the one hand, I love my country and believe we have so much potential, as can be seen recently with the release of the song “Jerusalema”, which has become a global sensation. There is something magical and beautiful about this country. However, when applying reason, logic and a good amount of critical thinking, it is going to be a long haul, which I may not see the fruit of in my lifetime.  As a person of colour who grew up during the apartheid years, I was one of a lucky few who were given the opportunity to pursue tertiary education. I celebrated with great enthusiasm when we became the Rainbow Nation and a beacon of hope to the world.

I have become disillusioned over time by the decline in service delivery and the slow progress in prosecuting cases of corruption, despite the overwhelming evidence. Corruption has been allowed to flourish within all sectors of government. Likewise, crime is rampant and on the increase. The economy has declined to a standstill. With the additional burden of the Covid-19 pandemic, the outlook is bleak.  

Like many South Africans, I have made many sacrifices to keep afloat financially. I have little faith in the empty promises made by our politicians, and have been quietly trying to survive and get on with my own life. However, seeing the abuse of power and corruption on the scale we have seen in SA, it is time to find alternative ways to deal with the issue.

If you could change one thing?

Definitely, it would be to bring an end to the embedded corruption in our government departments and bring the perpetrators of state capture to book. Our taxes must be used more effectively and should not be used to prop up failing SOEs.

How can OUTA strengthen what it is doing?

I believe in the importance of the work OUTA is doing as an organisation and support it for what it is doing on behalf of SA. It is important to bear in mind South Africa’s diverse backgrounds and ethnicities, so OUTA is not perceived to be the stereotypical “all white male” organisation; it should be representative of all demographics in SA. Diversity must be reflected on the show, to reflect and showcase our bright, shining South Africans.