Dear friends and colleagues
Birthdays and anniversaries are milestones for celebration, giving thanks, and reflection.
As our fragile world faces its worst crisis in living memory, all of us are acutely aware of our tenuous existence. COVID-19 is omnipresent, unremitting in its devastation, sparing nobody, affecting everyone.
It is perhaps appropriate for us – a vibrant and precious community of psychologists – to take stock of the journey that brought us together, and ponder the route we are destined to travel.
PsySSA was inaugurated in Cape Town, 27 years ago. This was a time of national and international uncertainty and concern, occasioned by the political violence and suspicions that were threatening the dawn of democracy in our country. Reflecting this uncertainty and suspicion, Psychology was grappling with its own unity and transformation.
Three years of careful, considered engagements to find common ground ensued between the older established Psychological Association of South Africa (PASA) and the statutory Professional Board for Psychology on the one side, and on the other, progressive groups led by Psychologists Against Apartheid. All formally agreed to disband and form a united, representative national professional and learned society. Each psychologist present at the founding meeting on the 20th January 1994 expressed support for the formation of the new Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA). Despite doubt and uncertainty about the road ahead, especially when it came to elections, we rose above the marks of our origin and travelled a liberating journey of discovering one another, exorcising suspicion and jettisoning artificial difference.
We laughed at ourselves, but also contested many aspects of the journey. But we did travel together on this exciting voyage, losing the faint-hearted, and gaining new travellers en route who enriched our time together. Those who chose to join this passage refreshed us, challenging us to take detours and venture into uncharted territories.
And so it was that PsySSA was inaugurated, often with back-seat drivers. Along the way, the back-seat drivers acknowledged that newer drivers could be trusted, even doing a better job in selflessly going the extra mile to include everyone in the journey of serving the underserved masses of our people.
What we confront now in our deeply fractured country and divided world, wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, mimics the national and global uncertainty prevailing when PsySSA was formed. The goodwill from the majority in our country for the democratic project to succeed in 1994 was supported by the entire world. PsySSA also set a tone, breaching mindless historic divides, for other professions to follow suit in charting their journeys of self and other discovery. PsySSA always put the greater good first, eschewing self-serving interests. It is a pity then that we have lost so many opportunities to cohere and help build more bridges amongst ourselves and our fellow South Africans. We as a country may have been better able to cope with the depredations of our Annus Horribilis that was 2020, when in so many terrible ways we hit depths we could never have imagined. We must, and will, do better, especially as we remember and mourn those whom we have lost.
As the past and present leadership of PsySSA, we wish to invite you to join us in the quest to raise psychology’s flag high, making its tremendous intervention sets available at all levels of our needy society, from improving policy, through the prevention of self-destructive behaviours that feed socio-economic insecurity. Working together, we must help to heal our people, and to return our country to the heady days of the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as our founding President of this constitutional democracy – where the human rights of all of us are protected in an egalitarian society, where all of us are treated equally, with dignity and respect, and where fear, hopelessness and desperation are eradicated through the benefits of psychological possibility. In this quest, nobody should be left behind as we restore our common humanity.
Let this PsySSA birthday be the start of an Annus Mirabilis for all of you, your loved ones, and all those we serve and are yet to serve. Together we can show the path to a better future through the immense insights of our discipline, profession and science!
Happy 27th Birthday PsySSA!
Past and Present PsySSA Leadership
21 January 2021