Freedom Day -a public holiday celebrated in South Africa to commemorate the day that the great struggle against the enemy of the past -the white man- came to a fall. The first day South Africans of all races could stand up and partake in their democratic right of voting. The day when South Africa first tasted the sweet flavour of democratic freedom.
Today, 27 April 2011, exactly 17 years since this historic day, South Africa celebrates the freedom that we have -the freedom that so many were tortured or died for, in the pursuit of a better tomorrow for their families and following generations. Names such as Chris Hani, Steve Biko, Former-President Nelson Mandela, come to mind at first, but there are so many others who contributed towards the fight for freedom that we honour and remember on this sacred day in South Africa.
Back to reality… All this is beautiful and wonderful, but to be frank, it is a rather utopian view-point (which if I had to be completely honest, I tend to believe -and often have to give myself a slap in the face to bring me back to Earth). What we should be addressing is, 17 years after entering ‘the Land of Milk and Honey’:
- Are we living in a free South Africa?
- Are our everyday human rights being met?
- Has government gone a bit off the bandwagon?
I’m going to attempt to answer these three questions as briefly and broadly as possible, as I could probably write a whole thesis on this topic, but I do not want to waste your life away; just merely make a point, a point that I hope will get you thinking.
In my honest opinion, I have a bit of a discursive placement on the topic of whether or not we are living in a free South Africa. Whilst we all have the right to freedom in South Africa, not every South African has the opportunity to take advantage of this. Why? -Well, it’s linked to the second question regarding human rights. We all have wonderful rights in this country but not all of us are able to exercise them.
South Africa has lost its racial segregation and the majority of its racist ideals; however, something it has adopted in its place is a classist system. It may have started as a by-product of the Group Areas Act inflected under the Apartheid banner, but it has only truly come into play over the past decade or so. It is a direct result of BEE and the state of the country’s economics. Being a capitalist society, we certainly do see the rich getting rich, and the poor, well getting poorer. The result of this classist system has meant that impoverished areas in South Africa have a lack of resources, and as a further result of that, have a far more difficult chance at exercising their rights, and even more importantly, their freedom.
Something on a side note, that has nothing to do with our rights and freedom as South Africans, but relates to our fellow African neighbours, and needs addressing, is xenophobia. How can we as South Africans be against hate crimes based on race, yet commit them? We need to look at where we come from, and try and work-out where we went astray along the path.
Back to the questions I posed above, I do believe the government has lost their way at sea (but are only a few degrees away from land). They need to re-evaluate the country. The South African government needs to get off their hinds and stop thinking about election campaigns and themselves; stop worrying about botox or “bloody agents”; stop deciding which car is better to drive -the latest Mercedes Benz ML, or the Toyota Yaris; ; they need to stop thinking about showering, or sleeping with the men in their cabinet; they need to think about why they are giving out food parcels and free T-shirts, or building toilets without any surrounding walls (and the answer must not be “For votes”). They need to understand the people of our land, nurture and grow our nation, mother it, mould it, and protect its constitution (which is one of the best in the world), as well as its people and their rights. Most of all, especially on a day like today, government needs to remember the words that were spoken time-and-time again during the struggle for our freedom, words that they themselves chanted, meant, and strove for…
“Amandla! -Awethu!” (“Power to the people!”)
Jonathan Duguid (@theDramaKing)