Are We Truly Free?

On Wednesday 27 April we celebrated Freedom Day in South Africa: 17 years as a genuine democracy with a constitution that guarantees the rights and freedoms of all its peoples. I spent most of that day indoors, with my economics textbooks, preparing for my upcoming exams and in between I would listen to the radio in order to keep abreast of current affairs. On one of the popular talk shows on radio, the issue being discussed was: whether we are truly free as South Africans, 17 years after that momentous day when Nelson Mandela took the oath of office at the Union Buildings, with the whole world watching and with the country excited at this new journey that we where embarking on. Of course different people called in and expressed their views on the radio show, with the discussion typically being quite lively and heated. It got me thinking again about freedom and whether South Africa can truly say that it is a nation of “free” people. We live in barricaded, gated houses with boom gates providing an entry into most suburbs and yet we claim to be free. A large percentage of South Africans still have no access to a constant supply of clean water and electricity and yet we brag about our constitution and the rights that it affords its citizens. A majority of South Africans live off government grants and are dependent on the state to provide decent shelter, put food on the table and get some sort of education and yet we claim to be free. People feel incapacitated to do anything for themselves and sit around waiting for government to do something for them and still we insist that we are free. I wonder what Steve Biko would think of this kind of “freedom”. We have failed to emancipate our people mentally by giving them a decent education and enabling them to take charge of their own lives and yet we still call ourselves a “free” people. We have not freed ourselves from the racial prejudice that was the foundation upon which the old South Africa was built and yet we have the audacity to celebrate our “freedom.” Is freedom simply the right to vote? Our people now have freedom of movement and can live anywhere they want, as guaranteed by the constitution, but in reality this is all a farce as most South Africans can’t afford to buy and own their own houses so most areas are out of bounds for them. Every year on the 27th of April we celebrate Freedom Day, but how much of this freedom is truly meaningful for the average South African? What does freedom truly look like? Do we even fully understand the concept? Is this what we fought for all these years? Maybe we need to reassess our position. If the people are not truly empowered to be the captains of their own individual ships, as is the case in South Africa today, then it makes no sense to celebrate Freedom Day because we only deceive ourselves. The struggle for freedom in South Africa still continues and it requires all hands on deck.
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Mugabe Ratshikuni

introverted, shy, nothing to write home about

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