Exactly twenty three years ago this day, my father at age forty seven cast his vote for the very first time. Young as I was at the time it baffles me how I can still remember the mood of the day, I mean I can only make reference to our surroundings and circumstances at the time. The entire township was filled with a joyful sprit you could literally touch hope of a new world, what would be called the rainbow nation.
Of cause if we were to go back to history we would learn far too many saddening realities of what it took to get to the day, we would learn of how many lives were tersely ended way before they started, we would learn of way too many broken homes ,fatherless homes, motherless and childless homes. We would learn of way too many dissolute ,displaced families way too many heart-breaking, that when you think of your heart just drops, however without belittling each and every persons struggle that contributed to the liberation of black people in South Africa ,that’s not what I want to write about today.
Today I merely want to reflect what freedom means to me personally as a black South African woman living in post-apartheid South Africa today. I mean it is always tempting to want to joining the chorus that everyone seems to be chanting on today, the chorus that take verses like:
What is Freedom without Economic Freedom?
What is Freedom without Land ownership?
What is freedom when racism is so strife amongst White South Africans?
What is freedom without free education?
What is freedom without, without, without, without the list goes on and on and on.
With the response to my friend above said, how does one cultivate the said spirit of gratitude without looking at everything that is happening in South Africa right now and feel desponded? The questions I ask myself as an individual daily are, what contributions do I then make to my country as the individual that I am? Could it be that one is never truly free? Could it be that this freedom thing is as elusive as the term happiness that we so seek as human beings?
Granted had I been born in 1947 like my dad, my life would have taken a different direction, chances are, I would not have gone to school just like him, because that privilege was reserved for a very few. Being a girl my prospects would have been to marry a good husband and bore him strong beautiful babies and look after the home. Would that have been enough for me, not knowing any better I would take a calculated guess and say yes.
However I was not born in that era, yes the effects of colonialism, apartheid etc. are still felt by black people even today.
Having said that, I can with caution say at least I have the freedom to live where I live right now, with the absence of group areas act I can pretty much go anywhere I want to go in South Africa and enjoy being me without fear of being told I am not welcome just because my skin happens to be a hundred shades darker. I can send my son to whatever school I want to send him to.
Is that enough?
Far from being enough, a lot still need to happen for South Africans to truly enjoy this so called Freedom .With the absence of the jovial mood that characterised 27 April 1994 as individuals we can still do more to continue in that search of Freedom in this beautiful South Africa of ours.
Twenty three years is nothing, we are still young as a country ,as Zanele Mthembu so well put it ,
We are a nation in recovery. We have been left maimed and scarred by apartheid. We have taken the first steps. We know we are not strong yet and we need help from more developed nations. We especially need to learn from the experiences of our fellow brothers and sisters on the continent who have also gone through what we are only now experiencing. We have come to realize that freedom is just the beginning of yet another struggle. We are all new in this process of democracy and we have to hold hands, government and the people and make this democracy work for us. There is a Zulu saying, which goes “Izandla ziyagezana” which means one hand washes the other. The government is the one hand and ordinary citizens, are the other hand. We need both hands to wash away the legacy of apartheid. We need to remove the dirt and grime from the past so that we can sit with clean hands at the table of democracy and enjoy the fruit of our labour.
We need a reconstruction of the people’s mindsets and the development of a new and positive attitude all round. That can only be done through education. The better educated our nation; the better our future is going to be. We need to be educated about what our role is or should be in this new democracy. We need to be educated not only about our rights but also our obligations. Freedom comes with a lot of responsibilities. We are responsible for our destiny. Yes, government has a part to play but they cannot do it on their own. We have to actively participate in helping the government better our lot. Working with our leaders is not new to us. During the days of the struggle, there was always a strong partnership between the leaders and the masses. That is what made our struggle a success. We need to rekindle that partnership, so that we can reconstruct and develop our nation.
Happy Freedom day