Freedom Day turns 19 years

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Christopher Motabogi

Free State (FS) residents will, like their counterparts across South Africa, commemorate Freedom Day on Friday at the Chevrolet Park Cricket Stadium in Bloemfontein. The celebrations will take place under the theme: “Mobilising society towards consolidating our democracy and freedom”. Organisers say the celebration will promote unity and a common agenda of building a united and prosperous South Africa and promoting the recently adopted National Development Plan as a long-term blueprint for the county’s future well-being.

The event is scheduled to take place one day before the usual 27 April celebrations and recognises the demise of the Apartheid rule and the ushering in of a new constitution and political dispensation in 1994. But 19 years down the line, questions are being asked about the bill of rights, the freedom enjoyed by South Africans and whether or not leaders and communities have strayed from the guiding principles enshrined in the constitution. Democratic Alliance (DA) Free State leader, Patricia Kopane, says South Africans have come together as a nation despite of being divided before. She believes we still share the value that we want to be one rainbow nation and one South Africa.

“Freedom Day for me is a time when we need to reflect back as a society to say where we came from as a nation, where we want to go, how to overcome the challenges that are still there and acknowledge everyone who’s played a role in being where we are today. “Freedom for me means nothing if there are still people who still go to bed without food in their stomach. Freedom means nothing to me if there are still people who are still unemployed, who are still uneducated. It means nothing to me if it gives many politicians the licence or the right to steal from the poor, because that is what I see today. I’m disappointed about that. Freedom means nothing to me if there are people who suffered under Apartheid and today still find themselves in the same situation,” says Kopane.

Afrikaans Handelsinstituut (AHI) CEO, Christo van Rheede, says freedom is something he treasures because we fought very hard for freedom in this country.  “We came through an Apartheid system that classified people, that determined where you should live and how you should live your life in general, that placed restrictions on you in terms of general progress and career progress,” says Van Rheede. He says 1994 ushered in a democratic South Africa and new constitution that emphasises all the different kinds of freedom that one can possibly enjoy.

“With freedom obviously comes a huge amount of responsibility. That is the big challenge in the new South Africa” says Van Rheede. Legal Aid South Africa’s Free State and North-West head, Zanele Msweli, agrees with Van Rheede, describing freedom as “an odd concept”.  “Absolute freedom is an ideal beyond attainment. For example, if you live within a society, you subjugate your freedom to the will and the rules of the society, no matter how generous that society is.”

“Freedom to me is where I’m coming from, being able to live the life that I’m living and being able to achieve what I have achieved as a black woman today” says Msweli, who feels government has made great strides since 1994 to assist non-whites to improve the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

However, Msweli as a legal professional employed by the country’s biggest law firm assisting poor and vulnerable South Africans with legal assistance and court representation, says she’s worried about the statistics on women and children being abused.
“So we (as South Africans) still need to entrench that culture where women’s rights are protected and promoted so that everybody can safely say we live or have attained the freedom that we fought for,” says Msweli.

christopher@centralmediagroup.co.za