Freedom Day: 27 Years Later, Nothing Has Changed!

By Tebogo Lesoro

When South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994 ending the cruel era of Apartheid, the world thought South Africa would smile again. It has been over 20 years of democracy but people are still oppressed; racism is still there; unequal distribution of resources and wealth are still there; student protests are still there, and  live ammunition is still being used. One can say this is deja vu or better yet, it is as if we are watching a repeat of a movie, except, this time the picture and video quality is much better. We can see things clearly now.

This leaves us asking ourselves these questions:

(1) Did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) fail to resolve conflict between South Africans?

(2) Did they really draw the Freedom Charter themselves and state one of its objectives is that Doors of Learning shall be opened to all and education shall be free or was the Freedom charter drawn for them just to keep them silent and give them false hope?

There are talks about equal distribution of resources/wealth and equal opportunities, but what I see is the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Let’s go down memory lane… Firstly, the TRC was created after the end of Apartheid under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act No 34 of 1995. Secondly, the TRC was considered an integral component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa. So, has the TRC worked? You be the Judge!

Thirdly, twenty years after the end of Apartheid, racism is alive and doing well in the supposed rainbow nation in spite of many policies aimed at redressing the bitter legacy of Apartheid. In 2008, four students at the University of the Free state made a racist video that created an international uproar during the same year when it was reported that black students at the University of Johannesburg had allegedly been assaulted by their white counterpart while at the university bar. In 2015 on the 20th of August, a documentary called Luister was released which showed how black students were discriminated against at the Stellenbosch University, whilst in January 2016 a woman called Penny Sparrow called black people “monkeys.”

SA History Online: The African Mine workers strike of 1946. 

The question remains, has the TRC failed to resolve the conflict between South Africans?

Moreover, parallels could be drawn between the 12 August 1946 African Mineworkers Strike which was led by Mr. John Beaver (JB) Marks, a leader of the African Mine Workers Union (AMWU) and the 2012 Mine Workers Strike led by Mr. Joseph Mathunjwa, President of  Association of Mine workers and Construction Union (AMCU). In the 1946, about 76000 miners went on strike – the strike was forcibly suppressed by the government. According to 1946 official figures, 9 workers were killed and 1 248 were injured. In the 2012 strike, 34 mine workers were killed. The Freedom Charter states that people shall share their country’s wealth but poor miners died wanting a share of what belongs to them. The question still remains, would we ever see equal share of resources and wealth or will the rich be richer and poor be poorer?

The New York Times: The police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse students. Themba Hadebe/Associated Press.

Furthermore, in 1976, students from numerous schools in Soweto began to protest in the streets for a better education system. It is estimated that 20 000 students took part in the protest and were met with fierce police brutality. Additionally, in 2015, a campaign called #FeesMustFall started where students from different universities across the country went on to strike for reduction of university fees and free education and just like the students of 1976, they were met with fierce police brutality.

The question still remains, did they mean it in the freedom charter when they said “Doors of Learning shall be opened for all and education shall be free” OR was that just a way of keeping them silent?

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