Freedom Day in South Africa: Has South Africa derailed from the gains made in 1994? – Ramadimetja Makgeru
On the 27th of April 1994, South Africa marked a new era in its history, a time when the shackles of apartheid were finally broken. It marked a new generation of democracy. After nearly 300 years of colonial rule and 46 years of apartheid, South Africans of all races went to the polls to exercise their right to vote. The day not only marked the end of institutionalised racism and segregation but also the return of fundamental human rights that had been denied for so long. This day is celebrated every year as Freedom Day when we reflect on the struggles and sacrifices of our forefathers and the journey we have undertaken as a nation.
However, as we approach the 29th anniversary of our democracy, many South Africans ask themselves whether it is a day to celebrate or mourn; many citizens ask themselves whether there is much to celebrate. Have we truly experienced freedom since the end of apartheid?
A significant issue in South Africa is the discrepancy between the idea of freedom and its implementation. While there have been significant strides in various sectors, poverty, inequality, and the lack of fundamental rights still plague many of us. Freedom, for many, remains elusive.
Freedom is a complex and multifaceted concept, and its meaning may differ from person to person. It goes beyond political rights and encompasses economic, social, and cultural rights. It is not an absolute state but a continuous process that requires constant effort and struggle.
Living in a democracy means that we have the right to participate in the governance of our country through free and fair elections, the ability to express our opinions freely, and the guarantee of human rights. Even though we still face persistent deep-seated inequality, high levels of poverty, and corruption, we continue to make progress towards building a more equitable and just society through our vibrant civil society and free press that plays a critical role in holding government accountable, promoting transparency and good governance.
For many South Africans, freedom means accessing opportunities and resources that can help them improve their lives. It means having access to quality education, healthcare, and employment, among other things. While it is essential to acknowledge the challenges we still face as a democracy, it is also vital to recognise that Freedom Day represents the access we now have to opportunities and resources that can help us to commit ourselves to building a better future for ourselves; this day represents an opportunity to explore new ideas, try new things, and pursue our passions.
Many young people in the Activate! network are finding ways to overcome obstacles created by the remnants of our country’s painful past and continue to succeed in their chosen fields, from entrepreneurship to art, activism to education. Their stories of resilience are an inspiration and a reminder of the power of determination and hard work.
One such story is that of Activator Sibongile Mongandi, a young entrepreneur who founded her own healthcare manufacturing company, Uku’hamba Prosthetics and Orthotics. They produce lightweight prosthetics, splints and braces to improve the conditions of amputees living with disabilities with a vision of giving them back their independence and confidence. Though newly incorporated, the company has quickly moved from concept through prototype development to production to demonstrate Sibongile’s determination, competence and commitment.
Another inspiring story is about Activator Amos Malungane, a young artist who grew up in Etwatwa, a township east of Johannesburg, and overcame significant financial barriers to pursue his passion. He found that perseverance and hard work were critical to his success, and he continues to grow his brand by diversifying his clothing line to meet the needs of different customers. He owns The Eyes Of Art (TEOA), a brand that creates tailored and customised clothing from vintage to chic and swaggy streetwear. He sews every piece his customers enjoy from his bedroom and makes a living to support his family.
These stories are just a few examples of the many young South Africans pushing the boundaries and using the access to opportunities that our forefathers fought so hard for.
As we approach the 29th anniversary of South Africa’s Freedom Day, we must reflect on our progress as a nation and the work that still needs to be done to create a more just and equitable society. While it is easy to become complacent and believe that the gains made in 1994 are enough, the reality is that many South Africans continue to experience the systematic hardships the apartheid government designed.
This Freedom Day, let us not only celebrate, take but also take stock of the present and actively work towards a better future. Let us question whether we are genuinely using the opportunities that Freedom Day has given us and whether we are holding our government accountable for ensuring that they improve the lives of all citizens.
We must ask ourselves, has South Africa derailed from the gains made in 1994? And if so, what can we do as individuals to help steer the country back on course towards a more equitable and just society?
We all have a role to play in building a better South Africa. So let us use this Freedom Day as a call to action to redouble our efforts and work towards creating a country that truly lives up to the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality for all.
Discussion Question: What do you believe are the most pressing challenges that South Africa faces in building a more just and equitable society, and what role do you think individuals can play in addressing these challenges?
About the Author:
Ramadimetja is a freelance writer deeply committed to social justice. She uses her writing as a form of activism to amplify the voices of grassroots leaders and community members. She aims to produce insightful and thought-provoking work, often shedding light on underrepresented issues and challenges facing marginalised communities.