Freedom through the eyes of ‘born frees’

By Gabi Khumalo

South Africa will once again mark Freedom Day on Thursday, chronicling a journey of 23 years since millions of its people voted for their government of choice on 27 April 1994.

While major challenges remain, there is no doubt that South Africa has made significant progress in transforming from an apartheid state into a democratic one.

With several activities lined up to celebrate freedom on Thursday, SAnews asked several young people, the so-called “born frees” what exactly freedom means to them. These youngsters may not have been able to cast that special vote in 1994, but they understand the value of democracy and having a right to vote. Some were not even born yet when South Africa attained its democracy but their views matter. 

Embracing who you are

For 16-year-old Leela Devar from Randburg, freedom means embracing who you are, being able to express who you are, what you believe in and your hopes for yourself.

“I think we should also embrace how far we’ve come as a country. Obviously I say this as a 16-year-old, meaning I was a born free,” says Leela.

Leela feels that for South Africa to protect its freedom and democracy, the country should always listen to the people and allow them to express their opinions.

“We are the ones that make up the country. Always look at what is restricting freedom for certain communities and people… That’s what democracy is.

“The country has come extremely far since 1994. I can go to school and be friends with anyone I want to be friends with. I can express my beliefs. I have hope for my future and what I am to do, something which wasn’t an apparent thing in 1994,” she says.

Rinae Tshishonga from Ivory Park near Tembisa, Gauteng, also feels that the country has come a long way and thanks to freedom and democracy, South Africans are free to express their own feelings and accept who they are.

“Our education is far better than what it used to be. Our schools have been renovated and we now have all resources needed to assist in our studies. We are also free to choose the streams that we want to do, unlike before where we were forced to do the streams we didn’t want and not comfortable with,” says Rinae.

The 17-year-old feels that it is about time the country moves forward.

“I’m not disputing the fact that we were abused or we must forget the past, but let’s try to be united as a country, and I believe that we can go far and make our country a better place to live in.”  

Also from Ivory Park, Benneth Radebe, aged 19, says for him, freedom means the right to show one’s talent and make a living out of it, without being scared or being rejected.

“We’ve come too far as a country. More black people have access to education, and learners have access to technology like tablets, smart boards and access to internet, which helps us when doing research. Our own languages are also being recognised in our schools, making it easy for learners to express themselves,” he says.

The country should talk more about freedom and democracy in order to learn more on what to be done to improve the living standard of ordinary citizens.

“Know your rights and responsibilities, and equality and sharing ideas without being judged on race,” says 18-year-old Joshua Mabasa.

The youngster from Alexandra says from what he is been told by his elders, South Africans should appreciate people who fought for the country to be where it is today.

“We have to show respect for those who died for this freedom because it didn’t come easily. They had to fight for it. Today, black people attend schools that were previously white dominated and more black people in workplaces are holding senior positions. 

“In acknowledging the [freedom fighters’], we need to continue with the fight against inequality and racism, and ensure that all people enjoy their human rights,” he says.

Year of Oliver Tambo

This year’s Freedom Day celebration will take place in uMhlabuyalingana Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal under the theme ‘The year of OR Tambo: Together deepening democracy and building safer and crime-free communities’.

This year’s celebration coincides with the centenary of struggle stalwart Oliver Reginald Tambo, who epitomised the struggle for liberation. It presents an opportunity to reflect on the many sacrifices that were made for the freedom the country enjoys today and on how South Africa`s democracy was achieved.

Government says Tambo was steadfast in his revolve for a liberated South Africa. While in exile, he rallied the global community against the incorrigible apartheid state and spearheaded international sanctions to bring about change.

During Freedom Month, South Africans are encouraged to reflect on the progress made over the last 23 years. It is also a time to recommit themselves to the Constitution, which is the foundation of South Africa’s democracy and the very essence of what freedom means. – SAnews.gov.za