Our freedom was not free

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

By Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe

In April 1994 a new nation emerged from the ashes of apartheid and hundreds of years of systematic oppression of the black majority.  Twenty one years later, South Africa is indeed a very different country imbued with the values of equality and freedom, which are at the heart of our democracy.

The South Africa of today was made possible by the sacrifices of thousands of patriots. It took extraordinary courage for ordinary men and women from all races and all walks of life to confront the evil apartheid government.

Yesterday we commemorated Freedom Day in celebration of the liberation of our people. We must never forget that the freedom we enjoy today was not free. 

South Africa owes a great debt to our African brothers and sisters on the continent who stood by us in our historic fight for freedom and justice.

In the past few weeks our democratic values have been severely tested by the shameful attacks directed at foreign nationals. 

Government has made it clear that this behaviour is not in keeping with our democratic principles. We will not tolerate attacks on foreign nationals in our country.  

We have moved quickly to end the violence and the South African Police Service and other law enforcement agencies have been deployed to bring the situation under control. Several arrests have been made.  

It is deeply disappointing that such attacks could happen in a country where the values of freedom and democracy run through our collective veins.  I am, however, confident that the shameful actions of a few are in no way reflective of South Africa as a whole. This has indeed proved to be the case with South Africans from all walks of life, denouncing the violence.

Government knows many South Africans have concerns with regards to migration. The issue is receiving attention at the highest level. President Jacob Zuma has appointed an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Migration (IMC) to promote orderly migration. The IMC is tasked with ensuring all aspects of migration are handled efficiently, including the social, economic and security aspects.

The current tensions are a clear indication that we must do more to foster our social unity.  We must confront these issues head-on, just as we faced the monstrous apartheid regime. As a nation we cannot simply turn a blind eye or assume that the wounds of the past will heal without honest dialogue about the state of our nation.  

South Africans live in a country where our freedoms is guaranteed. We must, however, never tread on the rights and dignity of others.

Freedom Month provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the strides we have made and to recommit ourselves to cherish and protect our freedom. 

History will no doubt judge this generation if we fail to build on the gains of our hard-won democracy. 

The wise words of OR Tambo still ring true today. "We seek to create a united, Democratic and non-racial society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity.”

This is the vision that we have worked towards since 1994 - and we dare not allow the actions of a few to derail us.