Freedom Day is a celebration of the journey we’ve walked so far as a democratic nation. It is a commemoration of our liberation struggle, of our tireless efforts to set ourselves free and more especially, a commemoration of our triumph in these efforts. Freedom Day is also a special tribute to those whose blood was spilt to buy us peace and liberation in our land.
Freedom Day is an annual celebration of South Africa's first non-racial democratic elections which took place in the year 1994. Peace, unity, the preservation and the restoration of human dignity hallmarks Freedom Day celebrations on the 27th of April of each year. Since the arrival of the White man at the Cape in 1652, the indigenous people of South Africa came under White control and domination. Soon, all people of colour were denied the right to vote and hence a say in the running of the country. The exclusion of the majority of South Africans from political power was at the center of the liberation struggle and resistance of white minority rule. South Africa has come a long way since the dark days of Apartheid. The road to democracy was long and extremely excruciating. South Africa has soldiered incredibly well to establish this shiny bright coloured rainbow nation that is praised the world over. From the time of deliberate marginalization and disenfranchisement of Black people, we have fought diligently for our redemption until victory was final ours.
As a young South African born after 1994 and having been fortunate enough not to have to live through the vicious claws of apartheid, Freedom Day means a lot to me. It is a chance for me to reflect back and count my blessings. I could have had a completely different life altogether if the apartheid regime had prevailed. I’m thankful for the chance to go to school, to walk around freely without the weight of a dompass and to be able to associate with whomever I choose without fear of having an unfriendly brush with the law. Freedom Day hints to me that my life has been saved and I have been granted the opportunity to freestyle my own destiny. The biggest luxury in being liberated is that I get to pick and choose how I want to make meaning out of life. I have been given the gift of boundless dreaming, given wings to fly as high as I am able to take myself. Freedom is deeper than just being able to cast a vote for your leader, it’s deeper than being granted freedom of speech to speak your mind or freedom of movement to walk the lengths of your land. Freedom means you feel safe from within, you feel that your place in the land that gave birth to you is secured. You are liberated to feel a sense of belonging. Freedom is watching a group of multi-racial multi-cultural children happily playing together on a bright blue day. Freedom is being allowed to love yourself and embrace who you are unapologetically. Freedom is being able to be yourself. Whatever aspirations and dreams you may have are valid and you are forbidden no more to give them a wild chase and make them a reality. That is freedom!
Though, it must be said that 1994 won us political freedom, we won rights, and we won constitutionally. What does being free really mean for an average Black South African? The evident self-hatred in the Black community is a direct defect of apartheid. One would say, we have been so injured by apartheid that we are frightened to go back to being who we were before we were told who we should be. Seemingly, we are terrified by the idea of having to be independent bodies, refusing to bank on Western standards and Western lifestyle. Convincing ourselves that our dark skin tone and rough textured hair is equally beautiful is an everyday struggle. The days of being called ugly because of our features painfully linger on and stain the famous rainbow nation picture. The outwardly picture perfect rainbow nation is also stained by poverty. The foot soldiers of the liberation struggle seem to have been left and abandoned at the bottom. Left to fend for themselves with minimum wage and social grants, continuously marginalized from mainstream economics through unemployment and lack of education, it seems the story of freedom is yet to reach its happy ending but I am hopeful that it is halfway there. After all, we conquered Apartheid as our first villain, we can surely conquer the second one. We, the soldiers of this nation, the heirs of the brand new South Africa.
This article was submitted by Olga Madihlaba, 2nd year Politics Philosophy and Economics student at the University of Johannesburg. Follow her on twitter @Makgxnagalx