What can I possibly say about Freedom Day that hasn’t already been said in the last 2 decades? Every year we re-hash the same colourful celebrations in remembrance of the struggle. We compare our dreams for a truly rainbow nation to the reality that racism is still rampant. Every year I read articles posing the same questions: Is racial equality actually attainable in South Africa? How far have we really progressed from those dark Apartheid days? How can we ‘fix’ people’s attitudes through understanding and acceptance of one another? What can we do differently to help fulfill Madiba’s vision? Generally these articles spew out tiny morsels of hope, largely overpowered by the stench of anger and frustration at the lack of social progress and transformation.
The artist P!nk wrote a powerful song. It’s opening verse reads ‘Dear Mr President, Come take a walk with me. Let’s pretend we’re just two people and You’re not better than me. I’d like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.’ In light of today being the 22nd anniversary of the dream for true freedom and equality in our country and you, a black elder and I, a young white citizen, I’d like for you to come take a walk with me.
Freedom is most commonly thought of in terms of the absence of domination or physical restraint. 27 April 1994 brought us ‘Freedom’ where every citizen was considered ‘equal’ in the eyes of the state. Over the years we’ve watched a feud of ‘fencing’ in the name of self-defense (of one’s skin colour and culture), some with fascinating ‘footwork’ and ‘sword handling’ by individuals and even leaders in government. We’ve seen black and white alike fight for recognition in all spheres of life. Mr President, we’ve seen things such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Black Economic Empowerment as national platforms for redress. And yet despite these efforts, 22 years on, we still have a very large-scale social issue on our hands.One of Oxford Dictionary’s definitions of the word ‘freedom’ is ‘the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.’
Mr President, today is supposed to be a joyous day celebrating progress. But from where I’m standing, Mr President, we are failing. As individuals and as a nation. For the record, I don’t blame you for years of pent up anger and perhaps even hatred in the hearts of many, as that is beyond your control. But Mr President, I do have to question your sense of social integrity and moral accountability. I also have to question your management of your various ministers to avoid making costly contradictions that deny the very essence of our constitution: our right to equality. Whilst there are many examples I could draw on, I’ll use the most current.
Let’s discuss this week’s sporting debacle with Mr Fikule Mbalula. I’ll keep it simple: Instead of allowing divisive decisions to be made, how about you and your ministers seek to widen the playing field. And by that I mean, why not spend more time, effort and resources on improving access to good quality education and sports so that everyone has equal exposure and thus equal opportunity to represent their country in their chosen sport? Surely this would ensure our national sports teams are not only a true reflection of the make-up of the population but it will also ensure that our teams consist of the most skilled sportsmen and women our country has to offer. It’s as if you’re trying to put a dirty plaster on an open wound and expecting it to heal. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for transformation. But at what cost? Increased racial discriminatory issues and decreased stature on the global platform? Surely, following your recent Nenegate fiasco, you realize that every government decision directly impacts our economy, which in turn impacts the lives of ordinary citizens? I hear the opposition’s cry for job creation and economic growth being stifled even more.
Mr President, in recent years it seems that your idea of progress and transformation is nothing more than the classic ‘wolves dressed as lambs’.
Mr President, have a listen to P!nk’s lyrics (let’s replace the whiskey and cocaine part with ‘those 783 charges against you’) and perhaps try answer a few of those questions yourself. I don’t expect you to share your answers with me but on this Freedom Day, I do sincerely hope that you will genuinely take some time out of your Hollywood A-lister lifestyle and realize that the freedom your party fought for is not purely for your own selfish and gluttonous enjoyment. I hope you won’t wait until Heritage Day to remember your Zulu roots and the meaning of Ubuntu. And perhaps you’ll realize that, whilst you yourself have managed to fulfill that Oxford Dictionary definition, even your own culture teaches that no man is an island. So how, Mr President, can you celebrate this day and consider yourself a free man when you continue to undermine the freedom of those through whom your very own freedom is defined?