Freedom Day stems from the first post-apartheid election held on 27th of April 1994 where
citizens from all race groups in South Africa over the age of 18 got to vote for the very first time. Here is where new hopes and dreams for a better nation were now a possibility. There were cheers, celebrations and tears of joy, of leaving the terrible past that our people had to endure behind us, when we as a nation reached this national achievement. This was the beginning of a new era, so we thought.
Although apartheid ended we are still kept captive in our homes, our streets, our communities we are still left in the exact communities that was built for our people during apartheid so how will our great grandparents, grandparents and parents be able to move forward and forget about the cruelty of their past if they continue to live in a space that is a constant reminder! Ironically, our parents called us the born frees, the children of new prosperities and the future of the new world. This was an illusion we were brought up to believe. I guess we are slightly free of the darkness the world our ancestors and great/grandparents had but nothing really changed completely. Yes, the authority changed but who said the mindsets did? Surely, if it did they wouldn’t have left our people in the same segregated spaces for us to be forgotten about. I don’t say that anyone is to blame for what has or is happening to a human because like it is said we all have our own choices of how we will live our lives.
In the words of Zarah Fataar, age 15, a Brave Rock Girl “Freedom Day means that I have equal rights like any other race or culture. I don’t feel free because there are still things happening that take away people’s freedom of doing things they feel comfortable with, things like limited resources in the coloured community for decent education. There’s limited to no job opportunities or possibilities of self empowerment. Our rights to decent housing are zero to none where we don’t even have access to privacy as our housing arrangements are on top and around each other. We are conditionally limited by our government structure as if we are freely living in a concentration camp.’’
As our late president and father of the nation Nelson Mandela said “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
If you sit and think about it, how many young men and women could have grown up to be doctors, pilots, lawyers, changemakers if their lives were different if they were given the basic needs that any human being should have the right to possess. How many lives would have turned out differently instead of being gangsters, drug addicts, alcoholics, school dropouts, teenage pregnancies. Our people wouldn’t have to suffer if the injustice were brought to justice, our people wouldn’t have to find unspeakable ways to stay above water, our people wouldn’t have to fight to see another day.
I asked some of the girls that I work with to share their views of Freedom Day and these are some of the views that were expressed. “According to the Oxford dictionary freedom is the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants . However I can’t say I can embody the definition of the word freedom. No one is truly free yet we live with the delusion that we are. Freedom day is a day we celebrate & remember the sacrifices & lives lost . I don’t feel free in my community. I feel confined not only as a person but as a girl as well.” Shaina Kemp, age 17.
“To celebrate freedom day is all about history and honoring all those who fought for the liberation of South Africans, however I don’t feel free because there’s always violence in our communities. We feel unsafe playing in our streets because there’s always violence outside sometimes children evens feel unsafe in there own houses cause nowadays there’s a lot going on for example abuse, rape and violence in our houses”- Tayaarnah Thomas, age 15.
Growing up in a segregated community where you are constantly fearing for your safety, doesn’t really make you appreciate the essence of Freedom. Our community like many other communities on the Cape Flats suffers a devastating lifestyle of constant gang wars, violence and drug abuse. National crime statistics released by Minister of Police, Bheki Cele stated that all contact crime increased by 11.6%, with Manenberg being placed 14th on the top 30 list for Sexual Assault. We are also 8th on the top 30 of Drug related crime. Our people are still constantly fearing for their lives, for the lives of their children; yes apartheid has ended but now we are kept captive by our own people. We fear our own fathers, uncles, cousins and brothers. We are kept like prisoners in our own homes. We even have to whisper to each other when there is gang wars, we lay in our beds at night too scared to even breathe because there are men on our roofs. This is the intensity of our daily lives. Our people are so traumatized that this sickness of violence has become so normal to us that it is basically a part of our daily routine. Every year Freedom Day comes around and we are supposed to feel proud for our Freedom that our great leaders fought for and don’t get me wrong there were many great leaders that has fought so that we can receive basic education, land and housing and basic resources but sometimes I do sit still and think, did our great leaders really fight for us all? If they did, why are many of us still fighting to stay alive? Why are our people not able to give their children the necessities that they need to grow up to be strong and independent? Why should it be so hard for us to make it in this life? Why are we the ones people still pity, if our great leaders fought for the freedom of all South Africans?
We as a nation need to come together and make the change that we want to see in this lifetime before it’s a little to late or should I say we the people from the Cape Flats needs to rise up and take back our streets, we cannot sit back and watch how lives are taken and the community stays shaken and in fear “Enough is Enough” together we can make our streets and communities safer.
by Audery February