Georgina Guedes

Taste freedom

2012-05-02 10:00

Georgina Guedes

On Freedom Day morning, someone I follow on Twitter said, “Happy Freedom Day. The taste of freedom is still great, 18 years later.”

The sentiment filled me with a rush of pleasure. As did the headlines proclaiming that the first “Born Frees” will be voting in the next elections. It reminded me that we've come on an incredible journey and that what we stand for as a country is still one of the great political success stories of the past 100 years.

As I was driving around on Freedom Day, I noticed people walking in the street or at the shops, and I thought to myself “They're free too,” and I wondered if they were taking the opportunity to savour it.

And sure, I'm not delusional. I know that we have crime problems and our economy could take a knock at any second and that our education system is failing those who should be emerging from the imbalances of the past and that e-tolling is a disaster whichever way you look at it, but the people of this country are free, and that's very important.

An English friend I hadn't seen for years came out from the UK last week on business. He came to visit us and asked us questions about apartheid (he's a little younger than we are, so by the time he was aware of political issues in the world around him, South Africa was already a fledgling democracy).

It was interesting to revisit it; to discuss it with someone who was appalled and who hadn't realised it was that bad. We only scratched the surface, but even remembering the Pass Laws that limited the movement of the majority of the population threw into start contrast the South Africa of then and now.

The fact that there are still people out there who manage to make out like those were the good old days is astonishing to me. Every public holiday of political significance, some idiot offers one of three tragic insights:

“The blacks were better off then than they are now.” Are you insane? Like I said, sure there are problems with the New South Africa, but they have nothing on the oppression of one race by another, of the restrictions of human rights and of the violence that was meted out by the old regime to keep the majority in check.

“It was hard for all of us during apartheid.” Aw, diddums. No, it wasn't. It really wasn't. It might have been annoying having to arrange a pass for your gardener or scary for school kids to have to sit six feet from the perimeter fence, but in general whites had it pretty breezy. If you want to know about hard, ask the political prisoners, the separated families or those who were violently questioned by the police before 1994.

“They should have got over it by now.” This is a frequent starting point for massive debate. As far as I'm concerned, if you're not over it, you're not over it. I do think that our strength as a nation lies in the fact that we were built on reconciliation and that we've looked to the future, but we should never forget where we've come from.

So, this Freedom Day, I celebrated how far we've come and the fact that things are better for the majority of South Africans. But I also remembered the atrocities of the past, and looked to the future with a hope that the current regime will continue to ensure the liberties of all its citizens so that we can enjoy our success as a nation for many generations to come.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

Send your comments to Georgina

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


SHARE: publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.