This afternoon when I switched on my car radio while heading home I heard the South African Reserve Bank radio advertisement for a second time. It congratulates former President Nelson Mandela on the incredible life he has lived to create a better South Africa. The ad further more informs the public that our Rand notes will change from having the big five on them to having Nelson Mandela’s face on them in honor of Madiba for creating a free South Africa. It just didn’t sound right. I’m not against having Mandela’s face on our notes and I’m furthermore not denying that Madiba is a highly respected freedom fighter and deservedly so, but South Africa a “free” country? No.
I had to think for a moment why this beautiful commercial suddenly sounded extremely fabricated and false to me. Celebrating Mandela’s life and the Reserve Bank’s decision to honor it surely shouldn’t evoke any form of hesitance or anger, but it did. You see; South Africa is far from a free country. A free country is not controlled by criminals nor is it a place where the people feel unsafe and unprotected. What is a free country then? What is freedom? I don’t have the definitions to all of it, but I can tell you what “freedom” means to me.
Imagine being able to walk freely without having the fear of being mugged, stabbed or killed over what belongs to you – your money your phone your jewelry your sunglasses or even the clothes on your body. That is freedom. Imagine purchasing goods and paying with a credit not having to worry about your details being stolen for illegal purchases of ridiculous amounts. That is freedom. Imagine applying for a job and feeling confident that you will get called back for an interview based on your skills, experience or education and not the colour of your skin. That is freedom. Imagine having a mature discussion over a disagreement without being called a racist. That is freedom. Imagine a country where farmers are honored, babies are cared for, women are respected and our men protected. Imagine a country where farm murders didn’t exist, where women and babies didn’t get rape and our men didn’t get kill. That is freedom. Imagine a country where strikes didn’t turn violent nor interrupted public transport. That is freedom. Imagine a country where the leaders led by example where the government wasn’t corrupt and the media wasn’t controlled. That is freedom.
South Africa is far from it all. South Africa is far from freedom. The time is not right to extol our freedom fighters for there is very little freedom to celebrate.