LETTER: There is a need for the elderly in society to engage born frees

2016-07-14 06:00

It seems as if the notion of “born free” is just imposed on young people in South Africa.
I am talking about the children of the oppressed race during the apartheid regime.

“You young people are free” really? This is an assumption the older generation seem to make without listening closely to the voices of young people.

The freedom of African people obtained in 1994 must be seen as a particular freedom in that particular context. It must not box, tie or generalise everything.

If you go around and have conversations with so called young black or coloured people, I guarantee you that a massive number of those young people, will voice out that they might only be free to move around places.

However, they are not free in their daily lives, in their everyday realities.

The #Fees Must Fall movement and high rate of unemployed graduates and non-graduates characterise or paint my argument colourfully. Freedom should be conceptualised as the journey not just one event, especially in the context of South Africa, where legacies of the past injustices are still playing very loud even today.

Yes, there are those young people who will say they are free, which in fact they might be right. However, in most of them, those saying they are free, you will discover that they are coming from relatively wealthier families. While those who are living in economically challenges contexts, they sing a different song. This then allow us to reflect on what freedom really means for an African child in our contemporary times.

I myself, though I consider myself slightly blessed, I had it a hard way, having to pursue my degree with no support from my parents as they have means only to put food on the tables, not other “pleasures” of life like education. Even when I managed to finish my degree in Community Development – got a job. I still have to support them economically, taking a chunk of the little I am earning so that they can buy food and other necessities. Am I free? I don’t think so. Because instead of investing in my own future, I am compelled to look after them, share the little I have, if I don’t who will? Injustices of the past are playing loud in my present - as my parents and those of others were deprived better education and other ways to improve their lives by the apartheid regime. The migrant labour system disconnected our African families - distorted the lives of Africans and indeed extremely delayed their development. And some of us, we can feel that delay.

In conclusion, the older generation need to listen closely to the voices of the young. Especially those living in economically challenged places. Conversations of this nature need to take place, so that we don’t build a nation in the foundation of illusion but with that of reality “Born free” are not free.

Mandla Klanisi Khayelitsha

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