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.

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  • Matshane - 2012-05-02 11:16

    You coudn't have said it better.This country only needs to be corruption-free.Free from corruption in all its forms,that is.I'll keep hoping.Hoping that other SA lovers will too.

      Warwick Bristow - 2012-05-03 22:10

      Corruption is the cancer in our country. It does not seem to be going away, only escalating.

  • Brett - 2012-05-02 11:35

    Stop fixating on the "atrocities of the past" and concern yourself more with the atrocities of the present. They are far worse.

  • stevie0064 - 2012-05-02 11:41

    We had more foreign investment under international sanctions than we do now under "freedom". Sure, we have come a long way, but how far have we fallen? And WHY have we fallen? Indulge your feel-good sentiment all you like, but please try to not let it pull the wool over your eyes.

  • Lauden Kirk - 2012-05-02 12:03

    Freedom to choose to go backward

  • Kevin - 2012-05-02 13:13

    What about blacks in townships who say that things were better in apartheid? Are they insane too? Anyway, News24 is getting really boring, it seems to just revolve around black/white issues and the Creation/Evolution debate!

  • Oarabile Ditire - 2012-05-03 16:32

    my father who had his share of the terror and humiliation that was inflicted upon those inferior human beings, reckons dat it's not dat entirely insane and idiot inda field of agriculture MAHIKENG some of da oldies think it was better 2 endure da cruelty of apartheid but it was somehow beneficial in a measure from vruburg to mafikeng all the land was ploughed nd growing crops in it by the black but now in new democracy this empty land is all useless

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