Rights, the economy, and the continent: Parties on Freedom Day during lockdown

South Africa celebrates Freedom Day on April 27.
South Africa celebrates Freedom Day on April 27.

As South Africa celebrated Freedom Day, political parties had messages for their followers about celebrating the historic day under the unique circumstances of the national lockdown.

'It is upon each of us'

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule marked the day by recognising the reason for Freedom Day.

"On this day 26 years ago, a government based on the will of the people was voted into power," Magashule said.

He said 27 April, 1994, remained etched in South Africa's collective memory as the year in which the process of reconstructing the country began in earnest.

Now, it faces a different challenge.

"We are marking Freedom Day at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is threatening the entire world. The pandemic left our government with no choice but to declare a national lockdown to restrict the movement of people, to halt the spread of the deadly virus."

He said the government consulted with all South Africans on these measures and continues to engage with the people on a daily basis.

"It is upon each one of us to continue to fight the spread of the coronavirus by adhering to the regulations and practising safe hygiene.

"We may be separated from one another, but we are united in our fight against Covid-19."

'Africa and South Africa'

EFF leader Julius Malema said South Africa was in a war against Covid-19, in which many had sacrificed their privileges, as the country celebrated Freedom Day during a nationwide lockdown.

Speaking at a Freedom Day rally on Monday, Malema said the historic day "comes at a time when we are going through great difficulty" in South Africa and around the globe.

"We fully support the lockdown because, unlike many other viruses and diseases, the coronavirus is a highly contagious disease which easily spreads from human to human and sometimes can infect people just by touching surfaces," Malema said.

He added: "The coronavirus outbreak has brought into sharp focus the economic, social and spatial inequalities that exist between black and white people in South Africa."

Malema emphasised that freedom will not be realised without the freedom of all African people.

"We will not win the war against the coronavirus here in South Africa while the rest of the continent and poor nations are losing the battle because we will achieve nothing."

He said it was a day that came to be known as Freedom Day "as it was a day that was meant to be the first step towards the liberation of our people. We must remember this day and celebrate its victories while also reflecting on its shortcomings".

'Freedoms must never be taken for granted'

In a short video on social media, leader of the DA, John Steenhuisen, said the celebration of Freedom Day under lockdown could give South Africans time to reflect on the importance of our freedoms.

He also said it was important that South Africans not allow the infringement of freedoms by the powers given to individuals during the emergency period.

"We must never allow the temporary to become the permanent, whether it's the use of armed forces, whether it's restrictions on movement... we need to acknowledge that these are temporary measures."

"In this time, when many of our freedoms have been limited to stop the spread of the virus, we now need to acknowledge that there are freedoms we must never ever take for granted," he said.

"We need to acknowledge that these are temporary measures and that we must never go back to a situation where those freedoms are infringed upon or impeded," Steenhuisen added.

'Social, economic justice'

The president of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Velenkosini Hlabisa, said the day was an opportunity to honour the sacrifices of the lives lost, and the livelihoods destroyed in the fight against apartheid.

"On this day, all South Africans must pay tribute to those who sought to fight and win our liberation and the freedoms we enjoy today, but are no longer with us to celebrate this milestone," Hlabisa said.

He added South Africa had made significant progress in entrenching democratic principles to ensure "political freedom, human rights and dignity for all".

This fight, however, must be met with social and economic justice, Hlabisa added.

"Freedom can only be thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated when social and economic justice becomes the new struggle this generation fights for in a post-apartheid, post-liberated South Africa.

"It is with the very same determination, sacrifice, persistence and unity in standing together, as South Africans, that it is possible to overcome the impossible when we work in unison. Let us all unite, like we know we can, to fight the spread of Covid-19," Hlabisa said.

'Economy, Mother Nature'

In its Freedom Day message, the Freedom Front Plus (FFP) called on the government to unlock the economy quicker, so that people could go back to work to earn an income.

"The FF Plus realises that action should not be taken too quickly, nor should the lockdown regulations be lifted too abruptly, but we should also guard against being too careful," the party added.

It said, however, that there was a positive side to the lockdown, which could create a new idea of freedom for Mother Nature.

"There is some benefit to the global lockdown process and that is that Mother Nature is getting a much-needed chance to recover from humankind's adverse effects on it.

"It is, thus, a golden opportunity to reflect on how important the natural environment is to humankind and the government should allow all nature conservation sectors to start operating again as part of the country's essential services."

It added: "There will come a time when South Africa is once again free from the restrictions that the coronavirus has placed on our freedom."

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