On Freedom Day, Tuesday April 27, I was supposed to celebrate the most important day in my daughter’s life – her birthday.
But I could not – for many reasons, top of the list being work.
I had to attend a Freedom Day event that did not materialise and the failure made me think how significant the day was. But it also made me realise that not everyone enjoys the day anymore, and that its meaning had been somewhat eroded.
I did not blame the organisers of the event but I thought of the pain experienced by many poor people in the 27 years of freedom since our first democratic elections.
I felt the pain of people who have been in shacks for more than 30 years, people who voted with the hope of changing their plight but for many of them it became worse.
It has been 27 years of broken promises for many. Twenty-seven years of hardship with a chosen few prospering.
For someone who has attended Freedom Day events every year I can attest that they have never been different from political rallies.
There were instances where I asked myself what exactly they were celebrating. But I reminded myself that voting was a milestone that needed to be celebrated. Defeating apartheid needed to be celebrated.
We have to celebrate that. The truth is our government has done much damage to its people and economy. There’s been more corruption cases than community development. There’s been too much self enrichment through state-owned entities than building hospitals, universities, building houses for the poor, maintaining roads.
In the 27 years there’s been more talk of looting state coffers than building a better life for all.
What we know best is the name changing of Apartheid roads and buildings. But where are our own buildings and roads that we have built?
The country has neglected its people because they do not belong to their political parties. Education has been made useless. We are the only country that gives marks to children who are sitting at home for as long as they are registered at school.
While I will never wish to go back to Apartheid, under that satanic government there were universities and hospitals even though we could not go to the ones reserved for white people.
They built railways, hospitals, schools and towns. Today driving along N2 all you see is shacks. The railway lines have been stripped and have stopped working. South African Airways is has been grounded. Township roads are not serviced. Overflowing drains is a normal thing. The destruction of halls and schools has been normalised. The building of shacks everywhere is a sign that we are sitting on a ticking time bomb.
It is a sign that we are far from being free. But obviously free to ruin our own country.
We’ve seen unrest and pandemonium.
What is freedom if something as simple as a street cannot be kept in order? We are a rich country with all the resources but who gains from them? We have neglected our culture and heritage.
Heritage sites like District 6 are on the verge of collapse but why, when we have what we call a people’s government?
If you ask me what the achievements of my government are, I would tell you it has created a few fatcats. It has managed to distance people from their cultures and created more gangsters and criminals.
The sad part is that young people do not care.
I drove past ePakini in Khayelitsha on the same day and Carwash in Mfuleni. It was a nice off day for many young and monied young people. They parked their nice cars, enjoying themselves with meat and drinks.
I wish the next Freedom Day will be different from this year’s one. I hope by then we will have done away with the tender system and political deployment to positions that need qualified individuals.
I wish we will focus more on building universities and hospitals than changing the names of streets and buildings.
I wish young people from rural areas who were born after 2004 would know the meaning of freedom.
Build bridges for those who cross deep rivers or build schools near them so that they can enjoy freedom too.