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Wednesday marks 28 years since South Africa became a democratic country; 27 April should be a day celebrated by everyone.
It should be a day when the government reminds all citizens of the miracle which happened despite the threat of a civil war, the political violence and the racial tensions.
The country should be celebrating that a new country was born. Instead, five national election cycles later, a spirit of pessimism permeates every facet of life.
Crime, political instability, electricity blackouts and government corruption have become the norm.
And as the economy was still stumbling out of pandemic havoc, mother nature unleashed devastating floods on the country’s second-most populous province.
No doubt, some will continue with Freedom Day celebrations, while KwaZulu-Natal mourns.
But even without the floods, any celebrations this year will have the feeling of hosting a party while a neighbour is in mourning.
This year’s Freedom Day should be about hitting the reset button.
Painful as the effects of the KZN floods are, they should be used to mark the beginning of a new consciousness about, among other things: the reality of climate change, the failure to build and maintain proper infrastructure and haphazard town planning.
Freedom Day needs to be rescued from the politicians
Last Friday, Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso walked out of a parliamentary oversight meeting after the standing committee on public accounts chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa took offence at her remark that the national power utility was “in a mess because of the ANC-led Tuesday 12 26 April 2022 government”.
He accused Mavuso of political theatrics and asked her to step out.
After all the analysis is done, everyone agrees Mavuso is right. Why, then, was she asked to leave?
Because even though the government did, indeed, mess up the power utility, it will not stand for it to be pointed out publicly, because that would be the equivalent of being shamed publicly.
It is theatrics, not an obvious truth. The KZN floods and the electricity blackouts – euphemistically called load shedding – have something in common: lack of vision, maintenance and proper planning by government.
It has been repeated ad nauseam that in 1996, the then Eskom board told the ANC-led government the country’s electricity generating capacity would not be sufficient for the country’s needs by 2006.
Government did nothing, panicked too late and attempted to erect power stations at the eleventh hour; 25 years afterwards, Mavuso is thrown out of a meeting for pointing that out.
Instead of celebrating this Freedom Day, the government – particularly the ruling party – should do some introspection.
Every process of fixing whatever is broken must start with the admission of what went wrong.
This is not for its political opponents, but to make it clear to citizens that it knows and accepts what is wrong.
It’s been said the ruling party will self-correct when the country hits rock bottom because then there will be nowhere else left to go but up.
Well, more than 400 lives were lost in the KZN floods; at any given point in time there is an electricity blackout somewhere in South Africa.
Rock bottom is not where everything is broken. The country is experiencing parts of rock bottom now and 27 April doesn’t really feel free for many people.