It has been 66 years since the Freedom Charter was adopted on 26 June, 1955, and the words of “freedom and liberty” enshrined in the charter which were a pledge to South Africans, have simply become empty promises.
Soweto resident Mbulelo Mpongwana said Freedom Day reflected “political freedom” and SA was not where it should “truly” be in terms of freedom.
In terms of political freedom, I can say now at least we have a right to vote and choose which political party we want. But as for other gains like economic emancipation, healthcare, education, housing, I am afraid to say we have regressed, partly due to the incompetence of cadre deployment and largely due to corruption,” he said.
According to Mpongwana, the 28 years of “freedom” since the dawn of democracy in 1994, had taught South Africans not to trust the current government, especially when it came to finding a job, looking at the dire state of the country and economy.
With a lot of corruption, which also shows people employing relatives and friends, excluding those who qualified on merit,” he said.
When asked about the Freedom Charter, which states in part “all people shall be entitled to take part in the administration of the country”, Mpongwana said it resonated with him most because it was just one of the aims which were not fulfilled and nothing was achievable without economic justice.
He added that although the floods in KwaZulu-Natal could be blamed on climate change, it was also a symptomatic outcome of years of neglect of infrastructure investment and maintenance. Political analyst Prof André Duvenhage said democracy came with a lot of misconceptions and expectations.
According to Duvenhage, democracy was about one’s right to choose your own government and to exercise economic, political and social freedom.
However, there were factors that were more important in contributing to a better life, other than political freedom.
The purpose of the Freedom Charter, said Duvenhage, was to create a better life and future for all living in South Africa.
But what people had at the moment was far from the aim of the charter.
“What is currently going on here is the lack of order and stability. The social, economic and political order of this country is falling apart,” he said.
“The state is also falling apart, where we have some people also protecting that very same failed state and we are far behind from what the founders of the Freedom Charter initially had in mind.”
Katlehong resident Sipho Lukele said despite the excitement and heart-warming feeling of the freedom to cast his first ballot in 1994, today he viewed the day as a normal one, with great disappointment at having been failed by the current government.
“People are not fully free and what is outlined in the Freedom Charter is not fully embraced by the current government,” he said. “Our government keeps recycling corrupt leaders into power and, at times, one feels failed by the current leadership.”
Soweto resident Siyabonga Dlangalala said as a young person, there was not much to celebrate on Freedom Day because young people were still highly unemployed.
“We are politically free, to have views and opinions, to get an education and so on, but all that freedom is nothing if we do not have economic freedom,” he said.
Dlangalala said “true freedom” also meant people should be able to trust in the government during crises like floods and pandemics.
In this light, it was “safe to say” it was not the case in South Africa.
“This, to me, says that the government still has a lot of work to do and has to do it at a faster pace than they have in the past 28 years,” he said.
Vosloorus resident Lindiwe Mkhize said, as a black woman in SA, the Freedom Charter stipulating that “men and women of all races shall receive equal pay for equal work” had failed to put or appoint women in the positions occupied by men for a long time since 1994.
“As a woman, I feel we haven’t been given a platform to express ourselves when it comes to holding senior managerial positions in big businesses.
Young women need to exercise their freedom rights by being given opportunities to govern and lead the country to success,” she said.
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