This is what my freedom means, what does it mean for you?
“Twenty-three years into our [South Africa’s] freedom and people can still complain; that is a sign of a very good democracy and a government that listens to its people.” These are the words of Ayanda Dlodlo, South Africa’s newly appointed Minister of Communications illustrating what freedom means to her.
She was speaking ahead of the commemoration of Freedom Day, celebrated on the 27th April in South Africa in remembrance of the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994. The elections were the first non-racial national elections.
The Minister was hosting a dialogue with learners from various schools in Gauteng about what freedom means to them. In her address she remembered that as a young black woman living in apartheid South Africa, she, like many other freedom fighters, were forced to drop their studies and livelihoods and join the armed movement, living in bushes, carrying a rifle for protection.
“I did that for you… but you did not get this freedom, which was a result of the hard work, sweat, fear and tears, from us alone. Many people from all over the world sacrificed a lot for the freedom that you enjoy today,” said Dlodlo.
One such person, Minister Dlodlo points out was Sven Olof Palme, a Swedish Social Democratic Politician, Statesman and Prime Minister. “A white man that had nothing to do with South Africa, lost his life so that you and I could sit in this auditorium today and deliberate about what freedom means to all of us.”
The event took place at one of South Africa’s award-winning heritage sites, Liliesleaf, which has been described as “the nerve centre of the liberation movement”, a place of refuge for leaders including Nelson Mandela.
The purpose of the dialogue was to start on-going discussions with South Africans on what it means to Own your freedom. It should also cover areas that are working well and equally as well as those areas that South Africans feel are not working well and would like to see improvements from Government and Corporate South Africa, revealed Dlodlo.
The students who were invited to be a part of the dialogue, shared their concerns on the new South Africa, many of which spoke to issues of race, corruption and marginalisation of certain groups.
The Minister appealed to the youth; “while there are many problems in South Africa, I would implore you not to concentrate on those problems but to concentrate on this which you have, that none of us can take away from you, your freedom; let that frame the discussions”.
That’s not all.
It serves as a voice to the voiceless. Now, 23 years after democracy, they experience remarkable freedom of speech, a right enshrined in the Constitution.
Presented by Comedian Lihle Msimang, and directed by David Kau, the documentary offers insights on some of South Africa’s biggest issues including, State Capture, education, the economy and the future of the country.
It may have taken 23 years but initiatives like this ensure the dialogue about South Africa and freedom never dies, that government institutions listen and continue to enforce the freedoms which were fought for.