IN SOUTH Africa the word freedom is widely used, yet in the same breath it is widely misunderstood.

IN SOUTH Africa the word freedom is widely used, yet in the same breath it is widely misunderstood.

We often hear talk of a "free South Africa", but does this mean that individuals are free to move in and out of the country without proper identification and documentation? or that individuals are free to move merchandise in and out of shops for free?

Can we ever truly appreciate what it means to be South Africans or what it really means to be free? Freedom is defined as being the absence of restriction, personal or civic liberty, and the power of self-determination.

South Africans are a unique phenomenon: born of suffering and raised in hardship, yet each possessing gravity-defying, awe-inspiring, infinite potential.

But do we use this potential?

People are very good at talking about freedom, but can they truthfully claim to be free when they are bound by shackles of ignorance and inertia? Or content with labelling themselves helpless and incapable when they are resigned to an existence of insignificance and stagnation?

Could they be the same people who were born of the same Eve that writhed in excruciating pain, shed her blood and yet withstood the torture of childbirth? The same proud mother - in this case being the struggle for total liberation - and keeper of our dynamic and democratic nation?

Can they really be born of the same motherland that propelled her daughter Charlize Theron to Hollywood superstardom?

Surely they cannot be born of the same land that reared a simple boy from rural Eastern Cape to lead a revolution and 27 years later heal a nation. Are they truly brothers and sisters to Madiba?

Are they really brethren of Joe Slovo, who rejected the privileges of his skin, shunned the comforts of his breeding and whose only reward was martyrdom? I say they, and not I, because I am descended from those whose warrior spirits ascended when the spear triumphed over the rifle!

We are descended from a Voortrekker tribe with ingenuity parallel to that of David against Goliath, when the concentration camps of the Anglo-Boer War pushed our tribe to the brink of extinction.

Clearly, we South Africans can optimise the very peak of human endeavour. We are a nation heavily pregnant with potential. Running through our veins is the same blood that was shed at Piet Retief, Elandslaagte, Blood River and Tweefontein. Embedded within us is the bravery of those whose bodies littered the streets of Sharpeville; those who dared raise a stone against an AK-47.

This is the foundation on which we aspire to build a legacy of responsibility and self-actualisation. This adversity forged our diversity. This is the Azania from which we all hail. This legacy is our duty to honour.

Author Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "The days come and go like muffled, veiled figures sent from a distant, friendly part. But they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."

For South Africa, freedom is that sacred gift!

lThe writer is reigning champion of the annualSowetan and Anglo-American Young Communicators Awards.