The real meaning of Freedom Day unpacked ... and beyond propaganda

Members of the Ubuhle Besintu Cultural Group perform in Carltonville. It is vital for South Africans to dialogue about the importance of Freedom Day, says the writer.
Members of the Ubuhle Besintu Cultural Group perform in Carltonville. It is vital for South Africans to dialogue about the importance of Freedom Day, says the writer.
Image: Masi Losi

It is only a week after we commemorated Freedom Day. A few people went to be addressed by politicians at a rally or two.

Everywhere in the world people reach a point where they take national days for granted. Workers generally view a public holiday as a day to rest. Lovers of meat see it as an opportunity to braai.

It would indeed be unreasonable to expect all South Africans to flock to rallies to show their appreciation for Freedom Day. What we must do is to dialogue about what the day means. We don't need to be told by politicians what to think about Freedom Day. We, ordinary citizens in our small communities, must express our own understanding of the day.

Given the noisiness of our country's politics today, it has become almost impossible for us to reflect objectively on the state of our society. People tend to position themselves around extremes. It is either-or.

The truth is that South Africa today is far better than it was before 1994. This does not mean we now live in the land of milk and honey. Such a nirvana is the stuff of fiction. The reality is that South Africa today is a combination of the good and the bad. The good includes important things that look simple and small.

The fact that a black person can vote is not as simple as it appears. Thousands of freedom fighters lost their lives fighting for you and I to vote.

Racists among us would like the world to believe that things have gone to the dogs after 1994. What they don't tell the world is that millions of black people in rural South Africa now have electricity and clean running water. To racists this is not important. But to black people this is a better life.

Before 1994, a black person driving a flashy car would be stopped by the police to ask where he got the money to buy the car. This is no longer the case, thanks to April 27.

Most of these good things happened under the ANC government. We must give credit where it is due. To pretend as if the government did not improve the lives of black and white people after 1994 would be a big lie.

But the post-1994 story does not end there. There are important things the ANC has failed to do, like job creation and education.

At every election the ANC has been promising jobs. There was even a time when at every State of the Nation Address we would be promised a specific number of jobs. When it became clear that the jobs would never come, the language changed to "job opportunities".

The truth is that the ANC does not know how to create jobs. Almost all the ministers who run our government have never operated a spaza shop. How could such people know how to build a factory to employ people?

There are many dunces in our cabinet these days who would never be employed in any serious work environment. In normal life, what do you think Bathabile Dlamini can do? What kind of a real job do you think Nathi Mthethwa can do - cleaning?

The other most important area of ANC failure is education. Black schools that performed better under apartheid have almost collapsed, and millions of young black people continue to be spat out by a dysfunctioning public education system. If we don't fix education, the black nation has no future.

The politicians who addressed rallies on April 27 will not tell you what you have just read. But it is true. Such is the real meaning of Freedom Day - beyond propaganda.

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