Home Opinion and Features Yearning for a future where freedom is a lived reality

Yearning for a future where freedom is a lived reality

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OPINION: As South Africa commemorates another Freedom Day, marking three decades since the first post-apartheid elections, it’s a moment to pause and reflect on the true essence of the national holiday, writes Rabbie Serumula.

By Rabbie Serumula

AS SOUTH Africa commemorates another Freedom Day, marking three decades since the first post-apartheid elections, it’s a moment to pause and reflect on the true essence of the national holiday.

For many, Freedom Day is a time of celebration marked by gatherings, ceremonies and speeches that highlight the progress made since the dawn of democracy. Yet, beneath the festivities, it’s crucial to acknowledge the challenges that persist, particularly for those living on the margins of society.

In informal settlements, where sanitation is scarce and unemployment rates soar, the cycle of poverty seems unbreakable from their cramped shanty town where families dwell in makeshift dwellings. Men and women rise before dawn for long commutes to low-paying jobs, often in precarious informal sectors where exploitation is rife. Children, their faces etched with innocence yet tinged with the weight of their circumstances, attend under-resourced schools, their futures uncertain in a landscape where opportunities are in short supply.

In the townships and urban centre streets, there exists a segment of the population for whom Freedom Day holds little significance beyond its date on the calendar. These individuals, living on the fringes of society, navigate their lives with a sense of resignation, where the promise of freedom remains a mirage. The harsh realities of poverty and inequality temper their dreams of a better life, along with those drowning in overcrowded apartment complexes.

For far too many South Africans, Freedom Day feels like just another day, especially for those who struggle to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck. For them, the promise of freedom often remains elusive, overshadowed by the daily grind of survival.

Today, the streets will bustle with activity, but beneath the surface lies the harsh reality of inequality, poverty and injustice that plague our society.

For these South Africans, the notion of freedom is entwined with economic liberation – the freedom to provide for their families, for secure decent housing and to access basic services such as health care and education. Yet, despite the end of apartheid, these freedoms remain elusive, obscured by systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality and marginalisation.

For these South Africans, Freedom Day is an annual reminder of the gap between promise and reality. While the nation celebrates its achievements, they grapple with the harsh truths of daily life – the struggle to put food on the table, the fear of crime and violence, and the pervasive sense of hopelessness that pervades their communities.

They may view Freedom Day with a sense of cynicism, but they continue to persevere, holding onto the hope that one day, true freedom will be within their grasp.

In the end, their lives tell tales of the work that remains unfinished in the quest for a free and equal South Africa. Until the promises of democracy are realised for all its citizens, Freedom Day will remain a hollow celebration for those who continue to live on the margins of society, yearning for a future where freedom is not just a dream, but a lived reality.

* Rabbie Serumula is an author, poet and commentator.

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