... but let us guard it and deepen it
Yes, we have our political freedom, but this cannot mask the reality of poverty, sky-high unemployment and vast inequality. Too many people still live in dehumanising conditions after 23 years in a “free” South Africa.
With unemployment levels of close to 40%, especially among young people, socioeconomic conditions are especially grim.
This is why the ground is fertile for demagogues and charlatans who promise quick fix solutions – be they politicians, con men or fake pastors.
Economic inequality is further accentuated by its racial underpinnings as most white people are still much better off than black people, many of whom live in informal settlements and whose children do not have the opportunity to go to good schools. The sick are also forced to put up with long queues and poor service at health facilities. The better-off are able to opt for private care.
Our economic situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future. The weak and corrupt leadership of President Jacob Zuma has led to South Africa being downgraded to junk status. The full effect of this has yet to be felt, but the prospects of any substantive economic growth have been dimmed and will further hurt the poor.
The current administration is the worst since the birth of our democracy. Not only has Zuma used the public purse for his own benefit, he has actively helped a single family capture and plunder state resources. He is a one-man wrecking ball who has damaged the economy and the fabric of our democracy.
On Zuma’s watch, our freedom has been imperilled – the state has been increasingly securitised; there has been a move towards secrecy and the politicisation of the security services; and militias loyal to the president publicly threaten his opponents.
As we mark Freedom Day, let us be conscious of the road we still have to walk and be aware of those who want to squeeze into our democratic space.