OUR CHER­ISHED FREE­DOMS

City Press asks young­sters who are now the same age as the coun­try’s democ­racy about the free­doms they cel­e­brate. They all be­lieve dreams can come true, writes Ndileka Lu­jabe

CityPress - - Front Page -

Ke­abet­soe Mokoena

was born in Pre­to­ria, Soshanguve, in my grand­mother El­iz­a­beth’s house. I had an amaz­ing up­bring­ing in a fam­ily full of love and re­spect. I learnt that, with­out love and sup­port in a fam­ily, noth­ing else mat­ters.

About three months ago, I landed a job at an in­sur­ance com­pany, and I have also just en­rolled at Unisa for a de­gree. Find­ing a job was hard. Some peo­ple in my gen­er­a­tion be­lieve that, by go­ing to school and ob­tain­ing a qual­i­fi­ca­tion, job op­por­tu­ni­ties will come rolling in with­out them hav­ing to look for them.

It’s the op­po­site. If one wants a job, one has to look. Put in the time and the ef­fort, and some­thing will come up. We ex­pect to start in the high­est po­si­tions, for­get­ting that we all have to start some­where. Start small, work hard and your ef­forts will be no­ticed.

Life as a born-free in the mid­dle class is all I know. Hav­ing the ti­tle “born-free” is very lib­er­at­ing and brings a sense of re­lief. But be­ing a mid­dle class born-free is dif­fi­cult if you let lazy peers’ voices get in­side your head – peers who do not see them­selves as be­ing as suc­cess­ful as you, or who find a way to put you down for try­ing to bet­ter your­self.

I’ve also re­alised that mis­ery needs com­pany and I can­not let that get to me. This is my own race to run.

Black tax hasn’t been much of a prob­lem for me. If any­thing, I find it amus­ing. Go­ing to my grand­mother’s house in the town­ship and find­ing un­cles and aunts who see me as an ATM re­ally does make me chuckle.

I don’t think I have more free­doms than oth­ers. The term ‘born-free’, which is one that we have been given, of­ten makes peo­ple feel en­ti­tled to a lot more than we ac­tu­ally have. The dif­fer­ence between my­self and some­one born in 1993 is just months – noth­ing more or less. We all need to work hard.

Free­dom is be­ing my­self in a coun­try that doesn’t find fault in me be­ing ex­actly that; it’s let­ting me make my own de­ci­sions with­out be­ing judged by my sex­ual pref­er­ence.

Be­ing a born-free means be­ing born in a time when grow­ing up black isn’t frowned upon. Grow­ing up black is grow­ing up in a rain­bow na­tion and a free coun­try.

I know the kind of life I want to live. My hopes and dreams are for a ful­fill­ing life. I’d like to be­come a stronger African woman who is suc­cess­ful in her own right, and I am go­ing to put ef­fort into it.

If go­ing to school is what I have to do, that’s ex­actly what I’ll do. If staying up late at night to fin­ish the tasks that need to be done is what I need to do, I’ll do that.

Only I am in charge of my life and if I sleep all the time, I might as well ac­cept my fate.

I would like gov­ern­ment to of­fer bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion to South Africa’s youth and bet­ter fund up­com­ing projects that seem promis­ing for the coun­try’s econ­omy.” was born in Soshanguve, Block BB. Grow­ing up wasn’t easy, but I en­joyed be­ing a child. I have two younger broth­ers and an el­der brother. I rarely got what I wished for, but I was an un­der­stand­ing child and knew there was no money avail­able. I used to eat lunch at school that was pro­vided by a feed­ing scheme when I had no lunch box or money. I used to walk a long dis­tance to school, but I still went be­cause my mother once told me that the only way to over­come poverty was to get an ed­u­ca­tion. My mother is the one from whom I learnt a lot of things, such as never giv­ing up. She started work­ing as a pro­fes­sional nurse at the age of 38. She was a do­mes­tic worker be­fore that. She paid for my ter­tiary stud­ies and de­nied her­self many things so that I could get a qual­i­fi­ca­tion and change my life. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to find a job a month after grad­u­at­ing. The job does not co­in­cide with what I stud­ied, but it was the first one to come up and I couldn’t re­ject it be­cause I know jobs are scarce. I am now mid­dle class. I am for­tu­nate and priv­i­leged, but not rich enough to be able to af­ford ev­ery­thing. It means I am grate­ful for the food on my ta­ble and the roof over my head. I know I will not al­ways get what I want. I don’t have an is­sue with black tax be­cause I be­lieve it is my re­spon­si­bil­ity to sup­port and in­vest in my fam­ily. I don’t be­lieve I must be paid back all the money I have spent, or will spend, on my fam­ily. To me, free­dom means hav­ing the right to choose my own po­lit­i­cal party, be­ing al­lowed to ques­tion how things are done by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, and be­ing al­lowed to ques­tion cor­rup­tion and nepo­tism, which is why many peo­ple are qual­i­fied yet un­em­ployed. How­ever, as a born-free, I know that free­dom comes with re­spon­si­bil­ity; I know I should not abuse or waste re­sources and fa­cil­i­ties in the name of free­dom, and that I should not say and do un­eth­i­cal and im­moral things be­cause I am born free. I want to be an author, a scriptwriter, have my own busi­ness and my own cloth­ing la­bel. I also want to be a ra­dio pre­sen­ter and an ac­tor, and I want a law de­gree. I be­lieve it’s pos­si­ble. I have worked hard putting my dreams into ac­tion: I vol­un­teered at a com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tion, I have a blog and I have re­cently started my own busi­ness called AfriEra, where I sell head­wraps in dif­fer­ent African prints. Next year, I’ll be reg­is­ter­ing at Unisa for a law de­gree. It might sound im­pos­si­ble, but I would love gov­ern­ment to al­low higher ed­u­ca­tion to be free. I want my sib­lings to go to univer­sity free of charge.”

PHOTO: DUDU MATHE­BULA

GO-GETTERS Ke­abet­soe Mokoena and Re­filoe Le­ballo are from Pre­to­ria and Emalahleni, re­spec­tively. Both are grad­u­ates and cur­rently live in Jo­han­nes­burg RE­SPON­SI­BLE

Le­bo­gang Nkha­belane

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