Happy Freedom Month!
Freedom Day marks arguably the most important date in the history of South Africa – the day our first democratic elections were held after a centuries-long history of oppression under colonialism and apartheid. On Wednesday, 27 April 1994, millions of joyful South Africans were for the first time in their lives given a voice; a chance to decide which political party they wanted to run their country.
While Freedom Day and Freedom Month are celebrated around this milestone, this should be much more than just a time of remembrance. Freedom cannot be seen solely as emancipation from an oppressive government – it should mean freedom from the lingering legacy of poverty, unemployment, inequality, racism, sexism and violence.The values and ideals of freedom are integrated into the supreme law of our country – the Constitution – and in the incorporated Bill of Rights, which promote the advancement of economic justice and social equality.
Freedom Month therefore affords all South Africans the opportunity to recognise and pledge to fight to protect these ideals. It is important that, in addition to the efforts being made by government, we build an active citizenry that will do whatever is within its power to achieve this aim.
This year Freedom Month is particularly significant because in 2018 we also mark the centenary of former President Nelson Mandela. On 18 July, Mandela would have turned 100 years old. As the man who stood at the forefront of creating our democratic country, Mandela was the embodying symbol of freedom in South Africa, and we should all seek to – in our own small ways – emulate his undying commitment to the cause. We urge all South Africans to join one of the celebrations taking place at local, provincial and national government levels.
The ideals of Freedom Month are intimately linked to the ideals laid out in the Freedom Charter – our country's most significant declaration on freedom.The document was compiled in 1955 by the ANC, after 50 000 volunteers were dispatched into townships to collect freedom demands from the people oppressed by apartheid government rule. Many of the demands made in the Charter are now enshrined in our Constitution, including nearly all demands for equality of race and language.
Although the charter was originally designed as a declaration against apartheid, its overriding message of freedom, including calls for equality, employment, education and land reformation, are still evident in many of the plans that national government is working to achieve today.
So, as the Freedom Charter states, let us as South Africans pledge to “strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage” to continue protecting our freedom.
Phumla Williams, GCIS Acting Director-General.