Freedom through the eyes of a “born free” journalist

 

“Born free” is what I am. A natural inheritance many South Africans, born after April 1994, received.

I was born into the arms of a new democracy after decades of struggles and oppression at the hands of a minority but what exactly does this all mean? I mean I’ve never been forced to make friends based solely on colour. I never had to walk around with an identity document (ID) that categorises me because of my appearance.  To be honest, I have never been subjected to any form of segregation and oppression. I have had the freedom to express myself, the freedom to get an equal education and I am are free to speak any language anywhere I like, I am are free to enjoy the same waves at the beach and to indulge in a diversity of religions, cultures and lifestyles. I am simply free. However, what many of my peers and I fail to appreciate though is what it took for us to be “born frees”.

A number of good men and women were imprisoned for large parts of their adult lives, a 13-year-old boy was shot while his peers protested in 1976 and 69 black protesters were shot down during a mass protest against “dompas” laws. That is just the tip of the iceberg of the struggle for freedom in this country. What it meant to be a “born free” finally occurred to me after watching Ahmed Kathrada: A man of all seasons recently. The documentary made me question whether I actually appreciate and value the freedom given to me post-1994.To be quite honest, I don’t actually appreciate and value my freedom the way I should. I recently graduated from university while studying for my second degree, and not once did it occur to me that it was not too long ago that the majority of this country’s people were not allowed to get a primary or secondary education.

So what am I doing with this freedom? Do I understand what it means to be a “born free”? As a writer in my personal capacity, I have the power to write and share my thoughts freely but am I using my freedom to its full potential? So I thought about it and being a “born free’” goes beyond the struggles that were fought for. It’s about seeing everyone as humans and not a colour or culture, it is about having the responsibility to contribute to the future of the country, to reform and build it to a level of the ideal of a rainbow nation.

In fulfilling the title of a “born free” I choose to express myself and hopefully make changes with the power of my pen and the skills I learn as a journalist. I can use the power of the pen to vote in those who have the same goals for South Africa as did Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Steve Biko and all those fallen heroes, I can use my freedom of expression and freedom of speech to make powerful statements against the wrongs of the country and I can indulge fully with appreciation in all the freedoms of this state and not exploit it but rather appreciate it.

Being a “born free” goes beyond the first “born free” generation and its dynamics are changing. That child who is growing up in poverty because the first lot of “born frees” cannot fulfil their responsibility of being a born free or do not know what to do with their freedom is depriving the future leaders of this country.

The dynamics of the born free generation have changed but the underlying issues that were fought against still exist. Gender inequality, racism, all kinds of discrimination, poverty, corruption as well as oppression. Not only physical oppression but oppression in the form of these issues as they are “segregating” us from fulfilling the rainbow nation ideal and reinstating the hope, faith and trust in us.

We need to step up as the born frees and follow in the footsteps of our leaders and lead this country into the freedom it once fought for. We need to make the change to transform this country, explore its horizons and fill in the gaps that have been left behind during our transition period from apartheid to democracy. We need leaders like that of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Steve Biko, Robert Sobukwe and the Hector Pieterson.