Prevailing socio-economic and political conditions are stumbling blocks to freedom.

‘Born-frees’ refers to those of us born after the fall of apartheid in 1994. 

The born-free generation makes up a large percentage of the population of South Africa. According to Statistics South Africa’s 2019 mid-year estimates, the 18 – 34 age group constitutes 35.1% of the population.

One would expect that the majority are either studying in tertiary institutions or already working.

Ideally, this generation should be the most likely to be educated and employed because of the development measures established by the government such as the Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy, the New Growth Path or even the National Development Plan (NDP).

However, such strategies seem to have failed if one considers the steadily increasing unemployment rate among young adults. 

According to the Living Conditions Survey conducted in 2016, people aged 18 years and older experienced high levels of poverty, with a percentage of 49,2%. 

The data released by Statistics SA in the first quarter of 2019 showed that young people between 18 and 34 accounted for 63.4% of unemployed persons. 

Youth unemployment “has a negative impact on economic growth and productivity”, according to HR Pulse, a website for human resources professionals. “There is a risk of loss of talent and skills, since a great amount of university graduates are unable to find a job and put their knowledge and capabilities into producing innovation and contributing to economic growth,” the website reported.

Economic inequality and racial discrimination are the common dominant factors that persist in our society.

As a born-free, I may not have experienced apartheid segregation and may have escaped acts of political violence, but I am familiar with the effects of inequality and have encountered racial prejudice.

When I took a gap year in 2016, I barely lasted a week in a company I was working for in Germiston. I felt discriminated against and humiliated when I was told not to use the microwave oven because “black people do not clean after use”. Being dirty was a trait associated with people of colour, and it felt like an assault on my humanity. 

As a born-free, I am most disillusioned by the incompetent political deceivers who have failed to deliver what they have promised for 26 years. This can be seen in the increasing levels of poverty, poor educational structures and the persisting economic inequalities that young people face.

The World Bank Group confirmed in 2018 that “South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, with consumption inequality having increased since 1994.”  These are real barriers that hinder born-frees from tasting the fruits of their inherited liberation. 

Their dissatisfaction has been evident in various protests such as that against Pretoria Girls High School’s racist policies about black hair and the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements. These protests revealed that the rainbow nation has not been achieved yet.

The lesson from such protests is that, as born-frees we cannot afford to outsource the struggle against poverty, inequality and racism. After all, it is our freedom that is at stake.

FEATURE IMAGE: Zikhona Klaas, a student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: File