A Wits University professor receives the Order of Mapungubwe.
An exhibition by IRTQA is the first of its kind at the Constitutional Hill, showcasing the identity of the ‘headscarf’ for women in South Africa.
April 27th is celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa, marking the anniversary of the first non-racial elections after the fall of apartheid.Wits Vuvuzela takes a look at the many meanings of freedom.
Advocate George Bizos, 87, has been rushed to hospital after falling and hitting his head at the University of the Witwatersrand. (more…)
Students weigh in on the Constitutional Court’s judgement on President Jacob Zuma regarding Nkandla, in an attempt to “defend democracy”.
This year South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy. For some this is cause for celebration. For others, it’s a reminder of how we’ve failed. But take a moment, and ask what this really means and answer honestly to whether or not we really have reason to be so upset.
While no one can argue that South Africa still has long way to go and there definitely are things that should be fixed in our system, isn’t it true that our country is still in its infancy?
It’s easy to focus on the negative, especially with everything that’s happened in the last few months. Our government has let us down, our president has let us down, and it all makes us feel like our ideal of a true rainbow nation can never be achieved.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I can promise you, neither will South Africa. Think about the friends and colleagues you have now, about your Friday night parties or Saturday afternoon braais – we all complain about the same ANC-related problems. And isn’t that, using a certain twisted logic, exactly what it means to be free? Your black friend who brought the pap didn’t make it because you ordered him to – he brought it because he knew you’d like it. Your white boss isn’t yelling at you because of your colour, he’s probably doing it because you did something wrong. And when you fall in love with someone who has a different skin colour, you don’t have to worry about a law keeping you from expressing that love.
This all may sound dreamy and romanticised, but the Apartheid regime wasn’t taken down because of logistics; it was pure humanity that fueled that need. We seem to sometimes forget that South Africa has to rebuild itself and become a completely new nation.
We have to work hard to scrub away what we’ve broken down to make way for the new things we are erecting. We seem to forget that the struggles of 20 years ago is in the past, and the goal of what they wanted to achieve was reached. What we should remember is that there was a certain layer of human issues we had to get rid of before we can really start building towards the future. Isn’t that now?
[pullquote]This all may sound dreamy and romanticised, but the Apartheid regime wasn’t taken down because of logistics; it was pure humanity that fueled that need[/pullquote]
Education, poverty, housing, water supply and safety should of course not be forgotten or downplayed, given the seriousness of these needs. The fact that many people are not receiving basic education or electricity or water is horrible, but it’s also got nothing to do with freedom. We can stare at the facts and the stats all day and say that we’re not free in the sense we should be. But we can also choose to look at them differently and say that we’re not at war (in any way), or hiding from extremists who’ll kill us for our point of view; we’re not bound by laws that take away our rights, or forces us to make decisions. We can choose what we want to do – which is the definition of being free.
Like I said, it’s easy to focus on the negative (a lot easier than on the positive), but 20 years into our democracy we have to remember that all the things that aren’t right, all the logistical issues in our country that we have to fix, and all the problems areas that make it seem like we’re not a nation standing together is not a ‘freedom’ problem. We’re all struggling under a government that doesn’t deliver.
We’re all plagued by the same things we want fixed.
The real hard work may only really begin now. But it means we’re moving forward. We’re going somewhere good, and South Africans of all colour, gender, race and ethnicity have endless choices along the way they’re allowed to make.
And that, my friends, is freedom.
As South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy, the question of how free a country we are remains up in the air. For some, their lives haven’t changed all that much. They can still go wherever they want without question, pick and choose where they go to school, get a good education and generally speaking, live a nice, comfortable life.
But for many- in fact, most, this is not the case. While apartheid laws may have fallen away, the majority of South Africans still live in poverty, do not receive free and quality education and do have access to basic, fundamental rights, including healthcare, safety and security, and housing.
Achievements and failures of SA post-apartheid
Economically speaking, the government has built up its economic policies, but let’s be honest, how much worse could it possibly get than it was during apartheid, when the international community was placing sanctions on South Africa left, right and centre? For the sake of positivity and “looking forward”, let’s just say that our economy is doing relatively well on the whole.
[pullquote]How can I celebrate Freedom Day when so many of my generation didn’t get the opportunities that I did?[/pullquote]
When it comes to education, on the other hand, the ANC-led government has failed abysmally. In 2011, the Department of Basic Education released a report in which it stated the following statistics:
-3 544 schools do not have electricity.
-2 402 schools have no water supply.
-913 do not have any ablution facilities while 11 450 schools are still using pit latrine toilets.
-Over 400 schools in the Eastern Cape are classified as “mud-schools”, many of them consisting of mud and shacks.
While our Constitution prescribes a free and equal education for all, the government has failed to deliver, and, after fighting for almost six years, the minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga finally signed a legally binding document called the Minimum Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. She has been given exactly one year to ensure that these norms and standards are applied to every (government) school in the country.
Despite that small achievement, the issue of a lack of qualified potential employees still remains. An inadequate education system has led to a generation who lack the skills and ability to further their education and many have become reliant on government hand-outs. As well as affecting individuals, this will in time have a negative effect on the economy, when we are not able to compete globally.
Dozens of NGOs continue to fight for basic fundamental rights, especially in the township areas. In these areas, home invasions, theft, gangsterism, rape and murder are rife. Residents have to walk for several kilometres to go to the toilet and sometimes, those late night trips result in violent attacks and crime sprees.
[pullquote]Apartheid may have ended 20 years ago, but South Africa still has a long way to go before we can feel free to celebrate freedom.[/pullquote]
Then there’s public service and the healthcare system. HIV/AIDS has become the number one killer across Africa in the past two decades and South Africa is no exception. While anti-retrovirals (ARVs) have become readily available to those who need it, a lack of education, a stigma attached to the illness and inadequate public service delivery (largely due to corruption) hinder the entire process and people continue to die, untreated, on a daily basis.
Inequality, the biggest problem of them all
Finally, there’s the issue of inequality. As a white- middle-class student I am not actively affected by it. I have all I need and probably always will. But, as a registered voter in this year’s elections and a proud South African, I see and feel the effects of inequality every single day. How can I celebrate Freedom Day when so many of my generation didn’t get the opportunities that I did? When I’ve visited schools with 100 children in a class? When my childhood home is just kilometres away from a township? When I look into the face of a homeless man, woman or child at every traffic light I drive through?
All of these reasons (and many, many more) make it difficult to feel as if we are a truly free, equal and democratic society. Apartheid may have ended 20 years ago, but South Africa still has a long way to go before we can feel free to celebrate freedom.
Lodi Mothiba was born into a democracy, April 27, 1994. Like every other young adult who grew up in post-Apartheid South Africa, this 20 year old was granted freedom and has never experienced the level of oppression previous generations endured during Apartheid.
Mothiba grew up in Polokwane, Limpopo. She is the eldest of three children. She had to overcome tragedy with the loss of her father during her preliminary matric exams in 2012. “Trial was the hardest thing on the planet… Trial was horrible.” She tried not to think about it too much and managed to matriculate with distinctions at the end of the year.
She received a partial bursary from PWC and will complete her articles after she qualifies with her BAccSci degree. Currently she is studying at Wits and hopes to achieve her dream of becoming a chartered accountant one day.
Mothiba has an interest in drama and enjoys reading, riding her bike and swimming, “I’m one of the few black people that enjoys swimming,” she joked.
She agreed to be interviewed to highlight her views on democracy, as a born-free.
When you were growing up, were you conscious of the significance of your birthday?
I don’t think it matters. I didn’t think of it as the day black people were allowed to vote for the first time, for me it was just my birthday.
Did you have a diverse group of friends?
Yes definitely, my best friend was white. My whole range of friends were just like the rainbow nation.
Do you notice colour?
No, not at all… Well I notice it, of course you definitely notice it. But it doesn’t faze me at all.
What about the guys you date?
No, not even hey. I haven’t dated a guy that’s not black, come to think of it. But I don’t mind. I think white guys are really hot, honestly, I do. I’d date a white guy.
What are some of the frustrating things about our democracy, what should be done?
I don’t know if something can be done. I didn’t even register to vote. Because when you vote for someone you believe that they are in a position of trust. Our political parties are not adequate, there’s too much corruption. I don’t think I can vote for anyone. Even if I registered to vote, it would have just been an obligation to me.
Don’t you think people judge you for that?
They do, they definitely do. They say, “You’re a citizen. You shouldn’t complain.” But I won’t complain. When I look at these parties, I don’t know who to turn to. You vote for someone you believe will hold the country together, you trust them to do something good.
Do you think you are being irresponsible by not voting?
I feel like it is irresponsible. I guess it’s a good thing to vote because it shows that you care about your country. But I don’t know, I still think even if I registered, I still would not have gone to vote. A lot of my friends didn’t register to vote either. There’s nothing pushing me to go.
Do you think many people born post-apartheid are indifferent about our democracy?
Yes, I think a lot of us are indifferent. My friends really just don’t care. We don’t think so much about what happened in the past. I don’t know if it should affect us though. I think we should move on. I know people like saying you have to know where you come from to know where you going.
What about the argument that we need to redress the wrongs of the past? Can we move on without redressing those wrongs?
Yes, we should redress the wrongs of the past. I guess it makes sense to look at the past and see the mistakes that we made and fix them. But dwelling on the past, that’s what I’m against. People blame many things on apartheid.
What is your worst stereotype?
A stereotype that I hate, that we all have even if we don’t say it, and I feel bad for saying it now; but if there is a white lecturer or a black lecturer- I’d rather have a white lecturer. It happens though. It does. We’ve been programmed in our heads to think white is superior and it’s horrible.
What message do you want to give older people about the born free generation?
That’s actually a hard question, I don’t know. I can’t advise older people… Take time to understand how we think, I feel like a whole lot of older people don’t understand how we think and most parents just close their children in and most of the time, those are the kids who rebel.
What kind of democracy do you want for South Africa?
A democracy where the people actually have a voice and one where there is lessened corruption or no corruption at all. We should care more often. I’m going against what I’ve done, but we should at least register to vote and show that we care. We should show some interest in your country, and not be indifferent.
We should be more patriotic. We can’t just be about this brain drain life, where we study here and then just leave and go overseas. We will always complain that South Africa is not developing right but who do we expect to develop it if we are not the ones taking a stance and actually doing something about it.