Soweto residents haave mixed views about whether we can celebrate freedom. They concede however that the day is worth celebrating because it commemorates a new beginning for South Africa. UYANDA SIYOUTULA spoke to people in Soweto to find out what freedom means to them. Photos by THAPELO MAJITA
To be free is to have the freedom Tata Madiba gave us after apartheid. I can’t really say I am free, there is no security, there’s a lot of crime, house breaking, drugs and the police are not doing their job. At home, my brothers are into drugs, alcohol and it happens every weekend, but when we call the police, they never help; they say its family business. Freedom means free education, jobs and not being afraid to walk in the streets. But now there are Nyaope boys who mug us at night, where is the freedom there, we living in fear. They (Government) still owe us, they promised our parents houses but they still do not have; its young people who get houses because they can bribe. For me we are still where we were, 20 years was enough for changes, but they just delayed. The only thing that happened in this freedom was for white and black people to live together, but other things did not change as the government had promised.
Freedom is the rights we now have, we are able to do a lot of things that we could not do. Like before there were no malls nearby, we had to buy in town, but now it’s only a walk away. I am free because I have a proper place to stay and a lot of people have houses. What liberates a person is the government and what it gives people. Others get RDP houses, others get social grants and the government is really helping us. Freedom Day reminds me of the day we got freedom, when Tata was released from jail. I am voting for ANC because I have always voted for it and we are where we are because of it.
We do have freedom. The only problem is that our leaders do not fulfil their promises, like with jobs and corruption. Freedom means I have access to do anything but it’s hard because we do not have jobs and money. I got my freedom in 2000 when I got a house here but before then, I did not have. When I think of my father during apartheid, it’s painful. The police used to beat us time and again, looking for him; we even had to change our surname. Freedom Day reminds me of the first day I voted, I thought there would be more changes than there are now. Maybe it’s because I am not qualified enough, maybe that’s why I ended up as a driver but others who are more qualified are living well.
Freedom is very important because you are free to do a lot of things. During apartheid you could not go where you like or sit where only white people are supposed to sit because you would get arrested. Even at a train station, there were platforms that were for white people only. We are free now and the government has done good things, it is just this crime that is killing us. Freedom Day means we must forget all the bad things that happened and be free in everything we do. On this day, people were happy to have a new government because we never thought we would have a black government. I will vote for ANC because it fought for our freedom.
Freedom comes with fun and responsibility, you can’t say now I am free and kill yourself. Mmmh! we are free and not. Black people are free because we could not sit in parks and do other things but economically we are not. A lot of white people have money, and they have huge houses, better education and as blacks we cannot afford those things. There is no equality. We are not there yet, we need better leaders. It’s like a Quantum (taxi), I think the driver is the problem but the rest of the car is fine. So I want the same party but a new leader who is more educated and open minded. Even the art industry in the country is not recognised, they are not doing anything to liberate us. It is hard for us as artist to make it, where as in America they are making millions. I celebrate Freedom Day in Newtown, at the Back to the City event, where we all gather as different races and classes and just be free, have fun, express ourselves and give back to our parents who fought for this freedom.
Freedom is a good thing. We do not have to carry passes anymore because if you did not have a permit you would get arrested. Whether you were speaking the truth or not you would get arrested, so we could not speak anyhow. A lot has changed, people have houses now, but there are no jobs though. I am happy when I think of Freedom Day because when I remember where we come from, there are a lot of things to celebrate. People are no longer just arrested like before. It is a special day, there are people who died for our freedom, and some of our kids are still missing. I have to vote for the ANC because there is no other party that gave us freedom, but it, we are still waiting on it to do more.
A lot of people do not know what freedom is because nobody explained it. That is why there is confusion; people are wanting this and that because freedom has been misinterpreted. To me, when you are free, you should be able to go to the school you want, do the business you want, choose where to live. But as blacks, we do not have the means and support system, I want to get into business but there is no capital or help from the government, everywhere I go the doors are not opening, you have to bribe for you to get what we want these days, for everything. So physically we have freedom to go wherever we want, but psychologically we are not free. As black people we lack information, nobody told us that this is what to expect from the different government departments. For example people do not know what the Department of Human settlement does so how will they know when it is failing to deliver. So such lack of information is not freedom. In 1994 on Freedom Day I remember I went to vote for the first time. It was easy those days, we were driven by love, passion, our anger was turned into joy. People are not enthusiastic to vote now, they have lost hope, and they do not see what they are voting for, all because the benefits of freedom were not clearly explained. However, people need to know that voting is very important and I encourage them to go out in numbers.