We asked these South Africans what it means to be free

On 27 April, South Africa will be celebrating 22 years of democracy as we commemorate Freedom day. A liberated South Africa means more opportunities, financial freedom and better education for the majority of its citizens… Or does it? MBALI ZWANE and KWAZI DLAMINI asked a few South Africans whether they truly feel free.

Mzwandile KathiMzwandile Khati, 30, journalist
Even though I’ve never experienced apartheid, I can say I’m free now because I can move around freely without being asked for a dompas. I can exercise my freedom of speech even through social media without having to worry about being censored. There are a lot of opportunities for black people compared to the pre-1994 era. Freedom Day means reflecting on the history of our country. It’s important for everyone to celebrate the day because of where we come from as a nation while realising the long road we still need to travel in order to achieve equality.

Emily SejakeEmily Sejake, 49, domestic worker
I’m walking now and I’m not carrying any form of identification in case I get stopped by police. I can go anywhere I want to and that for me, is freedom. I don’t need to ask officials to grant me access to certain places, if I can afford to go, I do exactly that without answering to anybody. While many of us celebrate Freedom Day by spending time with family or spring-cleaning our houses, it’s vital to take a minute and think about those who fought for this freedom and those who put their lives on the line. You don’t have to go out of your way to celebrate their lives, just take a minute and send blessings to their families.

Bathabile MbuliBathabile Mbuli, 29, caterer
Everyone is able to do what they want to do when they want to and don’t have to answer to any officials about their whereabouts. Although there’s still more that needs to be done, we’re not doing too badly. I think the government can do more to curb the poverty, crime and unemployment then we’ll be a step closer to being economically free as well. It’s important for young people to know our history and how far we’ve come and I think this day is a good start for parents to teach their young ones. Maybe that will motivate them to be even better people.

Masibonge MkukuMasibonge Mkuku, 23, doctor, Montclair
Freedom day, to me, it means celebrating the making of history by our freedom fighters. It is the greatest day in the history of our country. I am free, but that is my personal feeling. I cannot talk for others, but because of what I have achieved I can safely say I see the results of the new South Africa. Under the apartheid government I could not have been able to practise medicine – I was not going to be able to go to varsity and get a qualification. I think education was and still is the most crucial tool we were denied by the apartheid government. My problem has always been education; the government must do something to get more black young people to higher education because most of them come from poor backgrounds.

Beleme MahlabeBeleme Mahlabe, 26, unemployed
Freedom means being free to do whatever it is that you want to do. We are free because we can go wherever we want and live where we can afford to without government telling you anything. However, I do think economically, we don’t have as much freedom because it’s still us the black people that are mostly at the bottom and are still struggling. The government needs to put more effort into creating opportunities for young people, like learnerships and employment.

Mabusi TshekelaMabusi Tshekela, 22, student, Mpumalanga
On Freedom Day we are celebrating the new South Africa, supposedly new opportunities. I don’t feel free to be honest, but I appreciate what the freedom fighters did for us. Don’t get me wrong, but the problem is that after we got that freedom, the government should have come up with strategies to uplift the black child because we were already behind in terms of finance and education. I graduated last week and I was using NSFAS but I did not get my qualification because NSFAS did not pay all my fees. Now I’m sitting with no qualification in my hand but with knowledge. It was part of our freedom that got me to varsity but it left me in debt.

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

Featured image by Ra’eesa Pather