He had often spoken about appreciation for the freedom we attained.
My grandfather would say: “Fanie, (as he affectionately called me) life was very hard under the apartheid regime. You are more blessed to be young and free and live under this democracy that people died and fought for.”
He was onto something. Do we ever pause for a moment and realise the beauty of living in our country?
We have come far. Very far. And for a relatively young democracy such as ours, we have achieved many great things.
Growing up in a village is a curse and a blessing. It is a beautiful-ugly space to live in. Poverty screams in a loud voice. Sometimes I would go to school not knowing what I was going to have for lunch. However, so many things changed post-1994. School feeding schemes were introduced to ensure every child had a least one daily meal.
Another issue that has always been a huge problem is housing, especially for the poorest of the poor. When the rainy seasons kick in, their hearts sink. The many shacks and dilapidated houses in our village were usually flooded with rainwater. Winter was no different, it made many feel as though they had no shelter.
But through brilliant socio-economic policy frameworks like the Reconstruction and Development Programme, thousands got decent homes.
Our village had a communal water pump. People used to line up with plastic containers stacked in wheelbarrows in the late 1990s and early 2000s to get water. It was an exercise-and-a-half. Today, the whole village has running water.
Rampant corruption robs the poor of basic services, but to complain and not recognise the improvement in many impoverished South Africans' lives would be unfair. Our country is far better than it was pre-1994.
I look at how vocal and opinionated I am. Under the old government, I wouldn't have seen the light of day if I spoke out. But today, as a young black man, I can speak freely. I have the freedom of expression and the responsibility to not infringe on other people’s rights. Without that constitutional right and many other rights I enjoy, I would have been a jailbird a long time ago under the apartheid regime.
The fact is, I have rights my parents and grandparents never did. For that, I need to be grateful. Things are not as bad as they used to be. Even though we have a long way to go, we have a lot to celebrate.
Look at how domestic workers' sons and daughters have become world champions, chief executives, doctors, world-renowned musicians, chartered accountants, board members and more.
This is how black lives have made progress. Our excellence - suppressed and unrecognised for hundreds of years - is manifesting.
We are free of war.
Even nature is kind to us. Even as people die elsewhere from earthquakes, when we feel the earth quiver we know there will be no serious damage or loss of life.
We live in a beautiful country with multifaceted complexities. But none of that should take away the beauty of being a South African.
As my grandfather also emphasised, those in the Struggle fought a good fight, and to us born-frees, their efforts might seem insignificant. If that's the case then we, as a generation, have our work cut out. We have the responsibility to take the baton and make things even better for the next generation.
While there is still much to do, we are way better than we were before 1994.
That's a fact.
* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. E-mail [email protected], Twitter @KabeloJay, Facebook Kabelo Chabalala
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.