WATCH: No freedom for children, women and farmworkers – Roegshanda Pascoe
Cape Town – Still under witness protection two years after testifying in the murder trial of Cape Flats gangsters, activist Roegshanda Pascoe and her family have little freedom of movement.
They are always aware that their lives are at risk of gangsters who have threatened to kill Pascoe and her family.
Regardless, Pascoe, is still involved in helping to uplift people’s lives on the Cape Flats and provide support amid rampant poverty, gender-based violence and crime, with communities constantly at risk due to gang-related shootings.
With Freedom Day being celebrated in South Africa today, she emphatically states that there is no freedom for children and women. ’’We haven’t achieved freedom for any child, any woman in this country and, holistically, for humanity.
’’Some people perceive that they are free because they have a bit more, and have money. I see us all as having no freedom because as long as we are locked up behind high fences and security gates and we can’t take a walk in the park without being worried about being mugged or raped, we cannot claim that we are free.’’
Her spirit and approach to life haven’t been constrained by the circumstances she finds herself in. First and foremost, she believes freedom most come from within.
’’No political party will ever bring freedom. Freedom must be in your spirit, that is one thing I believe and that is why I don’ support political parties,’’ she says.
“Our people need to remember that they were once earthly people who lived close to the earth. Their compass in life has been to connect to the earth and now that has been taken away from them more and more, with them moving to cities and becoming more materialistic.
’’They are losing out on their way in life and selling out on their freedom, their heritage. If you are preoccupied with accumulating wealth, you have sold your identity, because with that corruption follows. Many negative things follow in the pursuit of wealth at the expense of others.’’
Pascoe became an activist at the age of 13 and that is where she started finding answers about the conditions in which she and her family had to live in, while her mother was stilling her pain with alcohol. She became aware of the legacy of the country’s transitions from slavery to colonisation to apartheid.
’’That is where I got an understanding of the history of where we come from. I had to accept the fact that we were being fostered by my grandparents. My mother didn’t want to take care of us and there was no father figure.
“So I had an issue with parents that don’t take ownership and opt for the easy way out through alcohol and drugs? That led me to colonisation and how it came about and gave me empathy towards my parents, who sought an exit to their pain. I as an individual had to take ownership of my own situation from an early age; how I was going to act and react to the things that are affecting me.’’
The freedom for women and children aside, Pascoe highlights the plight of farmworkers.
’’’I have a lot of respect for farmworkers because my maternal grandparents' parents were all labourers on farms. They have never really been recognised for the contribution they brought in shaping and building this country.
’’As an activist, I am only going to accept freedom has arrived when our farmworkers are able to say I am in a house of my own, I am earning a decent salary and I am as equal as any other person. This country has never given freedom to the soil feeders of this earth. How can we then celebrate freedom?’’
* Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #UnmuteFreedom and read more on our Freedom Day campaign here.