Long queues at the Muizenberg Pavillion voting station during South Africa's first democratic election in 1994. Picture: Independent Media Archives
Long queues at the Muizenberg Pavillion voting station during South Africa's first democratic election in 1994. Picture: Independent Media Archives

Why not scrap this Unfreedom Day from the calendar until true freedom has been attained?

By David Letsoalo Time of article published Apr 25, 2021

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On Tuesday, the country will once again be on a pause as the nation is expected to celebrate what the ANC government, with full confidence, calls Freedom Day.

The vexing question is whether this day is, in all honesty, worth celebrating. It’s about time we searched our conscious minds and hearts as we reflect on this issue. What is freedom? Have we attained it, realistically speaking?

These questions need to be answered objectively, without being constrained by the incessant narrative and rhetoric of the “rainbow” dispensation. Obviously, some individuals and entities do benefit from this scheme that punts the illusionary free society.

A mythical notion of the “rainbow nation” was therefore constructed, exploiting the hype surrounding the April 1994 arrangement that catapulted Nelson Mandela to the settler-colonial and apartheid seat of power, the Union Buildings.

What is freedom? A good answer to this question should tell us whether we should celebrate this day or not. If the answer is in the negative, the best that we can do as a way of spending this “holiday” is to commemorate the day as a mark of the moment when the dreams of the oppressed were betrayed on the cross (pun intended).

I am sure the oppressors, who benefited from the colonial conquest and apartheid, will have all the reasons to celebrate the legitimisation and guarantee of their ill-gotten privileges. And some of these apartheid beneficiaries, who should have rotten in jail, do celebrate the real freedom after avoiding the cells following the “hugging, loving and kissing” extended to them, ironically, by those who suffered from their torturous and murderous evil acts during the whites-only, apartheid government of the Broederbond and FW de Klerk’s National Party.

Mzwakhe Mbuli’s poignant belly-deep emotional cry about the deceitful rainbow nation that says ‘Iqiniso liyababa” (truth hurts) is worth an attentive ear. Therein, he makes the painful observation that: “I have never seen other races at the back of the truck wearing blue overalls except mine, I have never seen other races living in squatter camps except mine, I have never seen children of other races learning under trees except mine”. So the harrowingly painful rendition goes on and on. This is not a new discovery, as it is indeed a black person’s experience in this country. Why? But Mbuli says, “Impilo injani, ayikhomnadi” (life is bad).

The truth is never polite, it hurts. So, the painful truth in South Africa is that April 27 did not usher in the realisation of the ideals of the freedom struggle for the Afrikan masses who suffered genocide, racial exploitation and exclusion in their own land.

And when the likes of apartheid’s last president, FW de Klerk, remain unrepentant and adamantly maintain that “apartheid is not a crime against humanity”, this should be enough to touch a raw nerve in any right-thinking black person in Azania.

However, the erstwhile liberation movement, the ANC, ensconced in the white-settler and apartheid house (still called the Union Buildings), does not seem to be moved by such painful realities. The pathos-ridden rigmarole witnessed at the rainbow house of Parliament last year, at the state of the nation address, have left a haunting imprint on our minds.

The EFF had called for FW de Klerk to be removed from Parliament on account of his callous and insensitive words. But the ANC would have none of it and, perhaps with not-so-startling ferocity, defended him, so that he could enjoy the rainbow parliamentary proceedings.

Perhaps FW de Klerk’s defiant attitude should be understood from the Broad Church (ANC) perspective. After all, this is the man who the white world awarded a “prestigious” Nobel Peace Prize, and the ANC did not see anything untoward when their leader, Nelson Mandela, shared the prize as a co-recipient. Indeed, a debilitating oppressor-oppressed consortium that tragically signifies the costly price of peace and reconciliation.

True freedom can realistically only be measured with reference to the menu of ideals of the freedom struggle. The post-1994 government’s delivery of freedom to the masses should, for instance, be measured by the high standards of the revolutionary template left by the likes of ex-Burkina Faso president, Thomas Sankara.

I have repeatedly lamented the fact that the ANC has not implemented the ideals enshrined in its own document, the Freedom Charter.

The question remains: Why is the ANC reluctant to implement the struggle ideals? In the absence of any explanation, the only reasonable inference can be related to unwillingness to upset the imperialists and hurt the feelings of the white minority, which is still clinging to its ill-gotten privileges in this neo-colonial or neo-apartheid state. By extension, therefore, we are talking about the party that is in political office, but not really in power.

A government led by an erstwhile liberation movement would have been expected to be inspired by the revolutionary example set by the likes of Sankara. In fact, the revolutionary leader of Guinea Bissau, Amilcar Cabral, had warned us all that “the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head” (such as the rhetoric of freedom slogans and electoral promises).

The people, he continued, “want to win material benefits … to guarantee the future of their children”. I know that the ANC leadership knows about this piece of revolutionary wisdom.

While Sankara changed his country’s colonial name of French Upper Volta to Burkina Faso (the land of upright people) and rewrote the national anthem, the post-1994 government of the ANC is yet to implement the freedom ideals enshrined in its own Freedom Charter, has failed to rename the white-settler colonial name of South Africa Azania, still sings Die Stem with gusto as its national anthem, and discharges its political mandate from the offices of the oppressor (unashamedly still called the Union Buildings).

We know that the false dream, lies and rhetoric of freedom will be punted on Tuesday with celebrations of this Unfreedom Day. Our people are still shackled to oppression, exploitation, indignity and suffering in the rainbow system that legitimises their dispossession, their economic and cultural exclusion.

For the umpteenth time, they will be reminded to yet again vote in the local government elections later this year. This, in the context of the unabated farm evictions, retrenchments, labour brokerage and undignified food parcel and social grants dependency.

It must, however, be acknowledged that the rainbow Constitution has gifted the beneficiaries of colonialism and apartheid freedom in various ways, including cultural, economic and political freedom. They also have a country within the country in the form of Orania.

But the governing party is still beholden to the former oppressors in various ways. Its internal ructions, which point to proxy wars in terms of which external forces have captured their leaders, unfortunately do not bode well for the struggle ideal to attain true liberation.

It thus defies logic for the oppressed and the unfree to expect freedom from an unfree (captured) organisation. Therefore, in search of true freedom for the people, true cadres of the ANC (if they are still around) need to free the ANC from its factions and captors, and return it to the ANC. Yes, return the ANC to the ANC!

With all this said, why not scrap this Unfreedom Day from the calendar until true freedom has been attained? After 27 years, a radical shift is necessary if we are serious about true freedom.

By the way, April 27 marks the day of the passing of Pan-Africanist liberation hero, Kwame Nkrumah, in 1972. What a searing irony of coincidence!

* David Letsoalo is a Sankarist, an activist and a law academic.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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