Category Archives: Freedom Day

Why We Continue to Struggle Rather than Celebrating Freedom on Mandela Day

17 July 2011

Revolutionary radicals recalcitrant in their reflective refusal to revere “freedom days” are dubbed as reactionaries by our “democratic state”.

by Reverend Mavuso Mbhekeseni, Rural Network

The South African calendar is full of days on which we are asked to celebrate our freedom. There is Human Rights Day, Freedom Day, Worker's Day, Youth Day, Mandela Day, Women's Day and Heritage Day. These days are turned to months. Those of us who refuse to celebrate these days and months as if the struggle is over and who insist that the struggle goes on are called reactionaries.

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M&G: A tale of two city struggles

A tale of two city struggles

The Social Justice Coalition’s (SJC) perfectly orchestrated march on Freedom Day for safe sanitation featured a long queue for the toilets at the Cape Town mayor’s offices.

The first thing I noticed was that most of the more than 2 000 marchers were children, which made sense — they are especially vulnerable to the heath dangers posed by inadequate sanitation. The second was that the handwritten placards all bore the same handwriting.

Third, most of the marchers had been bused in from Khayelitsha and were sporting SJC T-shirts. And fourth, the posters advertising the march competed in Adderly Street with those displaying ANC and DA candidates in the local government elections.

Clearly, a lot of resources had gone into the protest — about R200 000, according to some estimates. By contrast, on the same day Abahlali baseMjondolo Western Cape, another Khayelitsha-based organisation, held a shack fire summit in the township’s QQ informal settlement. This was to commemorate those who had lost their lives in shack fires and to launch a campaign for the electrification of shack settlements.

Only 100 people turned out, according to the Cape Times. Other estimates suggested 200. No buses here — most who made it to the Abahlali marquee arrived by their own means, some walking across the vast area that constitutes Khayelitsha to get there. But the SJC and Abahlali differ from each other in more than an unequal access to resources.

Last October, after the protracted civil servants’ strike, Abahlali Western Cape called for a nationwide “month of informal settlement strikes”. The organisation urged affiliates and non-affiliates to take to the streets and barricade them.

“Let us make the whole city of Cape Town ungovernable and let us create chaos throughout the city,” the organisation said. The action reportedly led to the damage of property and was strongly condemned by the SJC, the Treatment Action Campaign, Cosatu and Equal Education. Abahlali was made up of “self-styled revolutionaries” who attacked working people with stones, they said in a joint statement.

Upping the heat, the South African Communist Party later weighed in against Abahlali, calling the road blockades “anarchist and populist”. Abahlali replied: “When the SACP condemns us, it condemns the struggles of the people across the country.”

Back at the Cape Town Civic Centre on Freedom Day the marchers were efficiently marshalled into a snaking queue behind a gleaming porcelain toilet seat propped up on a makeshift stage. To one side was a line of rented toilets in case nature prevailed over symbolism.

After testimonials from Nosakhe Thethafuthi (who endured raw sewage in her yard for two years) and Makhosandile Qezo (who was robbed while relieving himself in the veld), the protestors handed over a memorandum and then watched a rap song about sanitation.

Then a sudden shower of rain sent the crowds scattering away from the courtyard into an adjoining square for shelter. One latecomer, who supported the protest action, commented on the apparent lack of crowd control. If Abahlali baseMjondolo had let a march descend into that kind of disorder, arrests would have been quick to follow, he said.

The standoff between the two organisations is not sitting well with activists. In February, members of both camps attended the Johannesburg conference that formed the Democratic Left Front.

“We mandated people in the Democratic Left Front to get the two organisations together to try to reconcile their differences,” said Martin Legassick, who is on the front’s national steering committee. “Abahlali was willing to do that, but SJC was not,” he said.

Mazibuko Jara, expelled from the SACP, now sits on the same committee as Legassick. The fact that there were differences over the strike did not mean friction between the two groups should be permanent, he said. Efforts to unite the two were continuing and there were some who identified with both formations, Jara said.

“The sharing of perspectives, resources and strategies would be of great benefit to both constituencies and would project a stronger voice to society,” he said.

Legassick added that, although there was a lot of militancy on the ground in the black and coloured townships of the Western Cape, resources were a setback in uniting the various struggles.

The Times: No freedom yet in stinking Zandspruit

No freedom yet in stinking Zandspruit
Apr 27, 2011 9:58 PM | By AMUKELANI CHAUKE and CALEB MELBY

Thania Moyo has to walk for five minutes through densely packed shacks to use a neighbourhood toilet in the yard of a family friend.

Though the 16-year-old was born in a democratic South Africa, she says she is not sure what freedom means.

Moyo has spent her life of “freedom” sharing a tiny shack with her parents and sister Samantha, 15, in the Zandspruit informal settlement, northwest of Johannesburg.

“Life is tough for us. If I want to use the toilet at night, I must leave our shack and walk to my neighbour on the other side,” she said yesterday.

“It is not always safe because it is sometimes dark when the street lights are not working.”

For the past few weeks, residents have burned tyres and blockaded roads in protest against the lack of toilets and sewerage, drains, roads, refuse collection and electricity.

The area was calm yesterday. There was a heavy police presence and a police helicopter flew over the shacks.

“I cannot explain what Freedom Day means, but I don’t think this is it,” Moyo said.

“The government should build houses with toilets in the area because there is no privacy here.”

Across the settlement, David Majozi celebrated Freedom Day sick and unemployed.

The clinic in Zandspruit was closed for the holiday.

“The clinic is one of the hardest problems we face,” said Majozi, who has lived in the settlement for 27 years. “It is understaffed. It is too small.

“When it is open, the queue stretches forever. Even if you are very sick, they tell you ‘Go home; come back tomorrow’.”

Both of Majozi’s eyes are infected, and a bulbous tumour protrudes below his left eye.

He is one of many Zandspruit residents who feel disillusioned about the democracy that was to have made life better.

The sewerage cap at the clinic, like so many pipes throughout Zandspruit, leaks grey water into nearby shacks and onto the road, forming a stream that fills the paths between homes, and flows under the floor of some houses.

Some residents have placed bricks across their floors and paths to allow them to walk without stepping into the muck.

The streams run down to a reservoir that separates the informal settlement from neighbouring middle-class suburbs such as Honeydew and Sonnedal.

Danie Tsabo, who lives in a shack with his wife and four children, says toilets are in such high demand that some of his neighbours have padlocked theirs so that they have sole use of them.

As he spoke, Tsabo stared at a photograph of a house belonging to his former employer, who left South Africa in 2002.

“Even if I don’t get this house, I dream that one day I can move to a decent house with my family,” he said.

Christina Ralane applied for a house in 1996: “We are promised houses and nothing . but empty promises. Nothing gets better. ”

The Times: Liberation – A broken covenant–A-broken-covenant

Liberation: A broken covenant

April 27, 2011 9:19 PM | By As told to Sipho Masondo

I don’t see the benefits of freedom, but I hope they will come in my lifetime. I love freedom, but for now it means bloody empty promises. I still have to s*** in such a toilet [a “ventilated improved pit” toilet] and have no privacy in my house.

I’m an old man now and I struggle to walk, but I will take the long walk to Freedom Square with you. My sons, Herbert and Joseph, are now married and have moved out. My oldest son, Herbert, has bought a house in Eldorado Park; Joseph bought one in Zola.

I wish they could buy me a house because clearly this government is failing. I don’t know why they have not bought me a house and I’m scared to ask them. I’m old now and will probably go the way of all flesh soon. My heart’s one desire is to move out of this shack into a house.

I was a youngster, about 16, when I arrived here in Kliptown in 1952 from Sophiatown, where the boere had forcibly removed us, dumping us here and in Meadowlands. All the shacks that you see here were not here. This was a football field when I got here. This is where Kaizer Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung and Chippa Moloi played.

Those were tough days. We were very scared of white people. As youngsters, we were not allowed to be seen in a group of more than three people. I remember the day before the drafting of the Freedom Charter: we were chased by the police and one of my friends, Gabriel Jacobs, disappeared. And I never saw him again until this day.

On June 26 1955 this whole area was abuzz. I was not at the drafting itself; I was with other young guys looking out for the police.

Thank God, when they came and raided us the charter had already been drafted.

There was a tree right here – it’s where it all happened. No one in their wildest dream would have dreamed that this place would be like this today.

But the Kliptown you see today is different. On the other side of the railway line is a modern Kliptown, where there is progress, with the government having spent about R300-million to give the area a face-lift. There is a four-star Holiday Inn, underground parking, shops, good roads and houses. That side is strictly for tourists.

But where we live is rotten. My heart sinks when I cross the railway line. On our side there are streams of dirty and smelly water running around our shacks; there is no electricity. We use communal taps and toilets. We don’t have houses.

In the early ’60s, a friend and I were arrested by the Kliptown police for loitering. We were detained for three weeks. While inside, we were woken up for a cold shower at 4am every day and it was winter. We were made to run barefoot on very rough concrete. If we complained, we were thumped with batons.

In those days, a black person was nothing, to be honest. I remember at [a company] in Maraisburg where I worked there was a manager … he was a dog, he didn’t like black people. He saw us as labourers and not as human beings.

In June 1976 very few people managed to go to work. The whole township was up in smoke. I remember, right here in Kliptown, we found a boy with nails all over his body. Burned tyres were all that remained around his burnt body.

When [Nelson] Mandela was released in 1990 I was very happy because I had last seen him in Kliptown in 1955. Mandela has helped us a lot. Though I’m not free in other ways, I can feel freedom in my blood. My soul is free, and it’s like I’m in a new world.

We are in a democracy, and had it not been for 1994 I don’t know where we would be.

I will still vote for the ANC anyway; after all, I get an old-age grant from them.

The government has done a lot in other places, but nothing here. They must say if they will give us services, or it they won’t. We want water, electricity, houses like everyone else. They shouldn’t run around; we need to know.

We are probably the last set of shacks in Soweto. You will be surprised that some people here still use the bucket system, which the government promised to get rid of in 2007. If they tell us that they will not do anything for us, better still, we will die in peace knowing that they care less about us.”

Are We All Free This Freedom Day?

20 April 2011

Are We All Free This Freedom Day?

by Hunadi Ralebipi

Johannesburg — To those who were not part of the struggle for freedom, you might not understand the painful joy that filled South Africans on 27 April 1994. It was like a butterfly setting free from its cocoon, struggling to be free so that it may experience the radiance of the sun on its colourful back. It was not easy but it was worth it. South Africans pushed till the day they flapped their wings and felt the element of freedom, a South Africa for all.

Freedom Day, 27 April, is a day when all South Africans are reminded of the pain, struggle and anguish that occurred as a result of colonialism and oppression. It is a day when we were set free from the historical ties of domination by the “white man”.

Almost 20 million South Africans queued to take part in the country’s first free and democratic elections on that day in 1994. It was the first non-racial election to take place in South Africa, finally setting its citizens free from colonialism.

On Freedom Day we commemorate the heroes and heroines who shed blood and lost lives making South Africa a country for all, where we all live in harmony irrespective of our race, nationality, sex, creed or sexual orientation. Freedom Day is meant to remind us that South Africans are “one people with one destiny.”

But is this true?

Are we as South Africans all free when people still live each day in fear of being violated, where citizens live in poverty and without jobs, where women fight to be heard and represented and where gays and lesbians are raped and murdered?

Is this a South Africa we voted for?

We have come a long way in a short time but freedom should mean much more.

Freedom should mean emancipation from poverty, unemployment, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. Freedom should mean a better life for all.

Abahlali baseMjondolo, an intellectual movement formed in 2005 in Durban, reminds us that “there are many South Africans who feel like the freedom they are meant to have is a cruel joke which attempts to gloss over the true social concerns of citizens.

“This day actually reminds us how un-free we are. All South Africans may be officially free to vote in government elections, but why vote for a system that ignores your human need?”

The Gini index ranks global inequalities of wealth and has consistently ranked South Africa as one of the most unequal nations on the planet. The gap between rich and poor is not shrinking.

And through all the successes that South Africa has witnessed and continues to celebrate, gender inequality remains a major problem. Women and men do not receive the same treatment and acknowledgement in the corporate world and in the societies they belong to. There is a gap that still needs to be filled in order for women to say “we are free from oppression and discrimination”.

Traditional African cultures once clearly stipulated different roles of men and women in society. Boys and girls grew up having specific roles that were assigned to a particular sex: boys hunting and girls cooking. From an early age females were victims of injustice and girls grew up knowing that they had to work hard in order to find husbands who will care for them. By today’s standards, this culture was unfair to women.

In many ways South Africa is one of the few African countries really pushing for gender equality. The government has found it important to promote a range of policies and legislation that stand to benefit women. Because of this, South Africa is at number three in the world in terms of gender equality in national government.

At the same time, South Africa is also at the top of the list of countries where violence against women is the most extreme and common. Recent Gender Links research in Gauteng found that three quarters of men have admitted to perpetrating violence against women in their lifetime – many of them have raped women more than once.

When can we celebrate a day where we will be freed from this violence and celebrate equal rights for all? How will true liberty ever reach our soil?

My father used to recite a poem by Charles Osgood that was a bit silly but also thought-provoking.

“There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

Change begins with you.

It is time we stop putting responsibility on others and instead begin trying to make a difference within our societies. There are some inspiring examples of this. Women and men are fighting for change today, all across the Middle East.

Our own example may be the most inspiring.

There is no easy road to freedom, Nelson Mandela said in his speech. As we celebrate South Africa’s 17th year of freedom let’s keep in mind that some of us are still fighting a battle to be free. Until that battle is won, none of us have truly seen freedom.