Category Archives: Alexis J Hyatt

(Un)Freedom Day in South Africa

(Un)Freedom Day in South Africa

Apr 25, 2010 Alexis J Hyatt

In commemoration of the first post-apartheid elections in South Africa on April 27, 1994, the public holiday Freedom Day is celebrated annually in the country. Freedom Day honors the day that national elections in South Africa became non-segregated, open to any person over the age of 18, regardless of race. Prior to this date, non-white citizens had only limited rights to vote, as mandated by the apartheid regime. But receiving the power to vote casts a dark shadow over the significance of Freedom Day, leading groups in South Africa to rally against celebrating a day that reminds them that their freedom is still truly in question.

The UnFreedom Movement

There are many in South Africa who feel that Freedom Day is a cruel joke which attempts to gloss over the true social concerns of citizens. Abahlali baseMjondolo, which means “shack dwellers” in isiZulu, is an intellectual movement formed in early 2005 in Durban, South Africa. To counteract Freedom Day, a day that actually reminds the poor in South Africa just how un-free they are, Abahlali spread the realities of UnFreedom Day through educational discussions, meetings and creative expression in films and music. UnFreedom Day has also begun to take on a positive meaning, a reminder of just how strong and united the movement has become.

The Successes of Abahlali baseMjondolo

Oppressed by their poverty and polarized by their government, the Abahlali have found strength in numbers as their active organization now comprises of tens of thousands of people from more than thirty settlements. The continued struggle to bring the government down to the level of the people is a reality that Abahlali take seriously and have triumphed in since their inception. Abahlali have found success on behalf of impoverished people by obtaining land and housing in the city, putting an end to forced evictions, gaining access to schools, improving sanitary and living conditions and supporting those stricken by illness.

Lessons and the Path to Real Freedom

With Abahlali being treated like criminals by officials in their home country, it is no wonder that the day they refer to as UnFreedom Day has such a deep meaning despite their activities all year round. All South Africans may be officially free to vote in government elections, but why vote for the system that ignores your human needs? It is the work of the Abahlali baseMjondolo that is improving the lives of the neglected peoples in South Africa. And with them, a beacon of hope shines brightest.

Read more at Suite101: (Un)Freedom Day in South Africa