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‘Unfree’ in their own land, 29 years later

28 April 2023

Cape Town - As the nation marked 29 years of freedom on Thursday, many South Africans did not feel “free”, while the “working class and the poor have been side-lined to the periphery” over the past three decades.

Freedom Day is the commemoration of the first democratic election in South Africa on April 27, 1994, in which anyone could vote regardless of race.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) noted that the right to freedom was curtailed by the danger of moving around.


“In an era where there is rampant lawlessness and where women and children are not free to walk or play outside their homes without fear of being accosted by criminal elements, the country as a whole needs to reflect on the value of freedom, especially in poorer communities where people cannot afford private security.

“Our criminal justice system is not geared to protect ordinary people and many criminals are left to terrorise communities unimpeded by law enforcement officials. Safety and social harmony is key to realising and exercising many rights and freedoms,” the Sahrc said.

The chapter nine institution also noted that voter turnout had drastically dropped from 77.3% in 2009, to 73.5% in 2014 to 66.1% in 2019, urging South Africans to participate in next year’s elections.

Trade federation, Cosatu said the benefits of democracy “have only accrued more to the rich and have created a new elite from the former oppressed”.

Cosatu spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla said: “The working class and the poor have been side-lined to the periphery.

Most of the qualitative government programs that started by promising benefits to the poor and when they are implemented have benefited the rich.

Unemployment-induced poverty is the dominant form of poverty in South Africa. The lack of access to land and the incapacity of the state to expropriate land has frustrated and slowed down economic transformation.

Twenty-nine years later, many South Africans are starting to ask whether our government is in power or in office.

We now know that it is possible for a party of the working class to win the elections and assume political office, without that in any way altering the fact that political power remains in the hands of the capitalist class.

“We should not tire to remind them that the Struggle was not about converting our organisations into weapons to pave the way for better tenders for the selected few. There is a distinction between being in office and being in power.”

Jayphee March, 20, from Manenberg, said for an unemployed youth it was not easy to get by, as the country still had a long way to go amid persisting poor socio-economic conditions.

“In my community there are many people that are unemployed.

Sometimes a person wants to do more with their life but they don’t get the opportunity to do it. People don’t have houses, many live in poor conditions in informal structures. My dream is for us as young people to be uplifted,” he said.

Source: Cape Times

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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