Monday marks the 26th anniversary of the first democratic elections held on the 27 April 1994. 2020’s commemoration is different as the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, prohibits gatherings.
The theme for 2020 is “Solidarity and Triumph of the human spirit in these challenging times.”
Below is an inforgraphic on Freedom Day.
Happy #FreedomDay South Africa!
Today marks 26 years of freedom and democracy.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Tata Nelson Mandela
#UnitedInOurFreedom #StayHome pic.twitter.com/bsamU8eFeG
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) April 27, 2020
— NelsonMandela (@NelsonMandela) April 27, 2020
Many, if not all black South Africans, old enough to remember the era of apartheid rule, are marking this day with some sense of a painful memory. The police and the army are patrolling the streets to enforce the regulations and the requirement to have a permit to move from town to town or province to province are perhaps even more evocative.
Police Minister Bheki Cele has warned that there will be harsh consequences for those that don’t adhere to the regulations.
“There shall be no movement, to show that we are serious. It tells us that if you break these laws or regulations, you are six months in or fined or both. In KZN, two people have been already charged with attempted murder (after they) deliberately moved around after they (were) told that they don’t have to move around. So, it’s not a fairytale to say the law will act and act very harsh on you.”
In the video below, struggle veteran Lulamile Mati reflects on Freedom Day:
Freedom Day is usually an opportunity for South African to introspect or reflect on the hard-won political freedom. However, in 2020 an invisible and silent killer is the one compromising their health and freedom.
Political analyst Angelo Fick says COVID-19 has exposed the country’s strength and its shortcomings as a democracy.
“The COVID-19 crisis has revealed some of the inequalities that we have known for a long time and the spectacular level some of those inequalities are, at the level of healthcare provision and healthcare access. I think government’s response to this is the attempt to equal the field by providing testing services that are not just for voluntary wealthier middle-class neighbourhoods, hospital and the private sector, but actually rollout 28 000 healthcare workers. So, there has been some response by government.”
In the video below, lockdown mutes Freedom Day cheer in Mahikeng:
The relationship between citizens and law enforcement remains tense as cases of brutality, predominantly in previously disadvantaged areas, have become a norm since the start of the lockdown.
Fick says this is another revelation of inequality.
“In the security sector, we have seen a spectacular demonstration of what inequality looks like, in the most unequal society in South Africa, in which you have income inequality, as well as wealth inequality. What you are seeing in ordinary people’s experiences as working-class people of how security officers do it, those experiences are different from the way in which middle-class people experience this. It’s inconvenient to be stopped at a roadblock. It’s inconvenient to have all sorts of privations visited upon you as a middle class citizen. But it isn’t the same as having to bury a relative because they died at the hands of the national defence force.”
The pandemic has also highlighted the slow pace of service delivery in some areas, particularly access to water, which is an essential resource in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Local government expert, Tshepang Molale believes that access to water is a basic freedom.
“I would imagine that for a community in Madibogo Pan Village, as well as in Setlagole, those were for many years been battling with drought not having access to water. I think those communities, although they are happy that water tankers have been coming to their areas during this COVID-19 period, they would still want long-term sustainable solutions. Government must build reservoirs for the people. This is what freedom means.”
Government has encouraged South Africans to stay home and use Freedom Day as an opportunity to reflect on the progress the country has made through various online platforms with recorded messages.
In the video below, President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the Nation on Freedom Day.