The Union Buildings in Pretoria is a popular host of annual Freedom Day celebrations. But this year, the popular seat of government resembles a ghost town.
The usually plush lawns are unkept and the grass visibly growing. Perhaps proof that during the lockdown gardening is not part of essential services.
The eerie place is a microcosm of the entire country which is under a strict lockdown due to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. Hence this year’s Freedom Day is like no other.
However, a small group of disgruntled Khoisan people continued to camp in the makeshift tents in the distance. They have been here since 2018 demanding that the government recognise them as the first citizens of this country.
King Khoisan SA of the Khoisan says they have no reason to celebrate Freedom Day.
“Freedom Day is a very good day, but for us as the Khoisan people, we feel we are still not free. The laws that have been put show that government does not care about the freedom of the Khoisan people as the first nation. We are excluded in laws regarding land, equity on affirmative action and BEE.”
The lockdown regulations have disrupted life as we’ve known it. The tourists and members of the public are no longer seen hanging around the Union Buildings, taking pictures or filming their visits around the famous statue of Nelson Mandela – the man who led us to the freedom we celebrate today.
King Khoisan SA says the absence of international tourists to the Union Buildings has resulted in the disappearance of constant moral support and food supply.
“Yes, we do miss the tourists and everybody that came here. Their visit to South Africa includes visiting our tourists attraction spots and the Union Buildings to see the biggest statue that they have ever seen in the world – the Nelson Mandela statue which is a symbol to all South Africans. We also engaged with them and they take our story back to their countries.”
King Khoisan SA and six others have been camping on the Union Buildings lawns since November 2018. They want the government to further elevate their language to those frequently spoken and also do away with the phrase “coloureds” to classify them.
More on the Khoisan protest in the video below:
The group, however, says it is taking the necessary precautions to avoid contracting the deadly coronavirus.
“Well, we still adhere to call from the president by doing the simple rule of washing and sanitising our hands. But for us, it is more likely that other people can infect us than us infecting them. Because we would’ve already seen that already, as we live the outside life, but do not feel the effects. That means then that other people can easily make us contract the virus.”
Despite the funereal silence that prevails around the Union Buildings since the lockdown, King Khoisan SA and his group have vowed to stay here until the presidency accedes to their demands.
They see theirs equally as a truly long walk to freedom.