As the country marks 28 years since the dawn of democracy in South Africa, the Institute for Reconciliation and Justice (IJR) says Freedom Day is very aspirational and that the belief of most South Africans is that they are not free which stems from continuing corruption and the inequality and poverty that they are living in.
The IJR said until South Africans can be honest and true with each other and that there is a lack of corruption in South Africa, there will be a barrier to reconciliation which is also a barrier to true freedom.
It said South Africans also need to feel safe at home and that individuals, communities, leaders and govenment must uphold the dignity of others irrespective of race, religion or culture.
Freedom Day on 27 April commemorates the first democratic elections in the country, which signalled the fall of the apartheid government and gave rise to the country’s first black president Nelson Mandela.
Several political parties will be marking this day with their supporters as they reflect on the country’s journey beyond liberation.
Speaking to The Citizen, Felicity Harrison, Head of Sustained Dialogues at the IJR said according to their data and the South African Reconciliation Barometer, corruption is one of the leading causes of not being truly free.
“With corruption, the plethora of evidence that we have seen coming to the Zondo Commission and other inquiries is enough for us to start instituting criminal prosecutions and I believe that that’s moving from saying that we’re going to end corruption is necessary, but not sufficient and we have to see action following those kinds of statements.”
Harrison said there must be committed actions from individuals and the political will from government to actually make a difference in South Africa.
“One of the most important aspects is around the prosecution of apartheid criminals. The TRC made recommendations where there’s evidence of criminal activity, of crimes against humanity of torture against people who were in the apartheid regime and yet our government has not had the political will at this stage to go ahead and prosecute those crimes.”
Harrison said South Africa is at a stage where it could have been further into democracy.
“We have also come far. It took 400 years for us to get to the point of getting to democracy. Hopefully it won’t take 400 years to get our freedom. But I do think that we have to understand that it took centuries to build in racism and discrimination into our institutions.
However, that is an excuse or for civil society to sit back and do nothing, we have to do as much as we can, with what we can, when we can. So, we could have been further, but we still got a long way to go. I would venture to say it will take at least another generation until we see the kind of freedom that people fought and died for,” said Harrison.
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