Freedom day Opinion piece: 27 years later, same system & tactics. Nothing has changed

South African National flag

Article by: Tebogo Edwin Lesoro

South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994, ending a cruel era of Apartheid. The world thought South Africa would smile again, however it has been over 20 years of democracy yet people are still oppressed. Racism is still experienced, unequal distribution of resources still exists and wealth is just a hearsay to the majority of South Africans. The tales of students protests aren’t different from those of two decades ago and the police of this same democratic era still use live ammunition during protests. One can say this is a Dejavu or better yet, it’s like we are watching a movie repeat with a much better picture and video quality. We can see things clearly now.

This leaves me asking myself questions: (1) Whether The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) failed to resolve the conflict between South Africans. (2) Whether the freedom charter was drafted and adopted for self-serving purposes or not. The Freedom Charter is adamant that “The doors of Learning shall be opened to all” and that “education shall be free” yet this is not the case. The process of adopting this Freedom Charter was seemingly unfruitful, as it looks like it is just a document shaped to keep students silent and give them false hope. The government talks about equal distribution of resources/ wealth and equal opportunities, yet what I see is the rich continuing to get richer and the poor are getting poorer.

Let me refresh your memory a bit;

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was created after the end of Apartheid under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act No 34 of 1995. The TRC was considered an integral component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa. Has the TRC worked? You be the Judge.

Twenty years after the end of apartheid, racism still thrives in the rainbow nation of South Africa. Despite many policies aimed at redressing the bitter legacy of Apartheid. Four students at the University of the Free State made a racist video that created an international uproar in 2008, while it was reported during the same year in April that black students at the University of Johannesburg had allegedly been assaulted by their white counterpart at the university bar. A documentary called luister was released on the 20th of August in 2015 which showed how black students were discriminated in the Stellenbosch University. A woman called Penny Sparrow called black people monkeys in January 2016.

The question remains, has the TRC failed to resolve the conflict between South Africans?

Parallels could be drawn between the 12th of August 1946,where African mine workers strike was led by Mr John Beaver (JB) Marks, a leader of the African mine workers union (AMWU) and the 2012 mine workers strike led by the president of  Association of Mine workers and Construction Union (AMCU), Joseph Mathunjwa. A strike was forcibly suppressed by the government during the strike of about 60 000 mine workers in 1946. According to 1946 official figures, 9 workers were killed while 1 248 were injured. 34 mine workers were killed during the 2012 mine workers wage strike. The Freedom Charter states that people shall share their country’s wealth but poor miners died wanting a share of what belonged to them.

The question remains, would we ever see equal share of resources and wealth or will the rich get richer and the poor become poorer?

Students from numerous schools in Soweto began to protest in the streets for better education system in 1976. It is estimated that 20 000 students took part in the protest. They were met with fierce police brutality. In 2015 a campaign called Fees must fall started. Students from different universities across the country started protests, calling for the reduction of university fees and free education, just like the students of 1976, they were also met with fierce police brutality.

The question remains, did they mean it in the Freedom Charter when they said “The doors of Learning shall be opened to all” and that “Education shall be free”. Was that just a way of keeping them silent??? That is the question yet to be answered.


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