How can we celebrate freedom when we’re in such deep trouble?
Damage is so serious that we need to focus on that rather than be wistful about a society that doesn’t exist
If you want warm and fuzzy feelings on this cold Freedom Day, do not read beyond this sentence. It will spoil your mood. You have been duly warned. I could not sleep last night because I dreaded the prospect of writing about Freedom Day. I scanned the blogosphere to see what others had to say in the hope of affirming my trepidation that I should not write what I am inclined to. Alas, my addiction to writing honestly (which is not to say you must agree with the conclusions I reach or the route to them) compelled me to sit down and explain myself.
The gap between the ideal of freedom and our empirical reality is so huge in SA that there is not much to be very excited about on Freedom Day. That, in a nutshell, is the state of our nation. Almost half the population is unemployed (https://www.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=1856&PPN=P0211&SCH=72945). Millions of citizens rely on social grants to live but do not have enough to flourish. Inequality (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/03/09/new-world-bank-report-assesses-sources-of-inequality-in-five-countries-in-southern-africa?_ga=2.110249421.91013998.1651054966-958520426.1537937526) is now so bad that frankly we are overdue for a prolonged popular uprising by those living under conditions of extreme poverty, who have to gawk at the rest of us living outside the worst aspects of an African National Congress-run state that is ineffectual and rapacious.
The overall picture is worse still. Most people restrict themselves to trotting out data about unemployment, poverty, inequality and sluggish growth when explaining why we are in trouble. Those are sufficient reasons to fear for the future of our democracy. In reality, there are other truths that render our overall state nightmarish. It is a pity that the Zondo reports into state capture have not yet been completed because the full institutional impact of the state capture years must be properly grasped by all of us. Not only were billions stolen from state coffers, but key institutions were intentionally repurposed to enable perpetual theft. This means, practically, that even if every criminal guilty of corruption were nabbed tomorrow, our democracy would still be in peril because we need major repair work to be done on many parts of the state. That has not happened yet and many of the criminals are still operating within the system, not held legally and morally accountable for damaging the foundations of our democracy, quite apart from eating at the trough...