In the late 1980s, a group of anti-apartheid organisations came together to form the Five Freedoms Forum (FFF). Their aim was to fight against apartheid with a focus on ensuring that a democratic dispensation followed, with specific emphasis on five freedoms, namely; freedom form poverty, freedom from fear, freedom of association, freedom of conscience and freedom from discrimination. After the unbanning of the ANC, the FFF hosted a conference that was attended by a number of political parties and questions of what the new South Africa ought to look like were debated and consencus on some of the bigger issues was resolved. To many the conference gave hope to what South Africa could become, a nation that respected the human dignity of all.
Over thirty years after its formation, we must pause to ask ourselves what has happened since the democratic dispensation and how far are we towards the goal of a truly free South Africa. We know that the freedom to vote is only but the beginning of experiencing true freedom. In this time where many are disillusioned with freedom, we take time to reflect the meaning of freedom, in particular we ask ourselves is South Africa free from poverty and fear.
Firstly, it is evident from many statistical reports that South Africa is still deeply plagued by the ravages of poverty. At the Five Freedoms conference the ANC of the day raised deep concern for the division of wealth and clearly indicated that they believed that the wealth of South Africa was meant to be enjoyed by all who lived in South Africa. A few decades later, we see that this dream is perhaps even further from achievement. The numerous clandestine deals that have cost South Africans billions of rands, from both State and Private sector are a far cry from the South Africa that is meant to be striving towards poverty eradication. Instead, those who were already rich during apartheid have become richer and the few fortunate nouveau riche are left to scramble for the scraps left behind.
The current government, instead of working towards transparency and clearly showing the public where the money is going, hides and conceals its unsavoury connections in the shadows. What is particularly disturbing is that the government organs are not only concealing financial transactions of the current era, but of the past as well. This is evidenced in the ongoing case of SAHA v South African Reserve Bank. Secret financial deals continue to be made that could benefit South Africans with access to better quality education and further eradicate poverty.
Secondly, majority of South Africans are yet to experience freedom from fear. Fear takes many different forms. In South Africa, a common form is that fear that arises from being associated with certain political parties or ideaologies. We know that there are still ongoing reports of politically motivated killings and harassment in different parts of South Africa. Whilst disturbing, this is not the only fear South Africans live with daily. There are also fears that arise on daily basis that come with the challenges of living in poverty. Like a mother should not fear that a child will die whilst using a school bathroom. So far two young children have been publicly recorded as having died as a result of open, unsafe and unsanitary toilets in schools. Access to adequate sanitation is a very basic service that should have been achieved by now especially in schools where young children are at risk. If there was better financial accountability and resources were channelled to the correct places, some of these issues would be dealt with.
A common defence by those in charge is that these things take time, change cannot be achieved overnight as it took centuries to build the structures that propped up colonialism and apartheid. Whilst this is very true, some of the current challenges are not those that were created by the apartheid State. It is problems that are created by corrupt business leaders who will do anything to earn that extra rand, whatever the human and moral cost. It is problems that are caused by greedy politicians who feel entitled to the public coffers without regard for accountability and the needs of the greater population. It is therefore important that the battles for transparency continue. It is up to all South Africans to look to hold their government representatives to the high standards that were dreamed up at the dusk of apartheid. Ultimately, if we keep fighting, we know that the dream of a truly free South Africa can be realised.