On Thursday, 27 April 2023 South Africa will mark 29 years since the democratic election took place in 1994, Thandisizwe Mgudlwa looks back at what has been achieved or messed up.
As Im writing this article today April 26, I cant help not to stress that I may not get to finish this article, should the rolling power outages affect me – as has become the norm for everyone else.
As Im writing this piece from the Langa Public Library of Cape Town, where a thought-provoking and yet somewhat emotional event commemorating Freedom Day has just ended.
The Freedom Day Imbizo was organised by the Langa Public Library.
Interestingly, this year marks the 100th year of the birth of Cape Towns oldest township, Langa, which came about due the Cape Town City Council, enforcing the 1923 Urban Areas Act, which restricted and controlled the movement and lives of the indigenous black African population.
Needless to say, the staff of the Langa library quite outdid themselves for at least managing to get some of the elders of the community to come out and share their experiences, thoughts, and knowledge about colonial oppression and apartheid.
The elders of the community also would urge the community, especially the youth to stand up and fight for their rights and what is rightfully theirs, rather than wait on the government and other people to do things for them.
In all, the crowd of about 30 people who participated in the Imbizo (community gathering) shared their views on what they understood about the meaning of freedom, while some raised the point that the lack of economic freedom for the black majority meant that real freedom had yet to arrive.
From unemployment to crime, residents and organizers set to reflect their disappointment and unhappiness about the post-1994 dispensation which has failed to offer South Africans even basic human needs like electricity, acceptable housing, water and food.
The residents also raised concerns around the quality of education of the Black child, which was strongly influenced by western values and neglected the African perspective, including African languages.
But an important development of the gathering was the question of the youth kept coming up.
An example of this was when a female representative of the local South African Police Service (SAPS), gave a detailed account of how the youth had failed to organise themselves as the opportunities for empowerment including the Junior National Commissioner Project were available, especially under the Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele.
She explained that the Junior Provincial Commissioners fall under the Junior National Commissioner Project, which sadly was absent in the Langa community.
The Junior National Commissioner Project is one of the SAPS Youth Crime Prevention flagship project that seeks to provide the youth of South Africa an opportunity to contribute and play a meaningful role in ensuring a safe and conducive learning environment in schools.
And according to the SAPS, among the objectives of the Junior Commissioner Project is to advocate for the development and nurturing of leadership capacity, skills and mentoring of young people in communities.
There has been a growing trend in the number of young people, including those within the schooling environment, who are involved in crime either as perpetrators or victims,” said then National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Khehla Sitole, in 2019.
“This is indeed one of the strategic interventions that is focusing on institutionalising school based crime prevention and working on the psychology of these children, a critical element of developmental crime prevention.
Back to the Freedom Day Imbizo, another area that received serious attention from the residents was the absence of such gatherings (Imbizos) on a regular basis.
When gatherings occur they are not well communicated to the rest of the community and after they occur theres usually little to no action to follow up on matters discussed.
In this regard, the staff of the Langa Library committed themselves to playing their part in addressing this matter by working with their contacts and networks and promised to initiate more community gatherings.
Leaders and representatives from various sectors will be roped in to play a role in the education, informing and empowerment of people.
This point of regular meetings and youth organising themselves, probably stood out during this gathering more than anything else.
Just like self-introspection became another rallying cry for people to fix themselves first before looking at the outside world, this would not necessarily close shop on collaboration with stakeholders, especially those people in need of resources and means.
Along with the failures of elected representatives, government officials and community structures, which are meant to serve the people, Langa residents have once again, like many others throughout South Africa sent a strong message that changes will have to come from the peoples efforts themselves.
And if you ask me where South Africa has gone wrong, I would have to say the lack of youth leadership and development would be high among the reasons for this breakdown of this nation.
Of course, the lack of these community forums and Imbizos for all citizens; and the lack of action to fix the problems are what South Africans need to urgently address.
*The writer Thandisizwe Mgudlwa is a freelance contributor.
*The views expressed by the writer Thandisizwe Mgudlwa are not necessarily those of The Bulrushes