Communicare CEO, Anthea Houston reflects on Freedom Day

27 April, Freedom Day, marks the end of legislated exclusion and racism in South Africa. This day marks the day that South Africans installed a government that transformed our Constitution, the highest law in the land, enabling all people to finally be recognised as equal.

It’s easy to becry the absence of economic freedom when reflecting on the fruits of our liberation. After all, the need for economic freedom is great and the evidence of its absence is astounding. Fiscal and economic policy has not trickled prosperity down to the majority meanwhile our poor education framework has cultivated a lack of job market skills and poor entrepreneurial drive amongst South Africans. This coupled with a dim view of a better future and a host of social evils (such as gangsterism and drug abuse) keep many families trapped in poverty in South Africa’s inflationary free market economy.

However, what is also true is that we, black people can now shop, eat and relax wherever we choose. We can sit on any bench, bathe at any beach, live in any community and build families with whomever we choose. We can pursue our education at any institution and work in any field. At least, all of this is possible under the law, since we are no longer 2nd and 3rd class citizens. There is possibility where once a door was firmly shut to exclude us.

Halala, our choices and opportunities expanded tremendously on April 27th 1994. Equal under the law, we now have more rights than before. Rights to associate as we choose; rights to express our views; rights to protest, criticise and to disagree. These rights give us a voice, a voice that was denied under apartheid.

As a black person with ‘mixed-race’ and activism in my lineage, the lack of such opportunities, choices and rights greatly affected generations in my family and others like us. Today, I wish to remember that my ancestors did not fight back for nothing, and our comrades-in-arms did not die in vain. They fought as much for political freedom as they did for economic prosperity.

The significance of our political freedom should not be overlooked too quickly as we becry the mammoth shortcomings in our society and the challenges we still face. We have a tremendous victory under the belt, political freedom.

We should use this Freedom Day to celebrate this victory while also committing to the work that still lies ahead. With our rights, we have also acquired obligations. Each of us should feel duty-bound to commit to building a society in which everyone prospers economically.

Let us be active in holding our politicians and officials to account for delivering enabling policy, jobs, skills, a thriving economy, an effective social safety net and an honest administration.

However, even as we do this, let each of us also find ways in our circles of influence to expand the choices and opportunities available to those who are impoverished all around us. Let us look inside our organisations, businesses, and our communities to find the space where something is possible and then let’s begin to wedge those spaces open more widely through our active contribution to change. Then, when we think we’ve done enough, let us find ways to do even more.

Just as political freedom was everyone’s business, so is economic freedom. Be sure to work for it every day.

27 April 2022