Reflections on Freedom & Workers Day 2023

FREEDOM DAY is a monument to majority rule under an inclusive democratic system that relegated previous attempts to segregate the franchise according to skin colour. We no longer have to look over our shoulders for the special branch, nor worry about spooks under our beds, and any comparisons with the apartheid regime immediately demonstrate that we are a far more open, transparent and freer society than people like BJ Vorster and JG Strydom could ever have imagined.

But for all the blather over the weekend, speech after speech on worker’s rights and the ruling party’s suppose success in ruling, our President came across like a maître d’ asylum, the manager of a mental ward covering up for the lateness in supplying the main course to a bunch of rowdy inmates — economic freedom (read equal opportunity) is so past overdue that it would not an overstatement, if I remarked, ‘the dish is already cold’ — practically any party promising alternatives to the failed ‘developmental model’ being offered up as the sole option on the table by the ANC, has a pretty good chance at it, come the 2024 general election.

This past 12 months have seen a veritable smorgasbord of trouble besetting the party, which which like the NP ‘volkscapitalisme‘ — sheltered employment and state maximalism of yore — has become synonymous with the fate of the country, leading many to assume a permanent mandate, as if our nation’s mixed economy were under command much like China and its CCP, and our destiny is to be ranked, not alongside democracy but the rather the autocracies of the world.

From the release (attempted burial) of the Zondo Report, to the Phala Phala story (equally discarded), and now several fresh debacles, including revelations of organised criminal syndicates at Eskom, the attempt to wiggle out of an ICC Putin arrest warrant by dumping the Rome Statutes, the equally spineless attempt to dodge commitments made under the UN IFCC climate arrangement, the embarrassing February military exercises on the anniversary of the Ukraine invasion ( greylisting for money laundering the same day), the withdrawal of an invitation to attend the Tokyo G7, the prognosis for the ruling party, if not the nation, seems rather bleak

Remembering how from afar, I watched the 1994 event, casting my first vote in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, nogal alongside other expat South Africans, many of them exiles and refugees, the day nevertheless still brings tears of joy to my eye, but more often than not I find myself sobbing these days at the deprivation caused by the ruling party, levelling down instead of levelling up.

The South Africa to which I returned may yet be a vastly different country to the one I left, but in many significant ways, things are very much the same here — corrupt politicians, crooked political parties, well-orchestrated graft, crass state largess and siphoning of funds. The ANC from this vantage point looks no better than the previous regime and one can only hope the party will be removed from office in a spectacular way, if only to learn from its mistakes instead of operating under the false assumption of manifest destiny.