Freedom is a word intrinsically woven into the fabric of the South African story. You cannot speak of South Africa without a mention of freedom. Over the course of our history, freedom has been taken to refer to the ability to move around without hindrance, then to be able to vote followed by the ability to access the resources of this country without fear or favour. More than two decades after the symbolic achievement for freedom, we now appreciate that economic freedom and an equitable access to resources is one of the ways to true freedom.

Freedom to me means the ability to be seen and heard despite the colour of my skin and my gender.  I have a voice and a platform now that allows me to speak for so many who have the same voice but lack a platform. This is the responsibility that comes with the freedom I have attained. Freedom also also refers to the ability to see myself represented in the media through people who look like me and through the stories about people like me which are told through books, movies and other media. Representation is an affirmation of my worth and I am grateful for that.

The fight for freedom in this country was a collective one – it was the effort of a nation that moved this country forward. The next step will require an equally consolidated effort. We need a new social pact, one that looks beyond the individual to the community, and which recognises that even when individuals don’t benefit immediately and personally, that our efforts are laying the foundations of a better future for those still to come.

I am hopeful for a South Africa where freedom moves beyond symbolism into the lived realities of every person who considers themselves off this land. Freedom Day must remain the reminder that our work is not yet done.

– Dr Dinesh Balliah (Director, Wits Centre for Journalism)
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