Editorial | Reflections on 24 years of freedom

The celebration of Freedom Day today must be seen as a moment of reflection on the state of our nation and the democratic journey we began 24 years ago.

Whichever sensible tools of assessment one employs, we must agree South Africa is a better country today than it was 2½ decades ago.

However, it is also common cause that the last 10 years in particular were a litmus test for our young democracy, our constitution and the institutions that give meaningful expression to it.

More importantly, events of recent years, political or otherwise, have shattered the myth of a united rainbow nation and instead forced us to confront the social and economic realities that make our country a tale of two worlds.

The current conversation on the redistribution of land, for example – more than any other in recent times – compels us to tackle difficult questions on race, power relations and the flawed social architecture of our nation.
It has increasingly become evident that despite making some reforms, these are questions we did not fully interrogate when we made that all-important social pact in 1994.

Now at a crossroads, our country is presented with yet another opportunity to give practical meaning to the principle of freedom and democracy – one that presents tangible and sustainable economic opportunities to the most disenfranchised.

Which road are we to choose? One that is only fuelled by populism, or a more difficult one that seeks realistic solutions to the multiple crises that we face, no matter how unpopular they may be?

Our challenges are well documented. Our economy is not growing fast enough to employ those who desperately need jobs. Our education system does not produce the kind of quality results we need. Ours remains one of the most violent societies in the world. The list is endless.

Mindful that the choices we make in this era carry far reaching consequences for our nation, we must therefore ask this crucial question: what are we each willing to invest to build the kind of nation we want to be?