Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Response to the notion: Freedom is not free

A friend wanted me to expand on the notion that freedom is not free and the following is my first hit at it.
In my earlier correspondence I had spoken about freedom in the South African context. Without giving you a history lesson, I am of the opinion that the freedom and emancipation of the oppressed groups of people in South Africa was a hard-fought struggle. Whether that struggle is over or not remains to be seen. There are members of society who share opposing views on the realisation of this freedom.
In unpacking the cost of this freedom let us first consider the number of lives that were lost while fighting. Hector Pieterson is one name that comes immediately to mind. There are many others like him. Some were lost outside South African borders, in exile, fighting for what they believed in. Others were ‘taken out’ by the security forces of the previous regime in an effort of fighting against ‘terrorism’. Others fell victim to allegations of being ‘izimpimpi’ and were subsequently ‘silenced’ by the liberation movements concerned. Let me add that on the latter not much has been said. I am however, reminded of the story of Stompie and the links of his death with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Secondly, we can consider the cost of this freedom under the idea of foregone opportunity. By this I mean the cost of oppressing certain groups of people from fully participating in the running of the country. It is a well known fact that we have capable people who contribute positively to society. These people come from all the racial groups that form this country’s population. Had these people been allowed to contribute instead of being relegated to second class citizens, perhaps our country would be at a far better position than what it finds itself in currently.
The third lens that we could apply when interrogating the cost of this freedom is one where we consider the ‘brain drain’ factor. Many people left the country during the apartheid regime’s tenure. These people left the country citing political instability and moral reasons for their leaving. Some of these people that left were of European descent. Without sounding as if I am praising one group at the expense of another, I am of the opinion that these groups of people could have contributed positively within the borders of South Africa. By the same token, I do not mean to undermine their efforts in advocating for change in South Africa while they were outside the borders. I am reminded of many campaigns based abroad that highlighted the plight of oppressed groups, the release of Nelson Mandela, and the unbanning of political parties and their subsidiary organisations.
Time is another factor worth considering when taking into account the cost of freedom. Time lost is time that can never be recovered. The amount of time it took for the apartheid regime to be ‘overthrown’ is something that we are aware of. My point of departure is on the basis of what could have been achieved during this lost time. I will not expand further as I feel that this is self-explanatory.
I could go on and list other cost factors such as pain and suffering, the breakdown of family structures, the degradation of the education system through Bantu education, etc. For the purposes of this response, I hope I have painted a formidable picture depicting that freedom is not free indeed. While I’m at it, I can’t resist the notion of voting as another cost. Seemingly, the cost of being ‘free’ nowadays has come down to voting for a black face for the presidency once every 5 years. The architects of this use pseudo-psychology to get the majority of the poor to vote. Anyway, I tend to digress. Excuse me for that. The crux of the matter is that freedom is not free, and will not be free in the near future. Till then, the struggle continues!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Thought for Walter Sisulu University (Letter to the Daily Dispatch: published 15 October 2011)

Dear Editor
The recent closure of Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and the resignation of its council (October 11) raises concerns for young people like me. I refer to your article "Fresh start for WSU?" as a reminder of the challenges that continue to plague that institution. I dare not mention the thousands of students who were in their final year of study who were expecting to graduate next year. I dare not mention that a significant percentage of these students come from families that bend over backwards so that they can send their children to universities in search of what seems to be ‘an ever-elusive’ dream. The high unemplyment rate is testamentof this.
I dare not question the quality of the education that they receive in these institutions of higher learning, especially those institutions that were previously disadvantaged. I know the lack of funding that these institutions continue to battle with, but our government continues to drag its feet in addressing this.
Mandela said that education was the key that lead to success. With that assertion, the efforts made by our government in ensuring that the poor (the majority being black people) receive a quality education are evidently not the government’s priority. South Africa continues to show least improvement when compared with other countries in the primary schooling level. I shudder when I think about the levels that come after.
I can only hope that the intervention that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande will announce soon will bring revived energy towards a quality education.
Nqaba Mpofu