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What is freedom? 'Over the years since '94, economic freedom's failed dismally'

27 April 2022 9:36 AM
Tags:
Freedom
Freedom day

On Freedom Day, Political Science Prof Amanda Gouws, Distinguished Professor at Stellenbosch University speaks to John Maytham.
  • While the 27 April 1994 elections ushered in civil liberties for all South Africans, economic inclusivity and freedom 'has failed dismally', says Prof Gouws.
  • For people in poverty, freedom has very little meaning for them, adds Gouws.

Voters queue at a voting station on 1 November 2021. Picture: Theto Mahlakoana/Eyewitness News

Today is Freedom Day - marking the anniversary when South Africans could all go to the polls as equals on this day 27 April in 1994, with the first universal suffrage election in the country's history, explains John Maytham. He reminds us that voting in 1994 was eventually extended to four days due to the large turnout.

John was a field journalist at the time and describes the turbulent time preceding the election that year and the uncertainty that it would be a peaceful transition.

And then we had these four days of voting, and they were extraordinary. I am sure many of you who voted have many positive memories.

John Maytham, Presenter - CapeTalk

Now 28 years later and I am not sure how many people are celebrating at the moment.

John Maytham, Presenter - CapeTalk

But what is freedom exactly?

Some would say we are free because we can all vote, while others argue that there are many other reasons such as economics, gender, and more, which mean we are not free.

John speaks to Professor Amanda Gouws, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and SARChI Chair in Gender Politics at Stellenbosch University, reflecting on what we mean by freedom.

I think we need to make a distinction between party politics and democracy. Democracy has a certain set of values that they don't change - and I think what brought the freedom in that election and the years after was the civil liberties that we got.

Prof Amanda Gouws, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and SARChI Chair in Gender Politics - Stellenbosch University

For the first time, we could move around freely, we had freedom of speech, everybody got the vote, freedom of movement and the right to associate with whomever you like.

Prof Amanda Gouws, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and SARChI Chair in Gender Politics - Stellenbosch University

These civil liberties are really important and brought that type of freedom but over the years the economic aspect of democracy and growth and inclusion has failed dismally.

Prof Amanda Gouws, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and SARChI Chair in Gender Politics - Stellenbosch University

The country has high rates of unemployment currently, a massive inequality gap, and huge levels of poverty, she notes.

So in conditions, I call conditions of precariousness - where people survive from day to day - their lives have no meaning really... and for them, freedom really means very little.

Prof Amanda Gouws, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and SARChI Chair in Gender Politics - Stellenbosch University



27 April 2022 9:36 AM
Tags:
Freedom
Freedom day

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