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18-year-olds on SA’s 18th Freedom Day

The Mail & Guardian asked 18-year-old South Africans, the born-frees, about what this Freedom Day means to them. Here are their responses:

I was born in January 1994. To me, Freedom Day means success for South Africa and its citizens. For the past 18 years the democratically elected government has not disappointed. Much has been done to improve the lives of previously disadvantaged people. We have seen a lot of improvement as far as humans rights are concerned. This day creates good emotions in me because it is the day when my country opened to a new page, when everyone was considered equal in the eyes of the law. The fact that my birth happened in the same year as our democracy gives me the impression that I was born along with change, so therefore I’m entitled to make change. It is a great honour to live in a democratic South Africa although most people are violating that: the youth abusing drugs, senior MPs fighting for power, the list is endless. All in all though, I’m happy to be part of the evolution. – Mhlengi Manqoba Ndlovu, Durban

My parents fought for freedom. They risked their lives so that I would grow up in an equal and just South Africa. They won their battle but they did not win the war. While politically we may be free, socio-economically we are not. My parents’ struggle continues and it falls to me and the youth around me to continue their fight. So until such time as all citizens of South Africa are economically equal, I will boycott Freedom Day, for we are not yet free. – Stuart Thembisile Lewis, Grahamstown

As a matric student, there is nothing better than an extra day off from school. However, I do embrace this annual celebration of the first non-racial democratic election that happened in the year I was born. It reminds me and the rest of the youth of the pain and struggle that took place so that today I can actually have the freedom to write about it for the world to see.

The road to democracy was a long and difficult one. It’s an experience I was not privy to, but the journey afterwards was a complicated one, just like growing up is. It’s such an achievement now that along with me, this country celebrates its 18 years of existence.

I was born into a free South Africa, a comfortable life with an ocean of opportunities to reach my potential. The generation before me was denied this. But I wonder: Is our freedom individualistic since poverty, unemployment, crime and other forms of discrimination continue to exist? I believe that we can and should work together to address the inequalities in our country so that every member of society is free. We should strive to achieve a better life for all. – Atiyyah Hameed, Polokwane

Freedom day is an exciting time of year for us “democracy babies”. We were the first year of children to be born into a free and democratic society. We have been brought up without race as a boundary and it is more common for us to describe someone by their height and the colour of their eyes than by the colour of their skin. April 27th marks a crucial day in history when freedom was attained and people stood up for themselves and demanded justice.

Freedom Day reminds us that we can accomplish anything together and gives us a sense of unity. It also reminds us of what other South Africans had to go through for us, and that we owe it to our country and to those freedom fighters to stand up for our rights and to not belittle anyone. This day is as much about freedom as it is about respect. People are afraid of what is different and often shun people and things who do not conform to them and so respect is vitally important if our country wants to remain free.

I believe that we are the country’s future and that people will look up to us because we are the first people to live without being oppressed or being oppressors. We have the world in our hands and soon we will be out of school and ready to improve SA. I also believe however, that we all need to be given equal opportunities no matter what race we belong to. SA belongs to all of us and now is the time to lay the past to rest, celebrate our victory as a nation and move forward to a brighter future for us all. Besides, it is not fair to punish members of our generation for the mistakes of the generation before. We are all free and should be given equal opportunity to shine. So come on SA youth, “let us live and strive for freedom and united we shall stand”. – Kate Moore, Cape Town