Nothing makes you appreciate our hard-won freedoms like the loss of them these past few weeks.
In years to come, we will be narrating stories to our grandchildren about the 2020 lockdown. Some of the social media commentary reflects on how we will be telling our future children that they should never complain about staying in the house for just a weekend. This is because we found ourselves locked in our homes, needing permits to move around a democratic South Africa.
As we commemorated Freedom Day yesterday, we acknowledged the day in which our country held its first democratic elections. It was definitely under unusual circumstances. Over the past few weeks of the lockdown, I realised the freedom of movement that my parents and grandparents spoke about what a serious right to fight for.
Even though the lockdown is to preserve my life and that of fellow citizens, it feels so restrictive. That I haven’t see my family for more than a month because I needed to be in Joburg, and I cannot move in and out of Gauteng and Mpumalanga as I see fit, is a sobering reminder of what it could have felt like to be restricted because of the pigmentation of your skin before 1994.
Today, I have a practical idea of what segregation was like. Even though I know that I am not separated from my family for evil or forever, the fact that I am not able to see them as and when I wish can be frustrating.
That is why we see some of my peers trying to smuggle each other from Gauteng to Mpumalanga. We may not even say it out loud, yet my generation know that they have attempted this and some were successful in their missions.
However, this particular couple’s mission went wrong. As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. We can laugh at them all we want and call them names, but we also know that we aren’t as brave as they are. We also know someone who successfully completed this mission and cannot snitch on them.
It is about the longing to be with the one you love or the ones you love. On WhatsApp, I saw someone from home writing a thread on their status about how they got home this past Saturday. They missed home so badly and couldn’t spend one more day in the now awkwardly quiet city of Joburg. Their attempt worked well since they got home safe and had no encounter with the SAPS or SANDF.
We run the risk of being arrested, we put our loved ones in danger (who just want us home and don’t care about the risk of being infected). We also act selfishly at times, because we long to see the people we would have spent the Easter long weekend with, but we couldn’t.
As for me, I remain in Joburg, and I shall wait for the right time to go home. I am grateful that these restrictions are under a democratic government. I have faith that, soon, we shall celebrate being able to cross provincial borders without the need for a permit or documentation.
And when my mother and fellow elders of the community tell me about the restrictions of the apartheid era and having to produce a ‘dompas’, I will really know what they mean. Ironically, my longing is not to move to the urban or more developed areas, but to simply go to the rural areas.
For this, I have a great appreciation for Freedom Day, and I hope we shall get to our freedom day from the Covid-19 pandemic one day. I remain hopeful. As President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “These are times when we must endure hardships and difficulty, so that we can enjoy freedom and prosperity in the future.”
Kabelo Chabalala is the founder and chairperson of the Young Men Movement (YMM), an organisation that focuses on the reconstruction of the socialisation of boys to create a new cohort of men. Email, email@example.com; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala
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