Op-Ed: South African Freedom Day: 28 Years Later, Where Are We?

April 27, 2022

Most formerly colonized countries recognized the day they gained or regained independence from their European colonizers as the birth of their nation. South Africa, however, celebrates a different point of origin. “On the 27th of April 1994, the men, women, and children of South Africa emerged from the dark veil of oppression to stand in the light of freedom,” President Cyril Ramaphosa explained in 2020 during a speech commemorating what has become known as Freedom Day. 

In the years since, South Africa has emerged as one of the Continent’s superpowers, boasting the third-highest GDP of any African country. It is a world-class tourist destination, both for its unparalleled natural destinations and metropolitan hubs like Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban.  

As Netflix’s Young, Famous & African and How To Ruin Christmas have shown, those who live well in South Africa live REALLY well. And as Ramaphosa shared during his speech at the very start of the pandemic, in its short history as a democracy, South Africa has created an infrastructure that provides access to education, electricity, healthcare, and water to millions. And according to The Conversation, South Africa’s constitution is one of the few in the world that recognizes those socio-economic rights as basic human rights.

“The reality of daily life in South Africa today is that there is an incredible culture and spirit here that continues to set the globe on fire,” Karl Carter tells AFROPUNK. Carter relocated to Cape Town with his family to launch the African office of his company Snake Nation – a culture, content, and technology company. He’s witnessed firsthand what Ramaphosa admitted during his speech: “poverty and inequality continue to stalk our land.”

“My experience as an African American living in South Africa is on par with locals who are of a certain socioeconomic status,” Carter adds. “This is a different reality than the majority of the population here in SA. With the highest income inequality on the planet and massive youth unemployment, there is much work to be done to realize the full promise of equity and freedom.”

In 2012, the South African government launched the National Development Plan, with the goal of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030. With ten years left to reach the goal, Ramaphosa said in 2020 that his government “must change the pace of social and economic transformation.” While some remain skeptical after years of political corruption, many, like rapper/songwriter AdELA, are hopeful.

“South Africa is and always will be a country rich in natural resources and that includes its people,” she tells AFROPUNK. “The country is still turbulent, as history can not be erased. But my hope is that people come together for the good of South Africa and let our light shine onto the world. Our land, our people, our culture is so diverse and if we find common ground we can see a way past our history and to a better future.”