Freedom reconsidered in Grahamstown

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Wednesday, 27th April 2016

South Africa is steaming up to celebrate Freedom Day on Wednesday 27th April 2016. 22 years after we achieved universal franchise. Little Grahamstown nestles in the distant province of the Eastern Cape. Given our history and that we are a centre of learning, our citizens have thoughts on this matter of freedom. Thoughts which erupt into lively discussions in the lecture halls, classrooms, pubs, taverns and cafes. Debates dwindling long into the night around kitchen tables in student digs, particularly if a politics or philosophy assignment on the topic is due by a housemate or two ...

FREEDOM: most beautiful of words, most glorious of experiences!

Remember the joy of the 18th April 1980, when Zimbabwe celebrated her Independence? The Second Chimurenga had been a vicious liberation war. Fought between the freedom fighters of Zimbabwe and the Rhodesian Security Forces and the entire nation. Hectic stuff: a unique populist victory, some fascinating military, political and business manoeuvres. Obviously, many graves, marked and otherwise. Some deep, some shallow. Trust me, it was a joyous ceasefire after 15 insane years of war. Love, peace and exuberance were contagious

On that far off Friday, the place to be was Harare, where global luminaries, headed by Prince Charles, abounded. Yes, Camilla was there, too! Diana a visited later. The guest list included the Breshnevs, the Dengs and African liberation royalty en masse. It was a serious jam. All the more sweeter since it was heralded in by the one and only Bob Marley:

“...We gonna mash it up ina/ Zimbabwe!/Brothers you’re right,/ You’re right./ You’re sooooo rIght!...”

ZBC asked Bona Mugabe about being the mother of the man of the moment? “Ah – this Robert,” she replied. “I don’t understand why he wanted all these politics. He could have been such a good headmaster.”

The portentous Freedom of South Africa in 1994 was the story of the decade. It was everywhere. Work prevented me from returning to vote in my native land but watching South Africans going to the polling stations was deeply moving for many who were elsewhere. Particularly moving everywhere for those who had lost loved ones in the long, agonising struggle for freedom in this chunk of a subcontinent. South Africa: so rich in her diversity of animals, vegetables and minerals. Not to mention her strategic location, centuries of European infrastructure and the true wealth of her indigenous peoples and their cultures. Undoubtedly South Africa’s a singular jewel in the glittering African Crown of glowing gems and precious metals.

 Mmm. Speaking of jewels, two decades of South African freedom later ... Whither the Cullinan diamond, Your Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, of Britain?! Surely blood diamonds are not allowed amongst the Crown Jewels of the fair Green Isle? The Cullinan Diamond is an impressive specimen. It would be good to see it resting back in its country of origin. As a symbol of hope and inspiration as we all struggle for economic emancipation in sunny South Africa!

Article by KJ Guteridge

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