What is freedom? “Over the years since 1994, economic freedom has failed miserably”

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Barbara Friedman

| On Freedom Day, political science professor Amanda Gouws, professor emeritus at the University of Stellenbosch, speaks to John Maytham.

  • While the April 27, 1994 elections ushered in civil liberties for all South Africans, economic inclusiveness and freedom “have failed miserably”, says Professor Gouws.


Today is Freedom Day – marking the anniversary when South Africans were all able to go to the polls on equal footing on April 27, 1994, with the first election by universal suffrage of the country’s history,” says John Maytham. He reminds us that voting in 1994 was eventually extended to four days due to high turnout.

John was a field reporter at the time and describes the turbulent period leading up to the election that year and the uncertainty over a peaceful transition.

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

John Maytham, Presenter – CapeTalk

Now 28 years later and I don’t know how many people are celebrating right now.

John Maytham, Presenter – CapeTalk

But what exactly is freedom?

Some would say we are free because we can all vote, while others say there are many other reasons such as economy, gender, etc. that mean we are not free.

John sits down with Professor Amanda Gouws, Emeritus Professor of Political Science and SARChI Chair in Gender Politics at the University of Stellenbosch, to reflect on what we mean by freedom.

I think we have to make a distinction between partisan politics and democracy. Democracy has a certain set of values ​​that it doesn’t change – and I think what brought freedom in that election and the years that followed were the civil liberties that we achieved.

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

For the first time we could move freely, we had freedom of speech, everyone had the right to vote, freedom of movement and the right to associate with whoever you wanted.

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

These civil liberties are really important and have brought this kind of freedom, but over the years the economic aspect of democracy, growth and inclusion has failed miserably.

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

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

So in conditions, I call conditions of precariousness – where people survive hand to mouth – their life really has no meaning… and for them freedom really means very little.

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

This article first appeared on CapeTalk: What is freedom? “Over the years since 1994, economic freedom has failed miserably”

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