YOLANDE DU PREEZ
On April 27 1994, thousands of South Africans – who were oppressed by the apartheid regime – made their voices heard for the first time by marking an X on a voting ballot in South Africa’s first democratic election.
It was the first step away from the dark colonialist past and breaking free from the shackles of oppression and white domination.
In the past 22 years, South Africa has grown tremendously as a country, and as thousands celebrated Freedom Day on Wednesday April 27 – commemorating the liberation of our country – community leaders and residents of Hout Bay expressed their thoughts on freedom and their visions for the community and the country.
Hout Bay resident and anti-apartheid stalwart, Denis Goldberg said so much has happened since April 27 1994 when all adult South Africans voted for the first time. He said Freedom Day is special to him because of the sharp break from the apartheid past.
“After generations of exclusion all our people began to be included in decision making on policies to benefit all our people.
“There is such a tragic legacy of deprivation to overcome that even though giant strides have been made there is a great deal still to do.
“As a country, we need to achieve the rights set out in the Bill of Rights as in our Constitution of 1996, such as the right to work, to free education, to decent housing with adequate water supply and safe sanitation, and more,” he said.
He added that generations of deprivation will take generations to overcome but on Freedom Day and Freedom Month the country should celebrate its Constitutional democracy. Mr Goldberg referred to a few institutions such as the Public Protector, the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality and the Independent Electoral Commission, listed in Chapter 9 of the Constitution, saying these institutions were meant to strengthen constitutional democracy and are independent and no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of these institutions.
“The tragedy is that that there have been those who have sought to abuse their political power and access to state resources for self enrichment, as opposed to upholding their formal acceptance of the duty to protect the constitution in the service of the people,” he said.
He said the growing outcry among South Africans is a measure of the strength of the country’s commitment to democracy and it is something very special.
“In Hout Bay there is a lively group of civil society activists. Though they argue among themselves, all have a commitment to our future.
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It is important that people are taking hold of the freedom to change their lives.
“Slowly but surely things are also changing for many people despite the huge influx of people from other parts of our country and from other countries. Street lights, some housing, better amenities like sports fields, new schools and also public transport that works are some of the benefits of living in the new South Africa,” he said.
However, he said, we still live in a divided community with three major sub-communities – Imizamo Yethu, Hangberg and the Village/Valley area.
“Unemployment and the accompanying social deprivation are rife to different degrees in each part of our divided community.
“I look forward to the time that we shall speak about the Hout Bay community of social solidarity and cohesion,” he said.
Community Crime Prevention (CCP) chairman, JJ De Villiers is well know in the community of Hout Bay and talks about how the diverse residents of Hout Bay stand together in times of need, the progress the community has made in recent months and his passion for community crime prevention.
Some of Mr De Villiers’ daily tasks include helping crime prone areas to better secure themselves better and educating people on how to be pro-active rather than reactive towards crime. He does not only fight crime but also tries to eliminate to root cause of crime.
“I truly believe in the mission and vision of CCP and will, with the help of all our amazing donors, continue to make a stand for what is right, a better, safer and more beautiful Hout Bay,” he said.
“We all know that there is a crime problem in Hout Bay but as we’re given statistics from around the Western Cape from different areas we realise we are not alone in this and in most cases are doing better than other areas.
“Social media has played a massive role in our small community and the amount of bickering and arguing that happens on a daily basis on our social media platforms as well as over coffees is not very dissimilar to a soap opera.
“The one thing that sets our community apart is that when push comes to shove and we need to pull together, the bickering and arguing stops and we all work together for the greater common good, the state of our village.
“In the last couple years I’ve seen our community pull together for fire victims, anti-crime campaigns and generally whenever a need arises our community asks and does way above and beyond what most others do.
“And following Freedom Day, let’s all reflect on how we can make a difference to bettering our Valley. ”
Mr De Villiers said all one had to do was to look at the Imizamo Yethu crime figures – that have dropped drastically – to see the progress made in that community. “It is all due to a few good men deciding to take a stand against crime. These guys patrol and do their bit to try ensure a safer place for all.
“The gang issues that riddled Imizamo Yethu just a short time ago are gone and on the whole, it’s made a massive impact to the standard of living within the community,” he said.
He added that he has stepped down from the Community Policing Forum (CPF) in Hout Bay and is focusing all his energy into CCP.
There are cops, he noted, who are “doing a helluva lot behind the scenes and on the front lines to ensure a safer community”.
“I wish for the community to create a better relationship with our SAPS members and not knock the station for one or two people’s actions. Before you post on social media and before you ridicule and judge, think about what you’re saying as negativity will just breed negativity and positivity, more often than not, breeds positivity. We need to work together to make Hout Bay the valley that we want it to be,” he concluded.
Hangberg community leader and chairman of the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), Jan Lewis said he was of Khoi-Khoi origin and that Freedom Day had no meaning to him. Instead, he asked: “Free from what”, and said his dream for the future of Hangberg was self-governance.
He said as long as the people were labelled as colourds in their own country, they wouldnever be free.
“Until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to race, we will not be free and the dream of everlasting peace and freedom is just an illusion.”