Nina Hastie celebrates South Africa’s progressive Constitution and how the right to freedom of expression is a pillar of democracy in South Africa.
I’m a professional comedian. That’s my job. It’s my right to have this job. It would not have been possible before 1994. Gathering in groups of many races, late at night, talking politics and dissecting the government! Our world-class Constitution has paved the way for the youth to be able to work in the fields of their choice.
Before democracy we were censored on many levels – the music played on our radios, the shows and movies that were allowed to be played in our cinemas. We are finally making and playing our own films, telling our own stories – we even have our own actors playing our own heroes as with Thabo Rametsi playing freedom fighter, Solomon Mahlangu.
The knock on effect of our own stories being taken away left a nation with a low self-esteem… everybody thinking that they didn’t deserve to be heard. What a travesty, as the only democratic country that has had a moderately peaceful transition into democracy in the world!
We need to make sure we protect this Constitution and make sure that the guardians of our Constitution maintain our freedom because without being able to express ourselves, we are not free.
There is also a fine line between freedom of expression and hate speech, freedom which needs not be abused. Your freedom does not allow you to oppress another person. I read a tweet that Khaya Dlanga posted regarding a Microsoft study about South Africa’s digital behaviour – that South Africans treat each other with the least amount of respect and dignity online.
This made me very sad, it made me realise that we confuse our freedom with power. We have a long way to go, and the only way we are going to get there is by honouring our magnificent Constitution, that was written by our struggle forefathers ensuring that we would truly be a free country. Let’s empower ourselves with knowledge, and respect for our Constitution. It was put in place not only to free us, but to protect us, from ourselves.
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