Thursday, April 27, 2006

Freedom Day

Twelve years ago today, South Africa installed its first democratically elected government under the premiership of Nelson Mandela. I gave a brief account of how emotional a day it was a few weeks ago after having seen a programme on television about the right-wing violence in the run-up to the election. I’m not in South Africa today so I’m not enjoying a day off but Freedom Day gives me a good excuse to indulge my flag obsession by giving you a good look at the South African flag.

south african flag
When the new flag was designed it was specifically stated that the colors had no official meaning and/or symbolism, other than the reason for their choice arose from their use in the past in flags in the country (red, white and blue from the Dutch and British communities and black, green and gold from the flags of the various liberation movements: ANC, Inkhatha, PAC etc). Only the Y, the ‘pall’, has an official meaning, namely the convergence and going forward as one unified nation of previously disparate groups in South Africa. However, the following meanings have been ascribed to the flag:

  • Red for bloodshed
  • Blue of open blue skies
  • Green for the land
  • Black for the black people
  • White for the European people
  • Yellow for the natural resources

A nationwide competition invited the public to submit flag designs but none of those submitted were supported by the committee charged to select the final design. An interim flag was designed by State Herald Frederick G. Brownell for the 27 April elections, the nation's first fully-inclusive elections, and for Nelson Mandela's May 10 inauguration. The flag was so well received that the interim version was made the final, national flag in the South African Constitution.

The advent of true democracy in South Africa led to the adoption of the constitution on 8 May 1996. The constitution, one of the most progressive of its kind, includes the Bill of Rights which contains the following clause:

The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

With a clause like that, you can see what a huge break from the apartheid past was heralded by the democratic era.

Twelve years later, things have changed in so many ways for so much the better but South Africa has its fair share of woes that make the daily lives of millions of South Africans a misery.

Various commentators have said that until the youth of the country are able to live in a country that does not suffer a 40% unemployment and have one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, they are not truly free. I fully understand those sentiments but despite high levels of government incompetence and corruption, I believe the country is immeasurably better than it was.


Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Notice the similiarities - your flag, our flag? Same problems too.

Are you being optimistic when you say 'I believe the country is immeasurably better than it was'? Or you really do see improvements? As usual, that's not shown by the media.

12:43 pm  
Blogger Qenny said...

I've heard a lot of stories that suggest that the country has improved a whole lot. I'm very glad to see it happen. Several of my SA friends and acquaintances, who tend to be from the white South African diaspora, are quick to express a yearning to return, and delight when they go back and see how things have changed for the better.

4:30 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

guyana-gyal: Third world countries all seem to have very similar problems. Intractable problems too, it seems.

Yes, I am being optimistic however, I do see very obvious improvements despite some issues seeming worse than they were under apartheid.

qenny: thanks for popping by - welcome!
Although I spend most of my time here, technically speaking, I still live there. I'm here because I can't get decent work there but were it to be available, I'd be back like a shot!

7:21 pm  
Anonymous Alan said...

Do I not get a credit for supplying you with the flag book which may have provided you with some info for this blog ?

7:41 pm  
Blogger Caroline said...

Its a brilliant flag and you are tagged!

8:01 pm  
Blogger Caroline said...

Something very odd is going on with the comments... hope you got that tag!

8:02 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Alan: The book you gave me is great and was most appreciated. However, while it would have provided me with the information, I actually didn't have it with me (at work) when I did this post so I relied on the internet to provide me with the information.

Caroline: I got your tag and will spill the beans as soon as I can but there will be a delay as I won't have much time over the next while as I'm off to the big smoke for a few days.

8:24 pm  
Blogger Rob7534 said...

That is a fantastic Clause to the constitution! It's progressive and looks to the future for justice for all.

5:07 am  
Blogger Frog with a Blog said...

Happy belated Freedom day Nomad and all the South Africans around. Have a good Bobotie and something liquid from Paarl for me!

7:11 am  
Blogger whatalotoffun said...

Yes it was a day off. Most off the people used the off day to do shopping. All over there were just specials running all over the whole town was choas

8:25 am  
Blogger nyasha said...

Enjoy your weekend in London and get me some sweet&sour duck at the Hainanese at Golders Green ;)

9:28 am  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Rob: It’s that clause that had led the courts to repeatedly strike down old discriminatory laws including the definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman. That’s why gay marriage (in the truest sense of the term) will come into law by default by the end of this year although it may become law before then.

Frog: When will you be eating my bobootie?

Whatalotoffun: Good reason to avoid the shops then! I went out and bought some new clothes yesterday – the first time in years. About bloody time too as I was beginning to look like a bergie.

Coffee addict: sounds like you have an addiction there that isn’t coffee! Doubt that I’ll get there but shall try commit it to memory for future reference.

11:53 am  
Blogger whatalotoffun said...

dont think you would look like a bergie if you tried. My surname is Berg. so most people makes jokes about that with me

12:47 pm  
Anonymous Alan said...

Writing posts during work time - how un-professional. You would never catch me doing that especially on a night shift like I am now !

11:39 pm  
Blogger Frog with a Blog said...

Oh Nomad, how I'd like to taste your juicy meaty bobotie...

1:18 pm  
Blogger angel said...

hey nomad! living here in good old sa, i can honestly say that there is a lot that's changed for the better... but there's a lot that scares me too. and the corruption in high places galls me no end- especially when it seems like the money i work my tail off to earn is going into some slimeballs pocket!

10:39 pm  

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