I listened to some interviews on the way to the gym about experts’ opinions of Freedom. Added to those, it must be the day itself that got me thinking about the Freedom we enjpy.
Can you remember where you voted? Mine was at Constantia Kloof Primary School in Roodepoort. The day was 27 April 1994. The weather was a bit like today, a soft breeze cooling the piercing South African sunshine. The mood was friendly, almost jovial and even though we were, some of us thought, giving away our freedom, we were pleasantly surprised at how peaceful, efficient and sincere the whole event was. The queue snaked for hundreds of meters and our waiting time was probably about 2 hours [not bad compared with some voting stations]. The attendants, all new recruits of the newly established IEC, were proficient, smiling and understanding. A mixture of white and black, they were a demographic equivalent of the queue outside. Standing there with maids, friends, acquaintances, men, women, and a peppering of soon-to-be, black diamonds, we found ourselves making light of what was to be the next 24 years today. Many had stored baked beans in makeshift shelters, many were considering emigration, many were still afraid of each other and what harm may come to us from the hand of others. The gravitas never hit us until Nelson’s famous speech under the awnings at the Union Buildings. Since then, we have experienced the tremendous ups-and-downs of a young democracy. Some think a low-intensity war exists in our lands, others have grasped the opportunities that the downfall of the Group Areas Act [in 1992] ushered in, for some urban life has honestly changed little and for others, the entrance of freedom has not changed much by way of their poor living standards.
Somewhere in that ramble, you can place yourself. Many of us have since emigrated and view the land from afar. Others have grown and prospered despite the numerous perceived obstacles. A section of the population has grown by leaps and bounds to become the emerging and perhaps for now, the developed middle class; some 5m people it is estimated. Some have become embittered by the absence of service delivery, the most recent riots in North West Province simply a tip of the iceberg say others; promises made but stillborn, while some prospered and others languished in degrading conditions. State Capture with parallel government flummoxed us. How the … did we get there? Thank Goodness that we seem to have recovered from the brink of financial ruin. To the top of the wave and the bottom of its trough, but always on the edge of what is and what could be.
And so it goes, we can all find ourselves in this beautiful and sometimes tortured story. What do we make of it? On the one hand, grateful we have been spared greater possible calamity and on the other, acutely aware that the opportunity cost of the past 10 years cannot be eradicated overnight. Excuse the correctness of the details, but I hear that SAA needs R20bn to survive and if sold, would need to fetch R60bn just to pay its debts. I know what I would do but the stakes are off the page! I attended the first Senior Executive Programme presented by Harvard Business School in 2001 with a cross-section of South African leaders. One of the lectures was pure American turnaround strategy and the lecture [advice? best practice?] was something like this: “outsource it or privatize it or close it down” if it’s losing money. The example at the time was the harbours component of SAR&H [South African Railways and Harbours.]. Afterwards, we discussed the material in small groups and I remember being, well “American”, in my approach. Suddenly, from an executive of National Treasury came the much-needed rebuttal: “What would happen if up to 60000 people became jobless overnight and had no social underpin – which, frankly compared to America, we still don’t have? Boom! Like a blow to my social and financial solar plexus, I was winded and had to go back to my mental drawing board. I still often think of that question when I ponder just how we bring about social equity in this country.
So just what is this Freedom bought through struggle and political and social compromise? Let’s explore for a moment:-
“Freedom”, said one of the interviewed on CapeTalk, “is the opportunity to self-determine.” Another added something like: “Freedom is the autonomy to decide what you want and in doing so to choose to pursue your outcomes with dignity and respect for others.”
The Cambridge dictionary defines Freedom as:
Pretty hard stuff if we’re honest. Having had to do with poorer people, I have seen how poverty not only dims the eye but also the mind; how it consumes the person and limits their ability to see, let alone grasp, the opportunities being presented. It takes an admirable and monumental effort for a poor person to break through and make a financial success of their lives. All around us we see examples of those who have not been able to chisel through that ceiling. No wonder politics seems to hold sway for so many, and in recent times, people have died for such a place on the hills of KZN.
Freedom to own property rightfully paid for is one of the bedrocks of financial freedom. It touches who we are and what we own. It gives us the ability to borrow and to lend and houses our most precious asset, our family. On the other hand, we are going to have intense debate on the freedom to own property. Personally, I think that we are going to resolve the issue despite some very stressed societal negotiations. The reason I believe this way is not puritan, but rather because we have to find the way through as a national imperative – I personally still cannot see how expropriation without compensation is ever going to work across the board.
Freedom, like power, is not a right and may not be abused. Like we prosecute criminals, the abuse of Freedom is intolerable. Many would say that Freedom therefore has necessary boundaries. The liberals among us would disagree demanding only self-control – a kind of Nike moment, Just do it – but those of us who have lived next to a neighbour’s barking dogs, know exactly what I mean. How much more, my freedom at the expense of others’ rights and privileges?
Suffice to say that Freedom is precious and should be guarded with our lives. Enjoying it is our privilege. It drives our inter-personal relationships. It drives our economy, the so-called Free Market principle. As such, it places people in homes and moves them whilst it ensures values for their properties. Freedom to be selfish and Freedom to help others lies in our same breath. You may not like that, but that is the price and responsibility of the very Freedom we cherish.
In closing, I have just read an advert for a local construction company and it goes like this:
“HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS”
A Swedish family decided to make a piece of Hermanus, the South African sun and blue skies their own, and fell in love with a Northcliff home built in 1948.”
I’m not sure where your heart is as you finish reading this blog but why don’t you just let your guard down a little, temper your complaints, raise your vision and become a part, however wavering, of the groundswell of good sentiment and willing hearts that will make this an amazing country to live in? All her people, every race, creed, foreign or local, and strata of wealth, deserve a touch of your and my good grace to make their days happier and healthier. Like you chew a good steak one bite at a time, don’t despair that the best you can manage may not change the world but could change the world around you.
Homeloan Junction commits itself to just such a path.
Yours in Property.