Yesterday was Freedom day, which meant that all South Africans were free to stay at home instead of working. I suppose that its celebrated properly in some of the more major centers, but on the whole that's what Freedom Day consists of these days - stay at home, maybe get drunk and then spend some time trying to work out what you're supposed to be celebrating.
I remember the first Freedom Day. Most specifically, I remember the run up to it - the paranoia, the violence, the Boipatong massacre, the attempted coup in Bophutatswana - things like that. Most people expected Trouble, but in the end, all the trouble happened before voting day, and the day itself was enlivened by nothing more spectacular than long queues at the voting stations and at the pubs.
I can't believe it was sixteen years ago - young school leavers these days can't even remember the 'old' South Africa. It was much like the new one, but we have a few improvements like freedom of movement and freedom of the press and the cops not being able to arrest you for no reason whatsoever. Oh, and everyone votes these days, except me, I refuse to endorse any of the politicians currently on the SA stage, so I won't vote for anyone and at the same time don't feel strongly enough to vote against any of them either. This might change at some point, but I digress.
The first freedom day. The first 'free and fair' election: I was working at a bush pub in Broederstroom - a second job - I've so often held down two or even three of the things. There was a weekend atmosphere. Some of the patrons were pretty pleased about proper elections, and others weren't. Most were happy to have a day off. Some had already stockpiled cellars full of non-perishable foods and were holding forth about how they'd be the only ones to survive. Turned out they were the only ones to have a few years' supply of baked beans on hand.
In the mean time I was selling pub lunches and beer as if tomorrow wouldn't come (which some believed it wouldn't) before taking an hour off to get to the local voting station and cast my historical (but nonetheless insignificant) vote. I went with three others, and each of us declared the intention to vote for another party. We were perfectly comfortable with that, but we did tease each other a little.
Ah well, in these small ways, history is made. Its rather odd, looking to the present, to see how unaware most South Africans, especially black ones, are of the significance of the day. I even had to remind a few of them that there was a holiday, and then I had to remind them what it was about. Weird, but true. I suppose its human nature to crave what one doesn't have instead of being thankful for what we do have.
So how did I celebrate Freedom day? Built a sand castle and jumped up and down on it, of course! It will be interesting to see how long it takes for our present government to start jumping up and down on the fragile sand castle that is Freedom.