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Soldiers of our liberation

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Soldiers of our liberation

by Nurene Jassiem
13 Jun 2006
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

As the nation commemorates Youth Day this week, I find it sad that so many young people don't know the real reason why they have a public holiday smack bang in the middle of their mid-year exams.

What's more heart-sore is when I speak to people my age about late anti-Apartheid activists like Coline Williams, Ashley Kriel, Robbie Waterwitch and Anton Fransch, and they ask Coline, Robbie, Anton and Ashley who?

These people were my age and younger when they were killed while fighting for the liberation of our country.

Like so many others, they sacrificed their youth and ultimately their lives for the freedoms we often take for granted. It's an issue close to my heart and I feel that young people should appreciate what I term the gift of freedom that we have received. There's a saying that goes, "The measure of a man is not what he receives from his ancestors, but what he leaves for his descendants".

I believe that as young people we should contemplate what our ancestors (or the generations before us) have given us and then think about what it is that we are leaving behind for the youth after us. Often young people blame their socio-economic circumstances for their lack of success or ambition.

In my opinion this is the biggest lie anybody can tell themselves.
Ashley Kriel grew up in Bonteheuwel and went to Bonteheuwel High; Coline Williams was a young woman from Athlone at a time when there was no government backing for women's rights, and so the list goes on. These youths were neither born with a silver spoon in their mouths, nor did they expect hand-outs from any body more financially fortunate than themselves.

As one of Ashley's sisters once told me, he used to get up at the crack of dawn to sell newspapers so that there could be bread on the table. Like other young activists at the time, he was not bothered with what branded shoes he could buy or how much pocket money he could take to school.

These young people, as I understand from what family and friends have told me, had more important issues to deal with. They stood up against the Apartheid government and actively lobbied for better living conditions for the nation they hoped would one day be governed by the people. They spent days and months in prison, not for shoplifting or drug peddling, but because they believed that South Africa could be freed from the shackles of apartheid.

For the record, I'm not trying to single out any of the youth I've mentioned as being more worthy than any other activists. It's just that I've had the privilege of speaking to their friends and families, who have told me parts of their life stories. In saying so, I'd like to thank the families of these activists for sharing the lives of what I term "the soldiers of our liberation" with me.

On the tombstones of the four activists I mentioned earlier are the following words, which I think young people should ponder: "They were young. They were brave. Their blood nourished the tree of our liberation".

Let us help this tree of liberation grow by actively becoming involved in the betterment of our communities, so that one day our children will have even more social, economic and political freedoms than we have today.

Aluta Continua! (the struggle continues).

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