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‘Aluta continua’ for economic freedom

- Wits University

The struggle for economic freedom in South Africa continues, says American Civil Rights leader, Reverend Jesse Jackson.

Jackson, one of of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures says that while Africans have acquired political freedom, they now need economic freedom through access to capital.

Known as the “Conscience of the Nation” and “the Great Unifier” in the US, Jackson was invited by the African Centre for the Study of the United States at Wits University to deliver a talk in the Great Hall on Monday, 16 April 2018.

His talk, titled Looking at the similarities of civil rights matters in America and South Africa - then and now, highlighted parallels between South Africa and the United States of America. Both countries have the same history of racial segregation and prejudice – for the US it being slavery and for SA apartheid.

“Our struggles are parallel. We were enslaved during the same period. We were segregated during the same time.”

Although both the US and South Africa won the battle against slavery and apartheid, today we still face an economic struggle, said Jackson.  

“We have ended apartheid and slavery but we do not have access to capital. Africans need land reform today. Today we are free, we can vote, we have our president and our politicians but today we are not equal.”

While many South Africans will commemorate Freedom Day on 27 April 2018, freedom is still not enjoyed equally in the country. Despite 24 years of democracy in the country, economic inequality still persists.

“Our struggle was not to be free alone, our struggle was to be free to be equal. Freedom was not our goal. Freedom was the need we had to acquire to fight for equality. Today we are free but not equal. Today, black South Africans do not control banks, mass media, insurance, pensions, ships, international trade, construction, agriculture, engineering, technology, science,” said Jackson.

Receiving great applause from the audience in the nearly packed Great Hall, he further added that “today blacks are ‘freer-er’ and whites are richer”, stressing the unequal distribution of wealth in the country.

The founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, has over the past 40 years played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice.

Jackson has been delivering talks on equality and human rights in Johannesburg during his visit to the country. He came to bid farewell to struggle veteran, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and paid tribute to the political activist in his talk. He hailed Mama Winnie for the role she played in fighting apartheid, describing her as the light that shone during the dark political upheavals of the country.

“The light in darkness was Winnie. We must forever appreciate the role that she played,” he said.