Freedom? What freedom?

It is April 27 1994, and I am standing in a polling booth in a little rural school in the Magaliesberg Mountains, about an hour and a half drive from my home in Johannesburg.

It is late afternoon, and aside from my wife Eppie and I, there are no other voters.

The IEC staffers on duty are friendly, cheerful and courteous to a fault, ushering us into the classroom to the polling booth, and recording our names and ID numbers, before handing us the paraphernalia of voting: ballot papers and a thick pencil.

As I look out of the window where the setting sun is gilding the mountains, unknowingly in the direction of Marikana where 18 years later a shocking slaughter would bring our country to its knees, I make my crosses with conviction, certain that the democracy we are birthing is in safe hands, and that the deep divisions which characterise our scarred and battered country could now finally be heeled.

Now, 22 years later, on this Freedom Day, April 27 2016, that confident dream lies in tatters.

The Rainbow Nation of God – an aspiration birthed by the beloved Archbishop Desmond Tutu – is arguably as divided now, as it was then.

The racial animus which we believed would ameliorate over time, as we drew together as a nation, and sought our place proudly in a now welcoming community of nat-ions, is as virulent and divisive as it was when we embarked on this journey called democracy.

The spectre of white privilege haunts us, as the Born Frees – the cohort of our youth born after the fall of apartheid in which was vested so much hope – angrily reject the settlement negotiated at the genesis of our democracy, insisting that too much was given away in an attempt to avoid bloodshed, and demanding that what their parents were promised all those years ago, finally be delivered.

After an initially euphoric five years under the leadership of our beloved Madiba, the steady decline of our democracy commenced.

It is not always easy to discern, but nonetheless evident if one looks for the signs.

An executive which routinely ignores judicial rulings it finds inconvenient.

A ruling party which increasingly plays the race card in an attempt to disguise its inability to create that much vaunted better life for all, while it protects at every turn, a man who has inflicted mortal injury on that very party, and on the country as a whole.

A president who has taken unto himself all the levers of power and sold our entire country to the highest bidder, while trampling underfoot our Constitution at every turn.

A Parliament which conducts itself like a school playground filled with warring gangs who try desperately to best each other with thuggish behaviour, pre-sided over by a speaker whose partiality is a matter of public record.

A security establishment which slavishly does the bidding of a president whose credibility has long since dissipated.

A prosecuting authority which is at war with itself as it attempts to do the bidding of its master.

An education system which despite having proportionately the largest budget in the world, is in steady decline.

An unemployment rate which stubbornly refuses to budge.

A cohort of citizens without hope, who become increasingly angry by the day, as our democracy continues to unravel.

And we call this freedom?