Today is Freedom Day in South Africa. The purpose of this public holiday is to commemorate the anniversary of our first non-racial national election in 1994.
I suspect that quite a few folks paused today to think about 1994 and the course of democracy, warts and all, that have us standing on the eve of the Jacob Zuma presidency.
My day started with a neighbour lady stopping by to inform me that "illegal squatters" had begun to build shacks on a large tract of municipal land just up the street from number 11.
I stepped into our pot-holed street and looked to where hurried figures could be seen clearing wild veld grass. The neighbour lady joined me shaking her head and throwing her arms up in the air.
She blamed the "lawlessness" of the squatters on the African National Congress and its leader, Zuma.
"They think they can do anything now that Zuma is going to be the president. This is not right. What will happen to us? They will come into our houses and steal from us and kill us and no-one will care. Our houses will be worth nothing now that we have shanties right on our doorsteps ... " she complained loudly.
Somewhere in-between her words I glanced up at number 11. I thought of my late father and the years he spent working to pay for the roof, electricity, water, and the array of ownership issues that befall a house and home over 38 years.
When my dad moved us into number 11 I was just 7 years old. My first everything is framed by number 11. When I think about South Africa and my politics it flows from from number 11.
But as much as number 11 means to me it does not obscure the homeless despair that brought hundreds of poor folk to a dusty piece of unoccupied land for no other reason than erecting makeshift homes.
I watched the neighbour lady walk from me toward an assembled group of other concerned neighbours. She must have detected my indifference.
Still, I understand. Our shabby neighbourhood is falling to pieces. Most of the folks who lived here when we were a designated coloured neighborhood have sold their ugly houses and moved to Joburg or Cape Town.
New alien faces have appeared speaking languages not known to any South African of any period after white folks arrived and put fences around the land where they dug for diamonds.
Somali, Ethiopian, Nigerian, and other-African families have moved in seeking new beginnings inside of old memories that are all but faded.
To see white people now you have to travel across town to the areas where malls and movie theatres stand adjacent to American fastfood places.
There you will find pale skin white folks and dark skin white folks immersed in the religion of capitalism and its inherent alienation.
This is a new dispossession of a special kind.
Up the street from number 11 the old dispossession plays itself out against a new political reality that is hardly any friendlier than the white landlords of old.
Zuma and his captains of industry will not allow informal settlements to grow too visible. To do so would be bad for investment plus we are posed to host the soccer world cup next year.
The neighbour lady will be ok.
For at least the next two or three months the squatters will live in their shacks until a court order returns them to nowhere.
The neighbour lady will feel relieved until the next time.
The ebb and flow of resistance against the oppression of apartheid dispossession will continue because it must. New waves of squatters will reappear from time to time unless their dispossession is addressed directly and permanently.
Their freedom and ours is predicated on the justice of repossession. What that will look like is the essence of democratic governance.
None of us in Mzansi can be free until all of us are free.
For me this day of rememberance is also about seeking balance. Even though I do not just want to rubbish the angst represented by the neighbour lady it is important for us to seek a considered detachment toward collective freedom.