Freedom Day 2019: Unabolished Slavery

Freedom Day 2019: Unabolished Slavery

South Africans celebrated Freedom Day on Saturday 27th April. This day commemorates the first national democratic election following the dissolution of apartheid in 1994. Voters numbering 19.7 million gathered freely to cast their vote to determine the type of South Africa they wanted to see[1]. Despite our many successes as a nation, human trafficking is a big problem in South Africa. Many are still ‘unfree’ – in our own country as well as globally.

When we hear the word ‘slaves’ we often think of the slave trade that was used for personal and commercial labour in early society. Owning a slave was common place. It was a triumph of humanity when we finally abolished these slavery practices through The Slave Trade Act in 1807. Before then, William Wilberforce and other members of “the Clapham Sect”, a society of social reformers, found it difficult to convince society that it was not moral nor correct to force people to work as slaves for the sake of personal convenience and economical profit. In our modern day and age, where we now agree on this, slavery has been taken underground. Human trafficking still reaps much economic profit from the using, exploiting, buying and selling of human beings. Habits and ideas take time to change and our current challenge daily is to expose and reveal modern day slavery that takes place. We have a lot to learn from how slavery was previously ‘abolished’.[2]

The small group of English Anglicans, known as “the Clapham Sect”, challenged popular opinion on moral grounds. Although busy professionals, they had a deep conviction that slavery was unjust, and did all they could to convince government of this. William Wilberforce was the spokesperson of the Clapham Sect, who spent years of his life to presenting researched bills again and again to government. They also launched campaigns to educate the public. After many years, England finally passed the Emancipation Bill in 1833, a few days before the death of Wilberforce.

Modern day slavery is a part of our society, operating with much of society’s involvement. Is it possible that our fight against modern day slavery may too result in victories by following the pattern set down by the Clapham Sect? After all, there are many similarities when the crises are compared. Like the slave trade of the Victorian era, human trafficking requires urgent and intensive attention and action from government, as well as strict law enforcement. And like ‘abolished slavery’, our modern day ‘unabolished slavery’ requires public interaction and awareness, to insist on seeing an increased support in ending slavery.

Whilst socially accepted slavery that existed prior to abolition was openly practiced, modern human trafficking is an organised crime that can only be found by those intently seeking it out. Slaves were previously seen as living assets that were owned as property, for the purpose of generating free labour for building society.[3] Slaves are still used to ‘build’ and viewed as ‘property’ today; there are many forms of exploitation in modern day slavery. Currently most trafficking victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labour.

Wilberforce left a great example for us to follow, so as to bring freedom for all people. Setbacks are not the end, the battle wages on. Every rescued individual counts. With single minded determination, hard work and unity this injustice can be defeated. Apartheid has been abolished, the South African colonial slaves were emancipated in 1822 [4]. Starting this Freedom Day 2019, let’s make this the new era of Freedom!


[1] Know your history: 10 facts about Freedom Day. Retrieved from:

[2] The Clapham Group. Retrieved from:

[3] Slavery: