On April 27, South Africa celebrates Freedom Day. This historic day celebrates freedom, democracy and the end of apartheid. Love that todays Google Doodle celebrates this!
On 27 April 1994, South Africa”s first post-apartheid elections were held. These were the first national elections in South Africa in which the people of all races could vote.
I was 14 years old in 1994, so not old enough to vote, but I clearly remember the sense of excitement and hope that was everywhere. It was also a tense time, especially in Kwazulu Natal, where I’m from. KZN was the home to the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), who joined the elections at a very late stage. I also remember people stocking up on candles and tinned goods should the real threat of political violence be realised.
I was a very politically active teenager and spent my weekends prior to the ’94 elections volunteering in a local voter education campaign. Black people had never voted before, and in the Indian area where I grew up, some people were still skeptical about voting, and hadn’t yet bought into the notion of democracy (being a second class citizen does that to you). Much to the surprise of the international media, the elections went off peacefully.
19 years post democracy, South Africa is still faced with a number of challenges in our society. Freedom is not something easily achieved, with economic freedom far from being realised by many South Africans. Nevertheless, Freedom Day affords South Africans the opportunity to be celebrate our hard won democracy but also to pledge towards fighting against the legacy of racism and economic inequality in order to make our society truly free.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Nelson Mandela
For more on the history of Freedom Day check out the excellent SA History online portal.