What is Freedom Day?
South Africa celebrates Freedom Day each year on 27th April, marking the anniversary of the day in 1994 when the country held its first ever all-race, democratic election, ending decades of sanctioned racial oppression under the apartheid system.
What does Freedom Day mean for South Africa?
The South African government’s official website says Freedom Day is significant because it “marks the end of over three hundred years of colonialism, segregation and white minority rule and the establishment of a new democratic government led by Nelson Mandela and a new state subject to a new constitution.”
For many South Africans Freedom Day brings back memories of the euphoria of 1994, when black, Indian and mixed race voters stood in long meandering lines – alongside whites – to cast their first ballots.
Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu said the day felt like “falling in love”.
FW de Klerk, apartheid South Africa’s last president, described the day as “our proudest moment as South Africans”.
However, 22 years on, South Africa is counting both the gains and failures of the democratic era. While the country boasts a strong constitution, an independent judiciary, and is probably Africa’s most developed country, a 2014 AFP report noted that its successes are “tainted by mismanagement and high level corruption blamed largely on the ANC-led administration.”
How are people celebrating?
The government says: “This year’s Freedom Day celebrations is a highly significant occasion as South Africans have just celebrated 20 years of the Constitution and are celebrating 22 years of Constitutional Democracy. President Jacob Zuma will deliver (a) keynote address (at Giyani stadium, Limpopo Province).
“This is a time to reflect on the strides we have made in achieving the vision of a better life for all. Undoubtedly much has changed since 1994 and there has been progress in every sphere of society, but we are aware that more must still be done.
“Government calls on all South Africans to join in celebrating national Freedom Day and to extend celebrations of our democracy across the country in reflecting on the achievements we have made as a nation.