Why we celebrate Freedom Day

2016-04-27 06:00

FREEDOM Day on 27 April is the annual celebration of South Africa's first non-racial democratic elections in 1994 marking the establishment of a new democratic government led by Nelson Mandela and a new state subject to a new Constitution.

The holding of the first non-racial elections was the culmination of years of struggle and a negotiated settlement which led to liberation organisations being unbanned, political prisoners released, the return of exiles and all party negotiations to draft an interim Constitution.

This change in South African history came after long, tense negotiations 1991 and 1992 between South African government, the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other liberation movements.

South Africa’s first democratic national elections in 1994 election paved the way towards a new democratic dispensation and a new Constitution for the country. Of South Africa’s 22,7 million eligible voters, 19.7 million voted in 1994. Although the ANC gained a majority vote, they formed the Government of National Unity, headed by ANC President Nelson Mandela, who became the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

On the first anniversary Mandela said: “As dawn ushered in this day, the 27th of April, 1995, few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have, and the bright future that beckons us.

“Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our hearts beat as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future. The birth of our South African nation has, like any other, passed through a long and often painful process. The ultimate goal of a better life has yet to be realised. On this day, you, the people, took your destiny into your own hands. You decided that nothing would prevent you from exercising your hard-won right to elect a government of your choice. Your patience, your discipline, your single-minded purposefulness have become a legend throughout the world.”?

Since 1994 South Africans have strived to correct the wrongs of the past. They are still faced with many challenges such as crime, poverty, unemployment, racism and sexism. Freedom Day gives South Africans the opportunity to make a pledge towards fighting against the legacy of racism and economic inequality as well as renewing their loyalty to the country and their commitment to its future.

- SA History Online.

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