Fractured SA celebrates Freedom Day

2016-04-27 21:13
Mmusi Maimane (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

Mmusi Maimane (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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WATCH: Zuma, Ramaphosa commemorate Freedom Day in Limpopo

2016-04-27 14:48

Speaking during Freedom Day celebrations, President Jacob Zuma said government was introducing programmes that would ensure black people also played a role in the economy. WATCH

Johannesburg - South Africa celebrated Freedom Day on Wednesday in seemingly parallel universes of dissent and delight at the current state of affairs, in particular Jacob Zuma's presidency.

In Giyani, Limpopo, celebrations were at an all-time high where President Zuma was the keynote speaker.

Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa assured the thousands gathered that Zuma would finish his term.

"No one is going to remove President Zuma from office," Mthethwa told the stadium crowd who cheered and ululated in response.

"There are no Mickey Mouse parties that will tell the electorate what to do. Those parties must know there is only one president for South Africa," he said.

April 27 marks the 22nd anniversary of the first democratic elections in South Africa after the fall of apartheid.

Zuma, dressed in a sharp charcoal suit, was earlier greeted by two army officers who marched him down a red carpet to the stadium podium.

Party planners went all out, ensuring the swelling crowd was entertained by military bands tromping around the stadium with tubas and drums, while helicopters passed overhead flying the national flag.

Screaming in delight, to prompts by Mthethwa, the crowd chanted, "Long live Zuma! Long live!"

Delivering the keynote address, the president warned against those who "have decided to make it their full-time job to deny these achievements of our country, and to rubbish our country locally and abroad. We must not allow them to succeed".

Zuma also suggested that freedom would only be wholly fulfilled, when it extended to equal control of the economy.

"For freedom to be complete, the economy of our country must not be skewed along racial lines…

"Government will continue to implement black economic empowerment programmes, as well as affirmative action programmes."

Anti-Zuma marches

Yet, in other parts of the country, civil society and non-governmental organisations marched against the president, calling for him to step down in the wake of last month's Constitutional Court ruling.

"Enough is enough... We should stop politicians from calling people white and black. We are not laundry. We are human beings," Right2Know’s Godfrey Phiri told Johannesburg marchers on Wednesday.

In Cape Town the gathering took a more religious tone, during which Christian worship songs were sung from the back of a truck and posters held up, declaring "SA needs Jesus", "The blood of the Lamb" and "an appeal to heaven".

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma's son, Edward warned South Africans to guard against non-governmental organisations which were "devils in a sheepskin".

In a statement, Edward Zuma said "the youth and people in general are being told and fed lies and misinformation by all NGOs that are used by agents of the West to start a revolution in our country".

‘The father of our nation’

Former President Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela also released a statement on Freedom Day, one in which he extensively quoted his grandfather.

"There is much to celebrate, although a long road still lies ahead of us," said the younger Mandela.

Describing his grandfather as "the father of our nation", Mandela said that the country needed to remember his elder's declaration made on the equivalent date in 1995: "We have learnt over the First Freedom Year that there is no short-cut to making South Africa the country of our dreams."

Yet, said Nkosi Mandela, "Today… I stand proud".

In Pretoria, Premier David Makhura planned a 4km "Walk 4 Freedom" to the Union Buildings.

During the day, various political parties also issued media statements in which they offered their take on the state of SA.

The ANC said in a statement that it was "confident of the future" of the country and that the "the government of the people, led by the ANC, has, over the past 22 years done much to restore the dignity of our people".

‘Fast-approaching time bomb’

The EFF suggested that the country would only experience true freedom when land redistribution succeeded.

"Without the land, our democracy traps the whole society into a fast-approaching time bomb," the EFF said in a statement.

The party further considered that increased state control was needed to ensure equality.

"Economic freedom will dawn for all people, in particular black people, when the government plays an active and direct role in the economy through nationalisation of strategic sectors like banks and mines."

Visiting the poverty-stricken community of Zandspruit in Johannesburg, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, surveyed the piles of rubbish lining the streets, asking, "How do you expect people to live like this?"

DA MP Athol Trollip told those gathered in Port Elizabeth that "true freedom is a long way off".

FF Plus leader Pieter Mulder, in his statement, suggested that while South Africa had "unbelievable potential and talent… if political populism, selfishness, self-enrichment and corruption, however, gain the upper hand, we will go the same way as many other failed states..."

Government also issued a statement on Freedom Day in which it thanked South Africans for "keeping our democracy strong and vibrant".

"This demonstration of active citizenship and patriotism displayed by countless South Africans was truly inspirational."

Read more on:    da  |  ff plus  |  anc  |  eff  |  jacob zuma  |  politics

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