Freedom Day

2018-04-18 06:02
The world watched as Nelson Mandela cast his vote on April 27 and was inaugurated as president on May 10.

The world watched as Nelson Mandela cast his vote on April 27 and was inaugurated as president on May 10.

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HOW many millennials (anyone born from 1990 onwards) actually know why April 27 is celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa?

It is the annual celebration of the country's first non-racial democratic elections of 1994.

That road to democracy was a long and difficult one ... the exclusion of the majority of South
Africans from political power was at the center of the liberation struggle and resistance to white minority rule.

With the formation of the South African Native National Congress (which later became the African National Congress) in 1912, the resistance movement became formalised.

The ANC strived to improve the conditions of the blacks. Its task became more difficult after the Nationalist Party victory of 1948 — when the grand machinery of apartheid was put into motion and became law.

Each race was given different privileges, some more and others less.

When The Congress of the People (held in Kliptown in 1955), adopted the Freedom Charter, the blue-print for a democratic South Africa was laid.

The Charter affirmed “that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no Government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people”. In 1961 South Africa became a Republic and May 31 was declared a national holiday (Republic Day) by the National Party.

Umkonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC was formed during this period as a means of armed resistance. Many of the leaders were banned , imprisoned and tortured.

After 1976 the liberation struggle gained momentum. The Soweto uprising of 1976 saw increased militancy.

Trade Union movements started to revive and assert the rights of workers.

Hundreds of residents’ associations, sports, student, women's and religious organisations joined the resistance struggle.

The Church could no longer stand by silently and added its voice to the liberation struggle. In 1984, the Government introduced the Tri-cameral Parliament, giving Coloureds and Indians the right to vote.

The Blacks, who were in the majority, were excluded from this formula. The United Democratic Front (UDF), launched in 1983, brought over 600 organisations together to demand the scrapping of the Tri-cameral Parliament. In 1985 the Government declared a State of Emergency in an attempt to suppress the freedom movement. By 1988 a stalemate had been reached. The Government began looking for a way out and as a result started negotiations with the ANC leadership.

The ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP), Pan African Congress (PAC) and other organisations were unbanned on February 2, 1990.

A non-racial constitution was eventually agreed upon and adopted in 1993.

The new Constitution came into effect on April 27 1994, the day the nation cast its vote in the first democratic election in the country.

The ANC was voted into power and Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the President of South Africa on May 10, 1994.

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