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More Opinion and Analysis

News24 staff remember 27 April 1994

2014-04-25 10:41
27 April 2014 will mark 20 years since the first democratic elections in South Africa. News24 staff reminisce about that historic day.

Have your own memory to share? Tell us and we'll publish your story on News24. Send it to us by clicking here!

Lauren Hess:
I was 9-years-old but I remember the adults in my life being very excited to vote for the first time. I don’t remember how long my parents were gone for (probably hours) but my father later said that he proudly voted for the ANC in 1994 because he was so hopeful. He hasn’t voted since because he subsequently became jaded about government and politics. 

Estrelita Moses:
I was in my second year at journalism school…I remember it was a rainy day, and my two sisters and I went to vote at a DRC church in the heart of Bellville……the atmosphere was certainly not dampened by the weather. And then we came home…and continued proceedings watching on TV and drinking wine! It was a big day, there was a general sense of having been part of history.

Roy McKenzie:
I was lucky enough to spend 27 April 1994 working for the IEC in Grahamstown, where I was a student at the time. We were stationed at a farm school, where my job was to check ID books against the voters roll. My indelible impression of that day was seeing an elderly gogo arriving on the arms of her grandson. She was overcome with emotion and nerves as she approached the table. Her grandson apologised as she shakily handed her crumpled ID book to us, explaining it was the first time she’d done this. I reassured her by saying I’d also voted for the very first time, and it was fairly simple. She then went into her booth, and as she came out, she beamed the most brilliant smile I’d ever seen, basking in the moment, and then she walked out unaided, standing tall.

Elmarie Jack:
I was working at the SABC at the time and wrote the first bulletin (06:00) for the Nguni/Sotho service the morning after FW de Klerk conceded defeat.
The first sentence read:
FREE AT LAST... That's how thousands of SOUTH AFRICANS last night welcomed the A.N.C's victory in the country's first all-race elections.
The story was done 94.05.03/03:06  

Cathryn Reece:
I was 9, and remember quite clearly my school closing for three days, just in case voting went on for more than one day, or there was violence that would make it difficult for us to get to school.

I remember my parents went to vote in a tent down the road from our house; it was white and pitched on a dusty piece of ground on the side of the road. They took turns to vote, in part to look after us, and in part I think as they were a little worried for their safety. I remember politics spilling over into school life at the time – we had already been taught the new national anthem in the early 90s, and I vividly remember sitting in needlework class, all of 8 or 9 years old, knitting (aaah, the good old days) talking politics with my friends. Our school was an open school so most of my friends were coloured and black, and they were all so excited for Mandela as president ?

Dane McDonald:
We lived across from one of the voting stations [Belhar library] and I distinctly remember long lines snaking around the corners, an excited energy, and Muslim tannies selling doughnuts to voters in line.

Adele Hamilton:
In April 1994 my oldest son was a baby. Getting to the polls was a juggling act, balancing caring for him with our deep-felt desire to participate in the long-awaited democratic elections. My husband and I decided to dash down one at a time to the polling station which was just a few blocks away. I went early, and there was a lengthy queue, but it moved fast. I felt uplifted by the euphoria of the moment, knowing my little boy would grow up in a country where everyone had the right to cast a vote. This year that baby, now an adult, will vote for the first time.

Aneeqah Emeran:
I was 8 going on 9 at the time of the first elections. My parents, aunt and uncle took my cousins and me along with them to the Civic Centre in Cape Town's CBD. It would be their first time voting. It was a few months after my dad had had a triple bypass so he got to cut the very long queue and vote before my mom, aunt and uncle did. I remember him coming back in tears after being allowed to vote for the first time and it was then that I realised how big this day was for my family and all those there that day. After that day we were riveted by the stories they told us about their lives of separation from other races during the apartheid regime. It makes me appreciate the freedom I was privileged with for most of my life.

Duncan Alfreds:
Election Day 94 for me was a difficult one because I had to be up at 04:00 and found myself deep in Mitchell’s Plain sticking Mangosuthu Buthelezi stickers on to ballot papers. However, it was humbling when crowds of people arrived to vote, most of them for the first time in their lives and they were full of promise for the "New South Africa".

IEC staff constantly patrolled the queues searching for the ages and bringing them to the front of the line so they could vote. One man looked at me with cataract-filled eyes and asked: "Meneer, waar moet ek my merk maak?" (Sir, where must I make my mark?); I told him he could choose any party and his vote was secret.

In those days, votes were counted at a different location, but despite that our day finished at well after midnight after the last people had voted.

Jerusha Sukhdeo-Raath:
I was only 6 years old when my parents voted for the first time in 1994. I remember my father being more excited than I had ever seen him. My mother, who was pregnant at the time with my brother, was hot and bothered in the queue. IEC officials ushered them to the front of the line to vote. I wrote a hilarious poem for my family about the importance of voting ANC. My father dug it out and read it at my recent wedding; the guests rolled with laughter – so much changes in 20 years!

** Have your own memory to share? Tell us and we'll publish your story on News24. Send it to us by clicking here!

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