All you need to know: Freedom day in South Africa and why we celebrate it.
The 27th of April marks Freedom Day in South Africa. At present, as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world, South Africa will celebrate Freedom Day, quite ironically, in a nationwide lockdown. Despite the lockdown, which is due to lessen just a few days after Freedom Day on May the 1st, South Africa will still celebrate Freedom Day and pay respect to the national holiday’s history.
Do you know why we celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa?
Freedom Day is a day of respect and commemoration. Celebrated on the 27th of April each year, Freedom Day honours the anniversary of South Africa’s first non-racial election of 1994 and pays homage to the country’s liberation from Apartheid rule, where the minority exercised prejudice political power over the majority of the country.
Carry on reading to learn more.
The History of Freedom Day
Freedom Day is celebrated annually on the 27th of April in honour of the auspicious day in 1994 when the first non-racial election was held in the country. South Africa celebrates Freedom Day to mark the liberation of our country and its people from 300 years of colonialism, White minority domination, politically enforced prejudice and Apartheid.
Apartheid ‘officially’ began in South Africa in 1948, but colonialism and oppression of the African majority had plagued South Africa since 1652; however, colonialism and oppression of the African majority had plagued various countries throughout the African continent since as early as the 1600s.
After decades of resistance, a stalemate between the Liberation Movement and the Apartheid government was reached in 1988. The ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP), Pan African Congress (PAC) and other organisations were later unbanned on 2 February 1990, and a non-racial constitution was eventually agreed upon and adopted in 1993.
Under the brutal Apartheid rule, indigenous people of colour in South Africa were denied the right to vote and hence did not have a say in the political governing and running of the country. During Apartheid, the majority of South Africans were excluded from any form of political power or influence.
Freedom Day honours those who fought for our country’s liberation, and the many men and women who suffered through incarceration, bannings and torture on behalf of the oppressed during Apartheid.
The First Democratic Election of 1994
On Wednesday, 27 April 1994, the nation cast its vote in the first democratic election. For the first time, all races in the country were allowed to vote for a government of their choice. Nineteen political parties participated in the non-racial election, and 19.7 million people across the country voted.
The African National Congress (ANC) won the election with 62.65% of the vote, and the party’s frontman, the revered Nelson Mandela became the first black president of the country on the 9th of May. Contrary to fears of political violence, the election took place in a festive and celebratory atmosphere.
We are still a long way away from solving many of the legacies of Apartheid and now face new challenges, like the growing inequality among South Africans and political and economic instability in the region caused by a new elite who are interested in pursuing their own interests. Freedom Day therefore serves as a reminder to us that the guarantee of our freedom requires us to remain permanently vigilant against corruption and the erosion of the values of the Freedom Struggle and to build an active citizenry that will work towards wiping out the legacy of racism, inequality and the promotion of the rights embodied in our constitution
Freedom Day is a special day for all South Africans to reflect on the painful struggles we’ve overcome as a country, as well as to honour the students, teachers, political leaders and everyday people who lost their lives in the fight for a democratic South Africa.