Wondering what happened on the 27th of April, 1994 in South Africa? Why does this day matter so much? Freedom Day! Celebrated annually on April 27th, it marks a very important milestone for South Africa as a nation as well as the whole of Africa. The end of oppression, racial segregation, sexism, racism, and forms of modern-day slavery that were present in the nation. Read on to know more interesting facts about freedom day South Africa.
Freedom Day was first celebrated on April 27th, 1995 to commemorate the very first democratic, non-racial, post-apartheid election which was held the previous year, 1994, on the same date. It marks the end of over 300 years of colonialism, apartheid, and white minority rule in the country.
History of Freedom Day South Africa
South Africa has been through over 300 years of colonialism. The arrival and establishment of a white settlement on the Cape on April 6th, 1652 was considered the beginning of South Africa and the beginning of the years of oppression to come. The settlement mainly constituted of the Dutch and was established under the Dutch East India Company.
The Dutch presided over the nation between 1652 and 1815 after which British colonisation and Boer republics took over from 1815 to 1910. The Union of South Africa was formed and continued to rule over the nation from 1910 to 1948. Apartheid, the Afrikaans word for 'separateness', was established and was in practice between 1948 and 1994. This era of white minority rule saw the extreme oppression of the natives of as well as the brutality exerted on them by their rulers. The natives had their land taken away from them, various rights denied, racial segregation and extrajudicial killings. In 1984, the situation began to slightly look up when Coloureds and Indians were granted limited right to vote in forthcoming elections.
F. W. Dear Klerk became the president in 1989 and began the dismantling of the apartheid regime. On February 2nd, 1990, De Klerk lifted the ban on the African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP), Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and other African political parties. This was the beginning of freedom for the natives. The 11th of February, 1990 saw the release of Nelson Mandela, after 27 years in prison, on orders of De Klerk.
Upon Nelson Mandela's release, negotiations with the current minority government began leading to the establishment of a non-racial constitution in 1993 and South Africa's very first post-apartheid election on April 27th, 1994, which saw Nelson Mandela becoming the nation's first democratically elected president; the day which is celebrated now as Freedom Day. On May 10th, 1994, Mandela was inaugurated and legally took office.
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Freedom Day speeches
The highlight of each annual celebration is the Presidential speech to be delivered. Each speech has a deep set message that resonates deeply with the citizens, asking them to never forget where they come from, to honour those who fought relentlessly, and to remember the fallen soldiers, both who loved their country and their people and wanted a brighter future. Most of the speeches encourage the people to never carry the burden of hate in their hearts, but to show love and kindness to one another and to appreciate the ethnic and cultural diversity that makes up the colourful tapestry of South Africa.
On the very first celebration of Freedom Day in 1995, Nelson Mandela, then the president of the Rainbow Nation, delivered a heartwarming speech.
During the 2008 celebrations, President Thabo Mbeki gave his last speech as president before leaving office.
In 2009, acting President Kgalema Motlanthe, who took over from Thabo, gave his speech as well.
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Prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to all activists who fought apartheid and liberated South Africa.
Facts about Freedom Day in South Africa
- Various groups and social movements celebrate this day as UnFreedom as a way to lament and mourn over the state of unfreedom still experienced by the poor all over South Africa.
- During the 1994 elections, 22.7 million South Africans from all races, 18 and above, were registered as voters.
- The ANC won the election with 62.64% of the votes. The National Party gathered 20.39%, Inkatha Freedom Party got 10.54%, Freedom Front got 2.2%, Democratic Party had 1.7%, the Pan African Congress gathered 1.2%, and the African Christian Democratic Party gained 0.5% of the total votes cast on that day.
- The current flag of South Africa, a multicoloured marvel, earning the country the name Rainbow Nation, was adopted as the official flag on April 27th, 1994, replacing the flag that had been used since 1928. The current flag represents the ethnic diversity and multiculturalism of the nation as a whole.
- Nelson Mandela is considered the father of Modern day South Africa, for being at the forefront of the fight for freedom. He was arrested in 1961 for treason and was later acquitted only to be arrested again for illegally leaving the country in 1962. In 1964, Mandela was put in trial and charged with sabotage. This would see him be imprisoned for 27 years, 18 of which were spent on Robben Island Prison under harsh conditions and heavy labour. Despite all this, his spirit was never broken, and he marched forth with his people becoming the nation's first president and preaching the message of peace and kindness. Who fought for freedom in South Africa? He, among others such as Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu and Winnie Mandela, are some of the key figures at the forefront of the fight for freedom.
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- How do you celebrate freedom day? Visiting Robben Island Prison, Soweto, The Hector Pieterson Memorial, District Six Museum, and the Apartheid Museum are a few ideas. They offer a peek into the dark past of South Africa and instil the appreciation of freedom and free will to all its visitors. Some people also opt to have a relaxed day with their families at the park or enjoy their freedom on the beach.
Despite the emancipation of the South African people from all these vices, they are still present in today’s South Africa; a presence of a huge economic and social gap between the citizens with the emergence of a new class of the elite. Why do we celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa? Well, Freedom day South Africa serves as a reminder that social vices such as corruption and inequality can easily cancel out the efforts of the fight for freedom that wiped out racism, promoted equality, and championed for equal rights of all citizens without any forms of segregation.