It’s April! We all know what that means for the typical employee; looking through the calendar trying to see if the holiday falls on Friday (or Monday) so you can book in your long weekend leave. Yup, we know that thought crossed your mind… we see you!
With time, the significance of truly important days in our country’s history gets “watered down” and this piece aims to jerk your memory a bit. Hopefully, you’ll have a bit more reverence for the day and why it resonates with so many.
Freedom Day is an annual celebration of South Africa’s first non-racial democratic elections of 1994. Peace, unity, the preservation, and the restoration of human dignity hallmark Freedom Day celebrations on the 27th of April of each year. The road to democracy was a long and difficult one. However, there are a few facts you need to know about this day…
The day celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994. The elections were the first non-racial national elections where everyone of voting age of over 18 from any race group was allowed to vote
Of South Africa’s 22.7 million eligible voters at the time, 19.7 million voted in the 1994 national election. That’s 87% of the country! In a nation that’s majority black, you can only imagine what the numbers were before this time. The outcome was a victory for the ANC with 62.7% of the votes.
Some groups and social movements celebrate a version of Freedom Day called UnFreedom Day in which they mourn the unfreedom still experienced by the poor. It was started by a group called Abahlali baseMjondolo (directly translating to “shack dwellers”) in Durban in 2005. Since political freedom, South Africans have striven to correct these wrongs of the past.
Nelson Mandela is considered the father of Modern South Africa for the instrumental role that he played in establishing democracy and ending the oppressive rule of the white minority. Mandela and De Klerk led efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid, which resulted in the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the ANC to victory and became president.
Thought for the month
The South African government says Freedom Day is significant because it “marks the end of over three hundred years of colonialism, segregation and white minority rule and the establishment of a new democratic government led by Nelson Mandela and a new state subject to a new constitution”.
For many South Africans, Freedom Day brings back memories of the euphoria of 1994, when black, Indian, and mixed-race voters stood in long meandering lines to cast their very first ballots. To some, it brings back the atrocities they had to endure for over 300 years. Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, we’re here now. All we can do is construct a future, together, in which all traces of racism are eradicated from our society.
What does that mean to you?
Click on the video to watch what some of your fellow colleagues have to say about what FREEDOM means to them.