Freedom Day is much more than just another public holiday, or the reason for the long weekend. It is an important day to commemorate the country’s history and the dawn of democracy.
It is significant because it marks the end of over 300 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.
Here are 10 facts about Freedom Day that every South African should know, courtesy of the Bosveld Review.
1. The day celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994.
2. 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.
3. The elections were the first non-racial national elections where everyone of voting age, 18 or over, from any race group was allowed to vote.
4. Of South Africa’s 22.7 million eligible voters, 19.7 million voted in the 1994 national election.
5. The election was won by the ANC with 62.65% of the vote. The National Party (NP) received 20.39%, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 10.54%, Freedom Front (FF) 2.2%, Democratic Party (DP) 1.7%, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 1.2% and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) 0.5%.
6. Since political freedom in 1994 many South Africans have striven to correct the wrongs of the past.
7. Nelson Mandela is considered the father of modern South Africa for the instrumental role he played in establishing a democracy and ending the oppressive rule of the white minority.
8. Freedom Day was first celebrated in 1995 and has since been celebrated annually on 27 April.
9. Government says Freedom Day is significant because it “marks the end of over 300 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”.
10. 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 first ballots.
What are your memories of 1994?