Every year since 1995, South Africa has celebrated Freedom Day. It’s one of the most important Public Holidays because of what it represents and how it has shaped democratic South Africa.
On 27 April 1994, the very first democratic elections took place in South Africa. This happened after over 300 years of colonialism and decades of Apartheid. It was significant because finally EVERYONE could have a say in how the country is run and by who, not only the white minority. Although there were threats of violence and unrest, the elections took place peacefully. At the time 22 million South Africans were eligible to vote, and around 19 million people queued and ended up voting over four days. The ANC won with 62%, while the National Party (the party that ruled during Apartheid) received 20% and the Inkatha Freedom Party received 10%.
In 1995 on the first anniversary of the first democratic elections in South Africa, elected president Nelson Mandela gave a speech which included this quote: ”On this day, you, the people, took your destiny into your own hands. You decided that nothing would prevent you from exercising your hard-won right to elect a government of your choice. Your patience, your discipline, your single-minded purposefulness have become a legend throughout the world.”
Freedom Day is significant to South Africa’s past, present and future. It was a pivotal point in time which determined how the country would move forward after hundreds of years of racial and systemic oppression enforced by a white minority.
Although South Africa has come a very long way and our constitution is one of the most progressive in the world, our government and leaders have failed us countless times. At the end of the day, we each have a responsibility to uphold the constitution and what it stands for, especially when it comes to marginlised communities.
The LGBTQIA+ community, women and children are constantly under threat and in danger. Speaking out in your community whether online or in person, joining forces with other like-minded people or organisations and taking action (no matter how small) to create awareness and spark change are all ways to make a difference and amplify marginilised voices. If you’d like to focus on Gender-Based Violence and/or sexual assault you can contact any of these organisations to find out how you can help: https://bit.ly/3N8TPZN