On 27 April 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections which gave birth to freedom and constitutional democracy. It was a special moment for millions of South Africans, who for the first time could vote for the government of their choice in the country of their birth.
The elections made it possible to embark on a journey to build a country that belongs to all who live in it. Since then, every year on 27 April, South Africans mark the day which forever resonates as a turning point in the country’s history.
This year’s celebration coincides with the centenary of struggle stalwart Oliver Reginald Tambo who epitomised South Africa’s struggle for liberation. Government says this presents an opportunity to reflect on the many sacrifices that were made for the freedom South Africans enjoy today and on how the country’s democracy was achieved.
SAnews asked a few Ministers and Deputy Ministers what freedom means to them. We further asked what progress they think the country has made in the past 23 years of freedom.
Minister of Communications Ayanda Dlolo:
“For me, freedom means that it’s time for government to review where it is and also look at what it is that government is going to be doing in the next years to ensure that the lives of people are improved.
Freedom is the only thing we have as South Africans and we need to own it, preserve it and need to guard jealousy so that it’s never taken away from us
For South Africa to go forward, the country needs people who are very driven, very positive, critical in certain senses, but also very introspective.
This is what we need going forward to the future. We need a collective of people who will be able to introspect honestly about themselves, but also be able to drive programmes to better the lives of people.
South Africans live through the era of freedom and 27 April has been set aside as a special day which reminds us of what happened on 27 April 1994. The celebration of freedom itself is the life that we live. It is a celebration in itself.”
Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi:
“Freedom day to me means that we have started a journey to have one prosperous, non-sexist, democratic, non-racial South Africa. Freedom day was the beginning of that journey.
Attaining freedom on 27 April 1994 was the first phase of the transition. There was no way that South Africa would achieve economic freedom without first attaining political freedom.
The second phase of the transition is to look at the economy and equality. That is why government is always talking about radical economic transformation or inclusive growth. The current economy of the country does not include everybody.”
Deputy Minister in the Presidency Bhuti Manamela:
“We need to remember that South Africa’s liberation did not come for free, it came at a cost to human life. It also came as a result of sacrifices made by many South Africans, black, white, Indian and coloured. We therefore need to remember that our role as the current generation is not only to harness but to protect these freedoms.
We need to ensure that we interpret these freedoms to what it should mean now. It means jobs creating jobs for those who are unemployed, it means meeting the potential of those who want to be entrepreneurs. Freedom also means living in peace and harmony understanding our diversity and also that we should respect each other as South Africans. Freedom also means we should be intolerable as young people over acts we believe are intended to undermine this democracy.
I believe beyond the general theme that government has agreed to in terms of this freedom day, we need to mobilise young people to get involved and take action to change lives, that’s the only way we can honour those who lost their lives and their time in prison.
Deputy Minister of Human Settlements Zoe Kota – Fredericks:
“As we celebrate this day and Freedom Day, let’s all remember and pay tribute to the country’s unique and remarkably detailed and inclusive constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Our Constitution is recognised globally as one of the most developed in the world and guarantees all the country’s citizens freedom from all inequalities of the past.”
Deputy Minister of Transport Sindisiwe Chikunga:
“The 27th of April in South Africa reminds us of the journey that we have travelled from before 1994 to the 27April 1994 which was preceded by a blood bath. People like Chris Hani and many others who were killed on the eve of our freedom. But today we are happy that we stand here ready to celebrate yet another Freedom Day. We take these things for granted sometimes we forget as to how our freedom came. We take it as something that was delivered on a silver platter, people died [for our freedom].
We are happy that today we celebrating yet another Freedom Day. I’m looking forward to tomorrow with excitement, happy to be alive and I want to believe that many more South Africans are looking forward to it also. We are free to be South Africans and we have a right to say that we are not foreigners in our own country, we decide on the government of our choice.
We also decide on what we want to do including the careers we want to follow. I grew up at a time where I could not choose the career I wanted, you could be a nurse, a teacher or a Clarke. Today I’m living in a country where I have young people who are journalists, pilots or sea farers and anything else they want to be. That is the South Africa we are celebrating today.”
This year’s national Freedom Day celebration will take place at the uMhlabuyalingana Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal under the theme: “The year of OR Tambo: Together deepening democracy and building safer and crime-free communities”. President Jacob Zuma will lead the commemoration.