South Africa marks Freedom Day on April 27

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Freedom Day is a South African public holiday celebrated on 27 April. It 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. Previously, under the apartheid regime, non-whites had only limited rights to vote.

On April 27, 2004 millions queued in lines over a three-day voting period. Altogether 19,726,579 votes were counted and 193,081 were rejected as invalid.

As widely expected, the African National Congress won a sweeping victory, taking 62 percent of the vote, just short of the two-thirds majority required to unilaterally amend the Interim Constitution. As required by that document, the ANC formed a Government of National Unity. The new National Assembly’s first act was to elect Nelson Mandela as President, making him the country’s first black chief executive.Statue of Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa

April 27 is the more significant the more it marks the end of over three hundred years of colonialism, segregation and white minority rule and the establishment of a new democratic government and a new state subject to a new constitution.  The holding of the first non-racial elections was the culmination of years of struggle and a negotiated settlement that led to the unbanning of the liberation organizations, the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles and the formal all party negotiations which drafted an interim constitution.

Speaking at the first anniversary of South Africa’s non-racial elections Nelson Mandela said “As dawn ushered in this day, the 27th of April 1995, few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us. Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our hearts beat as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future. The birth of our South African nation has, like any other, passed through a long and often painful process. The ultimate goal of a better life has yet to be realized. 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…”

 

Happy “Freedom Day”, South Africa!

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