April 27, 2012

Country reflects on Freedom Day

18 years after the first democratic elections were held in South Africa, people from all walks of life gathered at the Union Buildings, to reflect on what Freedom Day means to them and what it should mean for future generations.

"Freedom Day is a happy day," said 62-year-old Thoko Mposula of Vosloorus. "Today I can walk the streets knowing that pass laws don't exist anymore. Life was hard back then," she said, recalling the years of apartheid." Another 62-year-old, Grace Morwane, added that it was important to teach the youth about the struggle for freedom. "That is why I brought my daughter with. We want the youth to grow up knowing their history," she said. Morwane brought her 11-year-old daughter Kamogelo with her on the bus ride to the celebrations. Mposula chipped in to say that it was "painful" for the elderly to see that most young people did not know the country's history.

The country's first democratic elections were held in the country on 27 April 1994. "This day makes us realise that our freedom must be celebrated. As the youth we must know our history," 16-year-old Lerato Tladi said.

In his address president Zuma urged South Africans to make the country a success. "As South Africans, we celebrate this significant day in order to ensure that the present does not erase the past, and in order to protect the future," he said. Arts and Culture Minister, Paul Mashatile, said the day was about honouring the dawn of freedom. He added that freedom required permanent vigilance. New Malawian President, Joyce Banda, also joined the celebrations alongside Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng among others when she arrived at the Union Buildings.

Political parties across the spectrum expressed their views on the struggle for freedom and how much work was still needed during the 18th celebration of Freedom Day. Only the Inkatha Freedom Party was aggrieved, its leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi refused to attend the celebrations at the Union Buildings, argueing that its role in the struggle against apartheid had not been sufficiently recognised.

The day was marked with performances by various artists like Ladies in Jazz. Earlier on, a wreath laying ceremony was held at Freedom Park after which the public at the Union Buildings was treated to a military band performance and a cultural parade among other entertainment items. When Zuma arrived at the celebrations, he was greeted with cheers, whistles and shouting. Adorned in green and gold, the military band entertained the crowd with music. People cheered loudly during a fly-past by the SA Air Force, and a 21 round gun salute. Several military aircraft shot through the sky as a big contingent of photographers tried to capture pictures. With one hand firmly on his chest, Zuma joined in the singing of the national anthem. (Sadocc/Sapa)

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