Thu. Jul 18th, 2019

Freedom Day 2019: What you need to know

iec South Africa Flag Against City Blurred Background At Sunrise BacklightFreedom day is being celebrated for the 24th time in South Africa, yet a lot of people may not know why we get a day off on 27 April.

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It’s nice having a public holiday – even though this year’s Freedom Day falls on a Saturday. However, it’s also a day to reflect on what freedom means for those of us living in one of the most beautiful corners of the world.

Why do we celebrate Freedom Day?

Freedom Day celebrates the first time that every South African citizen was given the right to vote.

For the first time in South Africa’s history, people of colour were allowed to vote for parties which just a few years earlier were still banned under the apartheid government.

The first democratic elections – 27 April 1994

A staggering 19.7m of the 22.7m eligible voters showed up at the polls to make their votes count in South Africa’s first non-racial election.

The ANC presidential candidate for that first election was the iconic Nelson Mandela, who is widely credited for brokering the peaceful transition of power in the country.

The ANC won the election 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%.

The National Party still received votes

Yes, for those too young to remember, the National Party, the previous ruling party under Apartheid ran in that first election and got 20.39% of the votes.

This could be why there are still so many people all these years later waving the old South African flag at rugby games, or boycotting Multichoice, DSTv, kykNET, MTN, and Toyota.

The Democratic Party – which eventually merged with the National Party and back then was the more liberal face of South African politics – had relatively insignificant support during that first trip to the ballot boxes.

Ending 300 years of segregation

For many, 27 April is that day we all voted together for the first time. But the government also notes the day as something far more significant.

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”.

These are powerful words and speaks to the level of optimism many South Africans shared in 1994. However, groups of South Africans have taken to commemorate the day as UnFreedom Day.

They use 27 April to highlight how many things have not changed, especially economically, despite the increased political freedom enjoyed by all.

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