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Celebrating our freedom

Advice and Events
Celebrating our freedom

On 27 April each year, South Africans observe Freedom Day to commemorate the first democratic elections held on this date in 1994. This day also serves to remind us of the struggle for a free and just South Africa and the achievements we have made as a nation.

National Freedom Day encourages South Africans to participate in the commemoration of the struggle to build a non-racial, democratic South Africa in which we all have the freedom to prosper.

This year's Freedom Day theme - "Joining Hands to Celebrate 100 Years of struggle for Human Rights and Constitutional Democracy" - coincides with the formation of the South African Native National Congress (which later became the African National Congress (ANC) in 1912.

The road to democracy

The road to democracy was a long and difficult struggle of resistance against oppression by a minority government. The resistance movement became formalised with the formation of the ANC. 

The ANC and its allies sought freedom for all its people and continued to challenge the unjust apartheid laws. When The Congress of the People, held in Kliptown in 1955, adopted the Freedom Charter, the blueprint for a democratic South Africa was laid. 

The Charter affirmed that, "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people."

Following the Soweto Uprising of 1976, the liberation struggle gained momentum. Trade union movements started to revive and assert the rights of workers. Hundreds of residents' associations, as well as sports, student, women's and religious organisations joined the resistance struggle. 

By 1988, a stalemate had been reached and the apartheid government started looking for a way out. As a result, negotiations were started with the ANC leadership. This eventually led to the unbanning of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Pan African Congress (PAC) and other organisations on 2 February 1990. 

Non-racial constitution

A non-racial, interim constitution was negotiated in 1993 and paved the way for the establishment of the first democratic government following the 27 April 1994 general election.

President Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the President of South Africa on 10 May 1994.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, was approved by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996 and took effect on 4 February 1997.

Significance of Freedom Day

Today, we celebrate Freedom Day to mark freedom for all South Africans. 

The day is also an opportunity for government to reaffirm its commitment to consolidate democracy and promote cultural diversity and social cohesion. This is done in a system that guarantees that never again will humanity be taken from any South African, irrespective of race, gender, creed or sexual orientation.

In commemorating the heroes and heroines and the role played by ordinary citizens in the country and abroad, government calls on everyone to unite in creating a better future for all. 

Nation-building requires all South Africans to live by example, ensuring that the values and principles enshrined in our Constitution become a lived reality in the development of fully functioning communities. 

- Louise van Niekerk