Remembering where we come from

28th April 2021

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

The 27th of April 2021 marked the 27th anniversary of South Africa’s first non-racial democratic election ushering in a new era for a country with a history of discrimination and oppression. This event introduced the induction of what we know today as Freedom Day, where we celebrate and commemorate the struggle for democracy and the leaders that brought about this change. There are still many inequalities that need to be addressed, but it is important to pay homage to our liberation from the prejudiced political power pre-1994.

During the Apartheid regime, most South Africans did not have the right to a fair and just election. When the country transformed into a democratic society in 1994, promoting equality restored the dignity of many, previously stripped away under the oppressive government. When the country was racially segregated, many South Africans’ fundamental human rights were violated and disregarded. Because of the countless sacrifices made by liberation movement leaders, we were able to overcome the ruthless system.

South Africa has a history with colonialism stemming hundreds of years back, so acknowledging the liberation movement is so important. The Apartheid regime was enforced in 1948 and promoted political prejudice, discrimination, segregation and white minority domination. During this time, most South Africans were not given the right to vote or any other inclusion in the political sphere. After many protests and rising political tension fighting against the regime, a turn in history took place on the 27th of April 1994. South Africa cast its first vote in a democratic election, where all races were allowed to participate. After 19.7 million votes were cast and the African National Congress won the election with 62.65% of the vote[i]. Which subsequently lead to Nelson Mandela becoming the first black president in South Africa.

Our current president Mr Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on the 27th and stated that this year’s theme is ‘The year of Charlotte Maxeke: The meaning of freedom under Covid-19’[ii]. Maxeke is described as a woman who was always prepared to work for others and pioneer in the fight against oppression. She did this at a time when such defiance resulted in unrelenting force and serious repercussions. We should remember Maxeke’s spirit by working together as a country in the battle against COVID-19 while striving for solidarity.