– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase
Racist laws in South Africa ended in 1994 after decades of oppression under the Apartheid system. Through a series of negotiations, the Apartheid government under F.W. de Klerk’s administration finally brought an end to the conflict. Following these results, the African National Congress won the country’s first democratic election. The new era for South Africa still had a lot of work, from policy and legislative reform to leadership transformation. South Africa was going to be led by its first black president, who represented what they stood for. The people yearned for equal rights and for ethnic groups to live harmoniously. Therefore, the 16th of December was declared the Day of Reconciliation in 1995 to promote peace and unity.
As a result of the country’s journey and what it has overcome, the Day of Reconciliation represents democracy and honours those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle. Despite overruling the apartheid system, people of colour, more especially black people, did not want to take the country back to what it was before, except with the roles reversed. We celebrate this day to remind ourselves to practice peace, tolerance, and forgiveness. This year’s theme is “Bridging the divide towards a non-racist society” and describes the direction that South Africans ought to be aspiring to. The theme varies each year, but the key point is reconciliation as a nation.
It has been over 25 years since the Day of Reconciliation was entrenched, but racial tensions still exist. This subtle divide may not cross human rights violation territory but cannot go without being acknowledged. As much as economic, social, and education inequalities had a long-lasting effect on the racial divide that came from the Apartheid regime. We still have the opportunity to turn it around. In the same manner that Apartheid was overcome by the people, there is hope in finding healing and reconciliation.