Freedom Day

Saturday, April 27, 2024

By Nomonde Mnukwa

The South Africa we embrace today, where individuals are allowed to move freely, speak without fear and associate with whomever they want, would not be possible without the sacrifices of those who fought for our freedom. This year, as we commemorate 30 Years of Freedom and Democracy on the 27th of April, we will reflect on our journey thus far and our progress in advancing our democracy.

Our struggle to be free was brought about by many unsung heroes and heroines who were instrumental in the fight against apartheid and its unjust pass laws and discriminatory systems, such as Bantu education. Many in the liberation struggle were imprisoned, and some even lost their lives whilst in the pursuit of a nation that would be free from the shackles of oppression.

Today we have broken the barriers that once divided us and celebrate living in a nation where we are indeed free and have the freedom to choose, participate, be heard and be counted as citizens in a democracy. Our freedom holds even greater significance as we prepare to cast our votes for our nation’s seventh democratic elections.

Freedom Day serves as a reminder of our country’s very first democratic elections held on 27 April 1994. The historic first free and fair election of 1994 resulted in Nelson Mandela becoming the first black president and he declared that “to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.

The democratic values of equality, freedom and human dignity is the foundation upon which the South African constitution has been built and this year we commemorate the 28th anniversary of the enactment of the constitution as the supreme law of our country.

The South African constitution has not only been instrumental in protecting our constitutional rights but has also played a vital role in forging a new national identity that protects our rich cultural heritage and diversity. It has also been influential in allowing for the redress of past imbalances.

Transformation through laws, such as Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, Affirmative Action, Preferential Procurement, and plans such as the Reconstruction and Development Plan, were government’s initial attempts to reduce socio-economic disparities.

Over the years, there have been significant improvements to citizens’ lives as much work has been done to advance basic services.

From 1994 to date, approximately 12 million households have electricity, which is seven million more households than in 1994. Approximately 93 percent of South Africans now have access to potable water compared to 62 percent in 1994. Eighty percent of households now have access to decent sanitation compared to 50 percent in 1994.

The number of citizens in employment have increased substantially from eight million in 1994 to over 16.7 million in 2024. We have also prioritised providing social assistance through grants that support over 18 million poor and vulnerable South Africans. 

Our social assistance programme is at the heart of government’s poverty alleviation programme and central to restoring the dignity of our people. Through it, we continue to improve the living conditions of poor, vulnerable and underprivileged South Africans.

However, despite these achievements much work still remains in ensuring that we eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 as envisioned through the National Development Plan.

It is now up to every one of us to continue the journey started in 1994. Together we can inspire hope for a better tomorrow and build a better nation for everyone.

*Nomonde Mnukwa is Acting Director-General of the GCIS