Pretoria- Hundreds of people have descended on the Union Buildings’ southern lawns in Pretoria to mark Freedom Day.
The crowds gathered as they awaited the address by President Jacob Zuma. The theme for the celebrations this year is “Celebrating the Third Decade of our Freedom through Accelerating Radical Economic Transformation”.
The proceedings started with the singing of the national anthem, ceremonial Guard of Honour and a 21-gun salute as buses carrying people continued to flock in.
The mood was rather sombre this year with some wearing t-shirts condemning the recent attacks of people from other African countries.
Today’s celebrations come exactly 21 years since South Africa held its first non-racial elections in 1994.
SAnews spoke to those in attendance and many said they feel privileged to be part of such a historic moment and to also live in a democratic South Africa.
For 47- year -old Martha Mamonyane from Mamelodi freedom means equality and expression.
“For me, to be free is to be able to complain and take to the streets without fear of being arrested…I still have complaints; there are no jobs, but we have come a long way as a country for example my grandchildren go to non-racial schools,” she said.
“Born Free” Tinyiko Maluleka, 23, said he felt that he lived in a country that is alive with possibilities.
“I think maybe there's some hope. We might need 30 years after 1994- for everyone to fully see the outcomes of our freedom but I believe we are not far from the right track.
“For now- I am grateful that I can do my own thing and be openly gay with no one can tell me anything.”
Mandy Sithole, 31, was moved by how South Africans were coming together- despite some "intolerances" from few people in the country.
“No matter what South Africans always come together. For example people from all walks of life stood together in condemning the attacks on our African brothers and sisters in certain parts of the country.” We united in saying not in our name and time- which is one of our best traits as a country.”
Sithole also felt that the country was doing well in promoting individual rights and freedoms.
“We now all have rights, but our need to emphasise the fact that our rights do come with responsibilities. Many still need to be educated and more progress can be done in this regard,” she said.
But not everyone was optimistic- like Emmanuel Chaane (37) who said there are lot of things happening in South Africa which he felt needed to be addressed speedily.
“We still have poverty, crime like we still kill two-year-old kids, rape our children and of course unemployment …that's not freedom,” said Chaane who attributed most to the sense of laziness.
“Having said that we have our little positives. I think South Africa has a lot to offer for those who want to be in it. We have, to a large extent, political freedom and freedom of association.” –SAnews.gov.za