Reflections on 25 years of democracy

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Freedom of expression and the restoration of dignity are among the crucial elements South Africa obtained with the advent of a democratic dispensation, says Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

“South Africans should remember that their dignity has been restored back and there is nothing which is more than that because we have been treated over a period of time as sub humans. We should be happy and be free that we are able to express ourselves in whatever way and that is a great achievement,” said Mthethwa on Saturday.

In an interview with SAnews at the national Freedom Day celebrations held at the Miki Yili sports grounds in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, the Minister urged South Africans not to take their freedom for granted.

In 2019 South Africa commemorates 25 years since all South Africans across the racial divide went to the polls in arguably the country’s most historic elections.

Today’s national Freedom Day also coincides with voting at South Africa’s foreign missions abroad. Many South Africans in different parts of the world are on Saturday casting their votes at foreign missions which opened their doors at 7am local time and are expected to close at 11:30pm.

In a few days all South Africans will vote on Election Day on 8 May.

Mthethwa said government is well aware that the winds of change seen over the last 25 years have not reached every citizen.

“We have been going about changing the lives of people. We are well aware that we have not reached everybody universally but government is committed going forward to ensure that where we have not reached, we are able to reach.

“We also know that we are in the second phase of our freedom, which is more about economic emancipation and that is where our programmes are focusing, on issues of land, economic development and so on,” he said.

The Minister’s comments come as only 1-2% of black farmers operate in the commercial space.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in his Freedom Day message called on South Africans to use this period to reflect on how far the country on the southernmost tip of the African continent has come.

“We must reflect on the progress we have made in setting right the wrongs of the past, in bringing development to communities where there was once only neglect, in restoring human dignity where there was once only contempt,” said the President.

Ordinary South Africans who attended the national celebrations also reflected on the gains made since the attainment of democracy.

An elderly Buyiswa who would not give her surname, is among those to have received a home from government in 2001.

“I am originally from Seven Fountains [farm in Makhanda] and 2001 I received a house from government,” she said, adding that the house has greatly improved the quality of her life.

Mziyanda Mancam, 37, from East London said there is a marked difference between the youth of 1976 and the current crop of young people who he encouraged to put their country first.

Twenty-two-year old Sanelisiwe Nxawe reminded the youth that previous generations fought hard for the freedom enjoyed today.

“Our grandmother and grandfathers fought the rights we enjoy today. Freedom Day is about our rights, and responsibilities,” she said.

Eleven days from now, South Africans will cast their ballots and vote for a sixth government.

“Like those who went to the polls for the first time in 1994, they will hold in their hands the destiny of our nation. They will assert, as free women and men, the fundamental principle that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people,” said President Ramaphosa in his address. –