SA celebrates democracy through Freedom Fridays

Friday, September 20, 2013
Nthambeleni Gabara

Johannesburg – The inspirational Freedom Fridays campaign, which is aimed at building momentum in the run up to next year’s 20th anniversary of freedom and democracy, has officially kicked off.

South Africans will on 27 April 2014 celebrate 20 years of freedom and democracy. The day will mark two decades since South Africans of all races voted in the country’s first free and fair election, ushering in a new democratic dispensation.

Freedom Fridays is a call to all South Africans to take pride in their nation and celebrate the road they have travelled since 1994.

Speaking at the launch of Freedom Fridays at Soweto’s Sakhumzi Restaurant -- which is a stone’s throw away from the old house of former President Nelson Mandela -- former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Kathrada, used the platform to recount the long journey that gave birth to the democratic era.

The signage displayed by the struggle hero had these words: “This lift is for Europeans only. Service lift is provided for tradesmen, non-Europeans, Prams and Dogs. No Hawkers allowed.

“I am sure young people have never seen this before. I do not have to say anything more because one sentence has said it all,” said Kathrada.

However, he said, the most important thing that the country has achieved since the dawn of democracy is human dignity. The stalwart said one can have all money in the world, but if they do not have dignity, “they will remain lesser human beings”.

“Yes, 1994 brought us dignity. Apartheid is no longer there. Racism is now a criminal offence. But today we’ve got many challenges. Poverty, unemployment, disease and children without schools are the new challenges we are facing.

“I am glad that young people have already established what our new challenges are and I am confident that young people, who are the majority of our country, will stand up to the challenges that face us because there is no dignity in poverty, disease and hunger,” Kathrada said.

Speaking to SAnews after listening to the struggle veteran speak, Bronwyn De Matros, a 38-year-old teacher from Redhill High in Morningside, Johannesburg said: “As a South African, I was so emotional when one of our struggle heroes demonstrated to us what he went through during the apartheid era.

“It just showed to me how terrible apartheid was. It is painful to imagine what the generation before us went through during those turbulent years, but I am also glad that the democracy brought in 1994 has so far helped us as South Africans to live side by side.”

Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said government fully endorsed the Freedom Fridays initiative. He urged all South Africans to be proud of their nationality and to celebrate who they are.

“You can wear whatever you feel proud about. You can wear a South African scarf, [a national sport team jersey] and you can even decorate your clothes with the South African [flag] colours.

“The message we are sending out is that we are proudly South Africans,” he said.

Mashatile said through Freedom Fridays, government wanted to revive the 2010 FIFA World Cup fever, which saw South Africans flying the country’s flag high.

The minister said for where the country had been before democracy, there was a lot to celebrate on the 20th anniversary.

“Before 1994, black people had no right to vote at all. Our books were full of racial statutes that prohibited black people from going to certain areas and one such racial law was the Group Areas Act, but all those laws are no longer exist.

“We all have the right to vote. All discriminatory laws have been removed.”

2014 set to be brilliant

Mashatile has great hopes for 2014.

“We might have challenges that we still need to address, but we need to celebrate 20 years of stable democracy and as we celebrate, we are not going to fold our [arms] because they are still many hills to be climbed.

“As South Africans, we are great people and we are building a great nation. I have no doubt that we are still going to achieve our goals. We are committed people, who are prepared to work very hard,” he said.

A Grade 11 learner at St Martin High in Soweto, Tshogofatso Dhlamini, 16, said: “This is a good initiative, which will also help to teach us as young South Africans to love each other irrespective of different ethnic groups.”

Pholoa Motlanthe, 16, a Grade 10 at the same school, said: “Events like these help us, who were born after the dawn of democracy, to understand where the generations before us come from and I think it is a good idea to celebrate 20 years of democracy and freedom.”

The Freedom Fridays concept is fashioned after the inspirational Football Fridays campaign that united South Africans behind the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and the 2011 Magnificent Fridays campaign which mobilise South Africans to support the country's national cricket, rugby and netball World Cup squads.

On Freedom Fridays, South Africans can wear anything that expresses their pride in being a South African; including colours of the national flag, traditional attire, soccer or rugby team jerseys and anything that reflects unity towards the 20th anniversary of freedom and democracy celebrations. -

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