South Africans all around the world will be celebrating Freedom Day on 27 April in commemoration of that historic day in 1994 when for the first time all the citizens of the country could participate in democratic elections.
On that day the world watched as millions of South Africans of all races united for the first time, standing in winding voting queues, to exercise the right to vote that the majority were enjoying for the first time.
This year, the Freedom Day celebrations will be held under the theme “Business Unusual”, which also formed the basis of President Thabo Mbeki’s state of the nation address this year. The business unusual theme calls for government to rev up its programes – not by changing its policies, but by implementing them in imaginative, more effective ways.
The main celebrations will take place in Cape Town, where President Mbeki is expected to deliver his annual Freedom Day speech. As usual thousands of South Africans are expected o join the celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
In 1995, on the first anniversary of Freedom Day, then-president Nelson Mandela said in his speech at the Union Buildings, “We assemble here today, and in other parts of the country, to mark a historic day in the life of our nation. Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our hearts beat as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future.”
Over the years the world has also joined in South Africa’s celebration of Freedom Day. In 2001, more than 2 000 people gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square for the South African Freedom Day concert. Among those who attended were English activists who over the years had spent many hours picketing outside the South African high commission, protesting against apartheid.
During the historic ten-year celebrations, the United Nations held a commemorative meeting, hosted by then-General Assembly president Julian Hunte. “South Africa’s significant accomplishment was also an accomplishment for the United Nations. For over four decades the United Nations had given international leadership and direction to the struggle against apartheid,” said Hunte.
“The [UN] had shared the vision of the majority of South Africans for a country free from racism, racial discrimination, violence, despair and violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
This year will be no different. In the US, expatriates will gather at the Madiba restaurant in New York to celebrate the day. The event is organised by the Homecoming Revolution, a non-profit organisation which encourages South Africans around the world to return home.
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