Freedom Day is a public holiday in South Africa that commemorates the first democratic elections held on 27 April 1994. It honours the heroes and heroines who fought for equality against the apartheid regime. “Freedom” in this context means liberation from racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. Twenty-seven years into the new democracy, a lot of has been done to liberate South Africa and its people, but many issues e still persist in the country.
As I turn 30 this year, I recall my mother taking me on historical field trips on Freedom Day to the various significant spaces of the struggle, such as Lilies leaf, Freedom Park Heritage Site and Museum, Union Buildings etc. Half the time I used to yawn during the tips, but years later I value and appreciate the lessons from those that came before me. This was an intentional move executed by our parents, to teach us about our history so that we never forget where we come from. So if you are still wrecking your brain trying to find family friendly activities to do on Freedom Day, here is a list of incredible places to visit for you and family. These places tell an incredible narrative of the past, present and future of our country, is a great way to expose the young to the rich history of South Africa.
Mandela Capture Site, R103, Howick
A 10-metre-tall sculpture of Nelson Mandela marks the location where he was arrested in 1962. The sculpture by Marco Cianfanelli, unveiled in 2012, is made up of 50 steel bars demonstrating the half century since Mandela’s capture. An exhibition supplements the sculpture to assist visitors appreciate the importance of the place and the implications of that arrest. The exhibition and sculpture are open Monday to Sunday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Vilakazi Street, Soweto
Soweto, one of the most famous townships in South Africa, is a community established as a result of the apartheid regime that was the setting for many important events in the struggle for equality including the 1976 Soweto Uprising. It once served as the only street in South Africa to have two Nobel Prize winners residing there, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Nelson Mandela. Vilakazi Street stretches for only 1 km but boasts more than its fair share of history. The street shot to fame as the site of Hector Pieterson’s shooting, during the student uprising in 1976, where many lost their lives when police started shooting. The street’s most famous attraction can be found at number 8115, – Nelson Mandela house, which is now a museum.
Phezulu Cultural Village, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
Phezulu Cultural Village is definitely one of the places in South Africa that embody the true and amazing spirit of Africa. The Village is home to the heart and beauty of the Zulu culture and lifestyle. The picturesque park has beautiful views of the famous Valley of a 1000 Hills. One has the pleasure of enjoying a tour of the village, watch the traditional Zulu dance shows, or visit the 90-year-old Nile crocodile that lives in the village’s crocodile park.
Franschoek, Western Cape
Franschoek is a beautiful cultural hub, jam-packed with iconic history from long before Freedom Day. It is also located close to the Victor Verster Prison, where Mandela spent his last days as a prisoner during his 27 years of incarceration. It is now known as the Drakenstein Correctional Facility. The Drakenstein Correctional Facility has been acknowledged as a South African National Heritage Site, with a statue of Mandela just outside the prison gates. One can even spend the afternoon and have lunch while enjoying the scenic views of Franschoek – a place well known for offering a great seafood selection and local wine.
Freedom Day will forever be an incredibly important day for South Africa as it serves as a reminder of how far the country has come and how much more still needs to be done in the fight against racism, inequality & discrimination in all its forms. As we strive towards the promotion of rights embodied in our constitution, it calls upon all of us to appreciate the lessons learnt as a lived experience account of our past. Let us use this day to reflect on the words of one the most iconic struggle heroes of our time Mr Nelson Mandela – “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign”.