Freedom Fridays campaign under way

20 September 2013

The countdown to the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s freedom and democracy officially began on Friday with the launch of the Freedom Fridays campaign – a call on all citizens to “wear anything that makes them feel proudly South African each Friday”.

South Africans will celebrate 20 years of freedom and democracy on 27 April 2014. 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.

The Freedom Fridays campaign, which aims to build momentum in the run-up to the 20 years celebration, calls on all South Africans to take pride in their nation and celebrate the road they have travelled since 1994.

It encourages South Africans, each Friday between now and 27 April 2014, to wear anything that expresses their pride in being a South African – including the colours of the national flag, traditional attire, national soccer or rugby team jerseys, or anything else that reflects solidarity with the 20 years celebrations.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign at Sakhumzi Restaurant in Soweto on Friday, former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada said the most important thing that the country had achieved since 1994 was human dignity.

Holding up a sign with the words “This lift is for Europeans only – service lift is provided for tradesmen, non-Europeans, prams and dogs”, Kathrada said: “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.

“Yes, 1994 brought us dignity. Apartheid is no longer there. Racism is now a criminal offence. But today we’ve got many challenges,” Kathrada said. “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.”

Speaking to SAnews afterwards, 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 the government fully endorsed the Freedom Fridays initiative. He urged all South Africans to be proud of their nationality and to celebrate who they are each Friday between now and 27 April 2014 by wearing anything that expressed their pride in being South African.

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

Mashatile said 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 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,” Mashatile said.

“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.”

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 learner 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.”

Freedom Fridays is fashioned after the inspirational Football Fridays campaign that united South Africans behind the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and the Magnificent Fridays campaign which mobilised South Africans to support the country’s national cricket, rugby and netball World Cup squads in 2011.