We celebrate Freedom Day every year – but how much do you know about it?
April is a wonderful month, packed with public holidays (especially if you count 1 May – Workers’ Day, although this year it falls on a Saturday so it doesn’t feel as much like a holiday). But how much do you know about the reason for the day off on 27 April – Freedom Day? Here are 10 facts about Freedom Day you probably know, and a few you might not, that explain why Freedom Day is so important to South Africans.
- April 27 is the anniversary of the first post-apartheid elections held in South Africa in 1994.
- The election was actually held over three days, April 26–29.
- The elections were the first non-racial national elections where everyone 18 or over, from any racial group, was allowed to vote. Permanent resident foreigners were also allowed to vote.
- Of the 22.7 million eligible voters, 19.7 million voted in that first national election.
- While the ANC won with a clear majority – 62.65% of the vote, it was not an uncontested election. The National Party (NP) secured 20.39% of votes, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) 10.54%, Freedom Front (FF) 2.2%, Democratic Party (DP) 1.7%, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) 1.2% and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) 0.5%.
- Freedom Day was first celebrated in 1995 and has since been celebrated annually on 27 April ever since.
- Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the President of South Africa on 10 May, immediately following the election.
- Some activists and groups celebrate a version of Freedom Day called UnFreedom Day, to highlight the fact that the poor still experience a lack of freedom.
- Freedom Day is important because it “marks the end of over 300 years of colonialism, segregation and white minority rule and the establishment of a new democratic government led by Nelson Mandela and a new state subject to a new constitution,” says the government.
- Although an interim Constitution was drafted in 1993, prior to the election, the final Constitution, which guarantees our rights and our freedom, only came into effect on February 4, 1997.
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