As Sunday marked the country's 20th anniversary of its first democratic elections, political parties blended the celebrations with their election campaigns.
With 10 days until the national general elections, leader of the United Democratic Front, Bantu Holomisa called for change in government.
“We cannot allow the country to slide further down this slippery slope of corruption, maladministration and ineptitude,” Holomisa said in a speech prepared for a Freedom Day rally at the Popo Molefe Stadium in Fochville.
He said poverty and corruption had destroyed the gains of freedom.
“The ANC is to blame and you should hold it accountable,” Holomisa said, calling on people to vote for the UDM in the May 7
“We can choose to continue on this path or have the sense and moral fortitude to take our responsibility as voters seriously.”
Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema celebrated Freedom Day in the stadium near the Glebelands hostels in KwaZulu-Natal, an African National Congress stronghold.
He told the crowd the country had nothing to celebrate as there were people staying in shacks without proper water, sanitation, electricity and proper roads.
“It was supposed to be a freedom day. You cannot celebrate freedom if you do not have bread on the table. We have nothing to celebrate. Our people are still staying in shacks. Our people do not have water. Our people do not have electricity. Our people do not have proper roads. Freedom means a flushing toilet,” he said.
He said there was no free political movement in the province.
“You can't have a meeting of an opposition party in Natal without disruption by the ANC. They used to tell us that the IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party) is the most violent party, but... our stay through the week has proved the ANC is the most violent party,” said Malema, accusing the ruling party of threatening to beat up or kill his supporters.
In a statement, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said until the country's aspirations were all fulfilled it had not yet gained freedom.
“As long as South Africans are jobless or homeless, or suffer from preventable diseases and ill-health, or live in fear, danger, ignorance or despair, then we have not yet attained our freedom and there is much more to be done,” she said.
Zille said her party was working to realise a more meaningful freedom on the country.
She also saluted struggle veterans and former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk for their roles in liberating the country.
Addressing annual Freedom Day commemorations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, President Jacob Zuma called for peaceful polls.
“The precious right to vote was gained through relentless struggles and sacrifices. On the 7th of May, let us go out in our millions to vote and celebrate our hard won freedom and democracy,” he said.
“Let us vote to consolidate democracy and all the achievements of our young nation. As we did in 1994 and in subsequent elections, let us deliver peaceful, free and fair elections.”
He said the country had made significant strides in investing in education, alleviating poverty, reducing crime and fostering racial unity, since the dawn of democracy in 1994.
To commemorate the day, the African National Congress celebrated its achievements.
“As we celebrate this day, we celebrate the achievements of 20 years of democratic government,” spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.
“On the 27th of April 1994, South Africans did not just exercise and celebrate their freedom for its own sake, they did so in hope for a better life.”
Mthembu said more still had to be done as many people were not able to enjoy the fruits of democracy, due to persistent poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“It is out of this awareness that we, as the ANC, have redoubled our efforts to ensure that all South Africans benefit from our democracy, affirming that indeed radical socio-economic transformation must be the focus of the second phase of democratic transition,” said Mthembu. - Sapa