Millions of people celebrated the opportunity to elect leaders of their choice into a democratic government that represents their aspirations.
Most people, who had been subjected to the jaws of poverty for decades, celebrated the prospects of seeing their suffering disappearing.
During the 2004 general elections, the ANC marched to victory in KwaZulu-Natal and were given the mandate to lead the provincial government.
Any conversation about the ascendency into power of the ANC in KZN is incomplete without mention of Sibusiso Joel “S’bu” Ndebele. Last week, the Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria dropped charges against him, a decision I personally welcome.
Ndebele joined the provincial legislature in 1994 as part of the first batch of public representatives who were pioneers of what a post-apartheid Parliament would be like.
They included Dumisane Makhaye, Zibuse Mlaba, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Ina Cronje, Happy Blose, Fatima Nahara, Michael Mabuyakhulu, MB Gwala, BS Mohlaka and HL Combrink.
Between 1994 and 2004, KZN was a different province. Ravaged by violence, hostility and bitterness especially between ANC and IFP.
Speaker GS Mdlalose and Deputy Speaker Willies Mchunu had a tough time containing often unruly legislators who often disregarded their authority, exchanging unpleasantries.
I recall times when a stand-off spilled to the premises outside the provincial legislature.
Once there, members drew guns against one another as two groups clashed at the gate. This shocked the police, media published photos and everyone was aghast.
When a statement had to be made to explain such conduct, the two members produced evidence of how they had acted responsibly as leaders to calm fighting radicals on either side.
Another day, a party leader decided to wait in the corridor to finish, physically, a debate that could not be concluded verbally as their language was found unsuitable for the house.
It was not uncommon for political differences in the provincial legislature to spill over into tension in the community instead of the house resolving them.
We must pay tribute to two leaders who led this province in the provincial legislature after 1994: Dr Frank Themba Mdlalose, former chairperson of the IFP, and first premier and president JG Zuma, provincial chair and MEC for Economic Development and Tourism. They led bilateral meetings and calmed down a lot of conflict, bringing sanity.
Through various peace initiatives and bilateral meetings between the ANC and IFP, the atmosphere of political intolerance was transformed to create a new spirit of open but peaceful competition and co-operation.
At last in this province we witnessed meetings where the ANC and IFP leaders realised bloodletting and violence were not only unnecessary, but the two parties belonged together and there might be better ways to resolve political differences.
These initiatives bore fruits and were strongly augmented by the call by the king, Isilo samaBandla, who insisted on a non-partisan path, as well as the prayers and platforms created by the KZN clergy, led by, among others, Rev Dr Khoza Mgojo.
Today, we have a very different provincial legislature which is decent and respectful.
The robust debate and a climate of co-existence of political parties has ensured that despite holding different opinions, all members work together to champion the government’s agenda of fighting poverty, unemployment, crime and corruption.
Sibiya is head of content and knowledge management in the KZN provincial government (communications).
He writes in his personal capacity.