Today is Freedom Day – and all who believe in our country, who will be hoping and praying that tomorrow will be better than today and yesterday, will have an opportunity to take stock.

We have come a long way since 27 April 1994, when South Africans voted in a democratic election for the first time. 

In the words of one analyst, it was the day in which millions of our compatriots learned to do something for the first time…

“Black South Africans learnt what white already knew: how to vote.

“White South Africans learnt what blacks already knew: how to wait.”

This aerial photo shows long lines of people queuing outside the polling station in Soweto for South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. Picture: Denis Farrell/AP

There were many poignant moments in our first ‘real’ poll. For instance, there was the story of Miriam Mqomboti: in 1919, only nine years after the formation of the Union of South Africa, Mqomboti, then 18, travelled from her birthplace in the Transkei to settle among the small African community on the outskirts of Cape Town.

For the next 75 years, she lived through some of the most important dates in South African – and world – history: the Rand Rebellion, the Great Depression, the Second World War, Sharpeville, the Treason Trial, and the rise and fall of apartheid.

On 27 April 1994, she herself made history: At the age of 93, she voted for the first time.

 “I am happy this day has come,” she told a reporter. “I never thought it would happen here.”

Today, 24 years later, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions, with the most important being: how free are we really?

The gap between rich and poor is wider than it has ever been. There’s an acute housing shortage. Our youth is crying out for jobs. Crime is spiralling. The land issue has not been resolved.

These are matters that need to be urgently tackled.

There are enough people of goodwill who are eager to give true expression to what we have always dreamed of – a South Africa offering a place in the sun for all.

And those are we people we pay tribute to today: the heroes who are continuing to work towards this dream of a better tomorrow.

So, as we celebrate Freedom Day, let us remember the words of Nelson Mandela at his swearing-in ceremony...

"We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation-building, for the birth of a new world."