A woman cheers at the Union Buildings. The Freedom Day celebrations held a special poignancy as it was the first Freedom Day since the death of Nelson Mandela in December at the age of 95. Picture: Mujahid Safodien

Pretoria -

On April 27, 1994, thousands queued outside polling stations for hours to ensure that they made their mark for the first time, to have their voices heard regardless of the colour of their skin.

On sunday, South Africa celebrated 20 years of freedom and the spirit of that first special voting day could be felt among the thousands of people who flocked to the Union Buildings to celebrate.

For some it was an emotional day as they shed a few tears reminiscing about the hardships they had endured.

Syswell Mahlanyana said that getting her freedom was the restoration of her dignity as a human being.

She said: “I wouldn’t even know where to begin in telling what this day means to me. Young people today just don’t get what freedom means as it was never denied to them.

“We now have that freedom to do as we want to, to dream and aim as big as you want to, we have tarred roads, RDP houses, upgraded clinics, schools and so much more than we ever could have hoped for,” said Mahlanyana.

Horst Seute, originally from Germany but resident in South Africa for 45 years, said: “It’s been a remarkable 20 years for South Africa. It has progressed so much and the next 20 should be even better considering the development thus far.

“I think the racial divide is no longer there as I’m involved with an Indian woman and it isn’t something strange. The only hurdle would be the cultural part that’s still a bit hazy,” said Seute.

Loud cheers and ululating rung out as three helicopters carrying national flags flew over the Union Buildings, a 20-gun salute was fired and thousands of balloons released.

Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa also joined in the festivities and said the day was not just about celebration. “Today is to record our appreciation for the sacrifices made by ordinary men, women and young people, but it is also to remind the youth that it is now up to us to bear the burden of ensuring South Africa progresses,” he said.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said a lot still needed to be done to bridge the racial divide.

“We need to invite other people of colour as they too are enjoying the fruits of our liberation,” she said.

The day’s festivities included performances by Thembi Seete, Somizi Mlhongo, DJ Zinhle and DJ Black Coffee. There were jumping castles, an animal farm and a mini-carousel for young children.

Pretoria News