President Jacob Zuma laying wreaths at the Isivivane in Freedom Park during the celebration of Eighteen years of freedom today since the first democratic elections in 1994, the President was accompanied by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and leaddrs of different cultural and religious denominations. 27/04/2012

Thousands of people from across the continent converged on the streets of Pretoria in colourful traditional costumes to mark Freedom Day.

A parade showcased local groups as well as people from Burundi, Eritrea, Angola, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. The groups performed cultural dances to cheers, whistling and shouting from the thousands of spectators. There was more cheering when a contingent of motorbikes revved its way to the parade at the Union Buildings.

“We are happy today to showcase our culture in celebration of Freedom Day. This is also to celebrate the diversity of cultures in South Africa,” said a member of the Hlanganani Family Group, representing the Xitsonga culture.

Zulu men and women also performed traditional dances, with the men dressed in animal skins and women in skirts decorated with beads.

Zulu-speaking Sipho Magwaza said, “sijabulele inkululeko” (we are happy for the freedom).

“We are not only celebrating the freedom in SA but the rest of the continent. Our aim today is to celebrate this day and make it memorable,” said Magwaza.

Hillary Tagarira, Onwell Chinyanga and Farai Machingambi represented the Shonas of Zimbabwe with mbiras, wearing traditional hats known as ngundu.

“We are here to commemorate our freedom as Africans. We are honoured to be part of this event that unifies all African people from around the continent,” said Tagarira.

Troops from around the City of Tshwane also participated in the parade.

“Birds have the freedom to fly around, so today we are celebrating the freedom we received in 1994,” said Lebogang Makgoba, leader of the Secret Birds from the Mamelodi Forum.

Before the formal programme on the Union Buildings lawn, military bands played for the crowd.

People cheered loudly during a 21-gun salute and a fly-past by the SA Air Force as President Jacob Zuma arrived.

Military aircraft shot through the sky as the president made his entrance. - Weekend Argus