Freedom Day: participation in elections makes democracy vibrant and is a civic responsibility, says SAHRC

Cape Town. Long queues at the Muizenberg Pavillion during the first 1994 democratic election.

Cape Town. Long queues at the Muizenberg Pavillion during the first 1994 democratic election.

Published Apr 27, 2023


Johannesburg - As the country celebrates Freedom Day, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has called on all South Africans to consider that participation in elections by all eligible voters makes democracy vibrant and is a civic responsibility everyone bears.

The commission joined the rest of the country in celebrating Freedom Day.

This day recalls that historic day, 29 years ago, on April 27, 1994, when scores of people, young and old, stood in long queues to experience for the first time the constitutional right to vote alongside their previously disenfranchised countrymen and women.

The SAHRC said that Freedom Day also provides an opportunity for the country to take stock and reflect on the meaning of freedom, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.

“In an era where there is rampant lawlessness and where women and children are not free to walk or play outside their homes without fear of being accosted by criminal elements, the country as a whole needs to reflect on the value of freedom, especially in poorer communities where people cannot afford private security. Our criminal justice system is not geared to protect ordinary people, and many criminals are left to terrorise communities unimpeded by law enforcement officials. This reality for many in the country means that people are not free to move around and are thus curtailed in their right to freedom,” said the commission.

“Safety and social harmony is key to realising and exercising many rights and freedoms. Many women and children are not safe in their own homes due to the violence they are subjected to, including by those who bear the responsibility to protect them. We each should reflect on these matters and the responsibilities that we bear individually and collectively to ensure that there is safety, security, and harmony for all."

During Freedom Day, the SAHRC recalled the historic images of people standing in long queues to exercise for the first time the right to vote, thus ushering in the new democratic era.

Statistics reveal that voter turnout drastically dropped from 77.3% in 2009 to 73.5% in 2014 to 66.1% in 2019.

“The commission wishes to urge citizens to use this year’s Freedom Day to take stock of their individual contributions towards shaping our daily realities and begin to reflect on our collective responsibilities by becoming active citizens,” said the SAHRC.

The Star