SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

27 April 2014

South Africa: SA Celebrates Freedom Day

Today the country marks two decades since South Africans of all races voted in its first free and fair election in 1994, ushering in a new democratic dispensation.

Celebrations are expected to take place countrywide, with the main Freedom Day celebration taking place at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria. President Jacob Zuma is expected to make a key note address under the theme, "South Africa - A Better Place to live in". The event, which is expected to attract thousands, including Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who will be country's guest of honour, will showcase South Africa's diversity, from music, dance as well as military ceremonies.

The 20 Years of Freedom celebrations are taking place against the backdrop of the fifth national and provincial elections on 7 May 2014.

Among the first world leaders sending well-wishes was Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron as well as the US secretary of state John Kerry.

In her message, Queen Elizabeth congratulated South Africa saying: "My family and I have enjoyed a special and significant relationship with South Africa over the years.

"The links between our two countries have deepened and matured since South Africa's transition in 1994, and long may that continue," the British high commission quoted her on Saturday.

US's Kerry said: "On this 20th anniversary, we reflect on South Africa's transformation in these two decades as a testament to the power of reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope... as you prepare to hold general elections next month - your fifth in the post-apartheid era - we remember the spirit of that historic election in 1994, one filled with tremendous hope, goodwill, and promise for a better future".

Government has called on all South Africans to join in celebrating the day and using it to reflect on the achievements the country has made since 1994.

April 27 is significant in the country because it marked the end of over three hundred years of colonialism, segregation and white minority rule and the establishment of a new democratic government led by the late former President Nelson Mandela.

The 1994 elections gave birth to freedom and constitutional democracy and led to the emergence of a national identity built on a respect for each other and our love for the country.

The elections made it possible for people to embark on a joint journey to build a country that belongs to all who live in it.

The new nation arose to form a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic nation at peace with itself and the world.

Since 1994, South Africans have worked hard to construct a society that is set out in the Constitution and address the socio-economic challenges created under apartheid.

The recently released South Africa Twenty Year Review 1994-2014 confirmed that South Africa has made great strides and life is better than before 1994 as millions now have access to water, healthcare, education, housing and many other basic needs.

However, the report has also acknowledged that the country still needs to defeat poverty, inequality, unemployment, crime and corruption.

After the official event, President Zuma will also confer National Orders - the highest awards that the country bestows upon citizens and members of the international community who have contributed meaningfully towards making the country a free, democratic and successful nation, united in its diversity.

This will be the 20th investiture ceremony since the inception of the new National Orders system, contributing towards unity, reconciliation and building the nation.

Struggle stalwarts Ruth First, Dawid Kruiper and Frances Baard, top athletes Caster Semenya, Lucas Sithole and Cameron van der Burg, as well as business executives Raymond Ackerman and Chris Ball are among the list of South Africans who will receive National Orders.

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