By Nereshnee Govender and Indhrannie Pillay
Freedom Day is an annual celebration of South Africa's first non-racial democratic elections on 27 April 1994. It is celebrated in South Africa to mark the liberation of our country and the birth of a new democracy.
Freedom Day is a day for all South Africans – political power is no longer enjoyed and exercised by a minority of our population, to the exclusion of the majority. On Freedom Day we celebrate the courage and determination of the many men and women who fought for liberation and courted imprisonment, bannings and torture on behalf of the oppressed people of our country. Peace, unity, the preservation and the restoration of human dignity mark Freedom Day celebrations each year.
To commemorate our freedom different symbols exist to highlight our transition to democracy.
The Freedom Charter
The Freedom Charter is the blue-print for a democratic South Africa. It was adopted at the Congress of the People on 26 th June 1955 at Kliptown. The charter affirms that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that ‘no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people'. The Freedom Charter represents the vision of the people of South Africa.
The National Anthem
The national anthem of South Africa is a combined version of two evocative but quite different songs, Nkosi Sikele’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) and The Call of South Africa (Die Stem van Suid-Afrika). CJ Langenhoven wrote the Call of South Africa in May 1918. The music was composed by the Reverend ML de Villiers in 1921. Nkosi Sikele’ iAfrika was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist mission schoolteacher. The words of the first stanza were originally written in isiXhosa as a hymn. It became a popular church hymn that was later adopted as an anthem at political meetings. The hymn became a symbol for the oppressed Black masses not only in Southern Africa but also throughout the African continent. The new combined anthem undoubtedly reflects a spirit of reconciliation.
The National Flag
The national flag of the Republic of South Africa was first used on Freedom Day, 27 April 1994 and was immediately taken to heart by the people as the most visible symbol of the new South Africa. The design and colours are a synopsis of principal elements of the country’s flag history. The central design of the flag, beginning at the flag-pole in a ‘V’ form and flowing into a single horizontal band to the outer edge of the fly, can be interpreted as the convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking on the road ahead in unity.
The National Coat of Arms
South Africa’s Coat of Arms was launched on Freedom Day, 27 April 2000. A central image of the Coat of Arms is the secretary bird with its uplifted wings. Above the bird is the rising sun, a force that gives life while representing the flight of darkness and the triumph of discovery, knowledge, the understanding of things that have been hidden, illuminating also the new life that is coming into being. Below the bird is the protea, an indigenous flower of South Africa. The ears of wheat are emblems of the fertility of the land while the tusks of the African elephant, reproduced in pairs to represent men and women, symbolise wisdom, steadfastness and strength. At the centre stands a shield. Above it repose a spear and a knobkerrie. These symbolise the defence of peace rather than a posture of war. Contained within the shield are some of the earliest representations of humanity in the world. Those depicted are the very first inhabitants of the land, namely the Khoisan people. The motto of the Coat of Arms, written in the Khoisan language of the Xam people, means diverse people unite or people who are different join together.
Satyagraha In Pursuit of Truth took to the streets and asked a few South Africans their views on National Freedom Day and what it means to them. This is what they had to say.
I don't believe that we are really free. We are trapped by crime in our homes and places of work. We are not free to go and come as we please therefore we are oppressed by the likes of crime. The day I celebrate my freedom will be the day action is taken against criminals and we are safe to walk on the streets without looking over our shoulders.
Gerald Chetty – Westville
Freedom should mean emancipation from poverty, unemployment, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. We need to continue to work to eradicate poverty, racial inequalities and socio-economic disparities in our country to achieve true freedom.
Thaylin Naicker – Davenport.
Quite honestly I think the day should be called Mandela Day because he did a lot to ensure that South Africa moved forward. As far as freedom goes, we have not really achieved it.
Dorothy Nixon – North Beach
On Freedom Day, we need to commit ourselves to creating a peaceful and crime free society. We need to devote ourselves to continue to work to wipe out the legacy of racism in our country.
Elize Watt – Amanzimtoti
The road to democracy was a long and difficult one. We need to ensure that all our people from diverse political and economic backgrounds enjoy the freedoms that so many South Africans fought for.
Sipho Khumalo – South North
Celebrating our freedom is very important. Although we are free of Apartheid and we have racial freedom, crime and poverty are huge obstacles South Africa must over come to achieve freedom for all.
Patience Gumede – Umlazi