Today marks the 20th Anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election of April 27, 1994. South Africans will go to the polls once again on May 7 to cast their ballots in the fifth democratic election of the country. By all standards, the country is still a young democracy. In just two decades it has changed from being a country with a legally mandated national policy of racial oppression to one that is transitioning to being inclusive and representative of its diverse people.
I have been watching BBC’s South Africa Direct series and Working Lives shows which have been covering the country – presenters have been meeting and interviewing South African’s from all walks of life, discussing the social and economic issues with captains of industry, average working and middle class South Africans, and my all time favourite population sub-group: the ‘Born Frees’.
This is a term used to refer to the generation of young South Africans who were born after 1994. They are the ones who will be voting for the very first time this year. The are the ones who did not grow up under apartheid, and the ones who see a South Africa of possibilities, no matter the colour of their skin. That on its own is something to celebrate.
Despite progress made in the past twenty years, the challenges of high unemployment , rising inequality, stagnant economic growth rates, and persistent industrial action in the mining sector remain at the forefront of economic and political debate for this democracy that is still in its nascent stage. Disappointment in progress that has not happened fast enough; anger for slow service delivery to the poor; despondency in a government that has not changed the lives of many; and in equal measure determination to be a part of the change will be all the emotions that will decide voter choices next month at the polls.
Today however, for South Africans across the country and in the diaspora, marks the day South Africa truly became a nation free to all. Happy Freedom Day South Africa!