Freedom Day in South Africa - It is a celebration

On 27th April 1994, the first democratic election was held in South Africa. Hurrah. At last. Why is this so exciting, and what is the story behind it? Here is what happened. This is a truly short description of events, I feel almost bad for writing it like this, considering what this country and its citizens went through over the last centuries.

Red, white, green, yellow, black, blue South African Flag on a house facade.

Centuries ago, in 1652, a fleet of the Dutch East India Company arrives in Cape Town and establishes a colony. From then on it is all about pushing away the indigenous people. Around 1800 the British take over and make it about gold and diamonds. The Dutch (Boer) are so very shattered and annoyed, and there are fights with the British. The indigenous people still do not play an active role really, other than that they are made to work for the white rulers.

All the time there are fears that the indigenous people are going to claim back what is their land. Fear, that is the root of all evil. In 1948 the National Party comes up with a plan called Apartheid. And that plan separates all black people and those of a mixed-race from the white population. Ever since then there is this resistance campaign against apartheid. Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo together with the African National Congress issue the Freedom Charter. The ruling National Party does not like that at all. They arrest everybody involved in it, to suppress the freedom movement.

South Africa leaves the Commonwealth and becomes independent. Black students all over the country protest for their right to be taught in the English language. The police kill hundreds of activists, and one of them is Steven Biko. For decades, the international community does not do much. Eventually, European countries and the US impose sanctions on South Africa. Many people boycott products from South Africa and stop buying them. This is not fun for South Africa. Tensions grow bigger and there are lots of strikes and protests in the country. At the end of the 1980s, a new president gets into power. With De Klerk, the situation in the country changes for the better. He frees Nelson Mandela from jail and drops restricting laws. Together they catapult South Africa into democracy.

The upper half of a larger than life bronze statue of Nelson Mandela under a bright blue sky in front of a mountain.

Freedom Day in South Africa

On 27th April 1994, the first democratic election is held in South Africa. Nelson Mandela gets elected as president.

It is so easy to say, “if only that fleet of the Dutch East India Company wouldn’t have landed in 1652, then …” and to simply live on after that, but that would be too easy.

Freedom Day – be brave - reject prejudice

Restrictive measures for a certain group of people can get introduced in any country. A situation can get out of hand at any given time if the wrong people get into power. As always, it is best to be brave and to learn from history, to create a better future. We all can reject prejudice. Maybe start with little things. Never follow others blindly. Visit museums to learn about history. Read the papers regularly. Follow current world affairs closely. Fact-check what you read and hear. Talk to friends and peers about history and politics. Stop bullying people for your advantage. Whatever it is, we can start now.

Eight colourful handmade dolls sitting on a wooden shelf, their spindly legs dangling in the air.

Form your own opinion next time you are in South Africa. Visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg or the District Six Museum, Robben Island and the Slave Lodge in Cape Town.

Do you dream of travelling to South Africa? Read

From Berlin with love