Freedom Day is a public holiday in South Africa. It celebrates the first democratic elections in the country held on 27 April 1994. These were the first post-apartheid national elections to be held in South African where citizens of all races could cast their votes.
The first democratic elections on 27 April 1994 gave birth to South Africa’s constitutional democracy. For the majority of South Africans who had never voted before their dignity was restored and the country transformed to a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.
Of South Africa’s 22, 7 million eligible voters, 19.7 million voted in the 1994 national election. The election was won by the ANC with 62.65 % of the vote. Although the ANC gained a majority vote, they formed the Government of National Unity, headed by ANC president Nelson Mandela who became the first democratically elected President of the country.
Speaking at the first anniversary of South Africa’s non-racial elections President Mandela said; “As dawn ushered in this day, the 27th of April 1995, few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us. Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our hearts beat as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future. The birth of our South African nation has, like any other, passed through a long and often painful process. The ultimate goal of a better life has yet to be realised. On this day, you, the people, took your destiny into your own hands. You decided that nothing would prevent you from exercising your hard-won right to elect a government of your choice. Your patience, your discipline, your single-minded purposefulness have become a legend throughout the world…”
WATCH: President Nelson Mandela Inauguration Speech
How to celebrate Freedom Day in Cape Town
Visit Iziko Museums for freee
Iziko Museums of South Africa offer free entry to selected museums on certain commemorative days, including Freedom Day.
This year Iziko Museums invites you to enjoy the “freedom to choose, to participate, see, discover, and to explore”.
What to expect in 2021
Free entry into the following selected Iziko Musuems – Iziko South Africa Museum, Slave Lodge, South African National Gallery, and Bo-Kaap Museum. Free entry excludes the following musuems: Iziko Planetarium, Castle of Good Hope, Groot Constantia and musuems closed for repairs and maintenance.
A virtual public discussion will take place in which Dr Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Nkosikhulule Xhawulengweni Nyembezi and Ms. Lebohang Liepollo Pheko unpack Freedom Day in the time of Covid-19 and a democratic South Africa. Register here: bit.ly/FreedomDay_ZoomRegistration
Join curator and author, Lynn Carneson Mcgregor, Judge Albie Sachs, Melene Rossouw and Zandile Tshamlambo for an intergenerational conversation for the virtual launch of ‘Red in the Rainbow’ – a new multimedia exhibition featuring graphic, video and sound material, as well as a reconstruction of a replica prison cell from the 1970s. Register here: bit.ly/RedInTheRainbow_ZoomRegistration Website: www.iziko.org.za
Explore Robben Island
Robben Island is probably most famous for being a political prison; the one where Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, served 18 of his 27 years in jail.
For the month of April, Robben Island Museum is offering a 15% discount for groups of 3 or more, so make a day if on Freedom Day and explore a big part of South Africa’s history.
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Watch the walking tour introduction video below and click here for a full virtual tour.
Read A Long Walk to Freedom
A Long Walk to Freedom is Nelson Madela’s autobiography, published in 1994. Mandela began writing the book in 1974 while imprisoned on Robben Island. The copy of the manuscript which he kept with him was discovered by the authorities and confiscated. He credits Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathhrada for reviving his memories to complete the biography. Mandela’s co-prisoners Mac Maharaj and Isu Chiba ensured that the original manuscript safely reached its destination and he resumed work on it after being released from prison in 1990.
A Long Walk to Freedom covers Mandela’s early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison.
There’s also a film adaptation, with English actor Idris Elba portraying Mandela, that was released in 2013, shortly before Mandela’s death.