Photo: AP

PRETORIA.—South Africa celebrated Freedom Day this Wednesday, April 27, a public holiday which commemorates the first post-apartheid democratic elections, held on this date in 1994.

Nelson Mandela, the anti-colonial fighter freed from prison after 27 years, won the election, and made history as the first black president of his country.

The victory strengthened the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and other African nations, and positioned the African National Congress (ANC), created in 1912, as the main anti-colonial movement.

Cuban diplomats in South Africa congratulated the people and government through the Cuban Embassy’s Facebook page: “The world witnessed with admiration the discipline and strength of character of a nation that had endured the greatest injustices…Cuba is proud of its strong and fraternal relations with South Africa, inspired by solidarity and cooperation, with shared values and mutual respect.”

As reported by Prensa Latina, South African President Jacob Zuma, speaking at an event to mark the date, noted that policies implemented since 1994 are designed to achieve a better life for all in the country, especially the poorest and the working class.

Before thousands of people gathered at the Giyani Stadium, in Limpopo province, Zuma delivered his Freedom Day speech, 22 years after the beginning of democracy in the country.

He stressed that “Work has continued since 1994 to improve the living conditions of the people, to undo the legacy of exclusion and neglect.”

He also noted, “Many communities and households were without electricity, water, roads, clinics providing quality health care or state of the art schools. The democratic government has since 1994 spent each year delivering such services.”

However, Zuma recognized that “While services are extended to some communities, many others are still waiting, because the backlog resulting from apartheid exclusion is extensive.”

The President reiterated the commitment that his government would not rest “until all households in our country live in dignity and obtain basic services.”

He recalled that on April 27, 1994, millions of South Africans went out “to vote for the very first time in free and fair democratic elections,” and that “This day, in 1994 not only marked the end of the tyranny of apartheid, it also symbolized the triumph of good over evil.”

Zuma recalled the men and women who participated in the struggle for liberation and noted, “Today we also pay tribute to our heroes who passed away during this month of April such as former ANC President Oliver Tambo (April 24, 1993), Mr Chris Hani (April 10, 1993) and Mr Solomon Mahlangu (April 6, 1979).”

He insisted that we should not forget how millions of people suffered immense poverty and deprivation due to institutionalized racism, “which rendered black people to be trespassers in the land of their birth, and not worthy of any rights.”

He added that apartheid “was a painful, cruel system which was correctly described as a crime against humanity by the United Nations,” and that “The victory of our people in 1994, through selfless struggle, assisted by freedom loving peoples across the world, ended the centuries long repression.”

He emphasized that 22 years ago, led by President Nelson Mandela, “we began building a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.”

In concluding, Zuma stated “It is a fact that the country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994.”