On 27 April 1994 South Africa cast aside centuries of discrimination and oppression to form a new society built on the foundation of freedom and democracy. This marked the end of apartheid rule and an introduction of a new Constitutional order, wherein all South Africans work towards a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. Next year (2014), South Africa will celebrate 20 years of freedom and democracy.
However, we must never forget that our road to democracy was not an easy one. This was indeed due to the unyielding sacrifice of thousands of patriots. The year 2014 presents an opportunity for the people of South Africa and the rest of the African continent to join in celebrating the South African miracle story.
This momentous occasion presents an opportunity for us to reflect on how our freedom and democracy were achieved;at the same time South Africans and the rest of the world will look back in history on the progress made in the past 20 years, while looking forward to how South Africans are going to work together to implement Vision 2030.
We are indeed a country that is better off since our first democratic elections. As we approach the 20 years landmark, South Africans must be afforded an opportunity to recall the momentous events leading up to 27 April 1994.
One of the symbolic moments of the exodus from the past was the raising of the new flag in 1994. This moment fittingly affirmed the pride and dignity of an unfolding country and a celebration of humanity. Another significant moment was the merger of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and “Die Stem” to form one national anthem in 1997.
Also on 27 April 2000 the new Coat of Arms was launched embracing the collective historical essence of the people of the country.
Government encourages every sector of society to reflect on the progress made and the challenges that the nation has faced over the past 20 years.
The 20-year celebrations will seek to involve all government departments and agencies, organised labour, business, civil society, the academic fraternity, faith-based organisations and the media,and the public in general.
The celebrations will also strengthen relations with other African countries and the world.In 2013 the African continent celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). South Africa remains grateful to the continent and the international community for supporting us in the struggle for liberation.
We must never forget that our democratic birth was rightly hailed as a miracle. Doomsayers and those who wanted us to fail had predicted chaos and civil war. However, none of these things came to pass and the values of democracy and freedom of our birth still endure today.
South Africa has abandoned its shameful past and has steadily moved towards building a new culture based on respect of human rights and dignity.
There are still those who question the progress South Africa had made since 1994. Compared to before 1994 we can now proudly proclaim that millions of people now have water, electricity, sanitation and housing. This is still not good enough; we must not rest until all the people can claim a better life.
The release of the Census 2011 figures shows a definitive picture of a country that is rapidly changing.They paint the picture of a country that has increased income levels, an improvement in the roll-out of basic services and amenities, and increased levels of education.
While celebrating our achievements we must also look forward to the next 20 years.
The National Development Plan (NDP) is our roadmap. The plan outlines the type of society we are striving for in 2030, where no one is hungry, where everyone is able to go to school and further their studies if they wish, where work is available, where everyone is making a contribution because each person has been provided with what they need to reach their full potential.
For more information, visit the South African Government’s 20 years celebration page