This is our freedom in action
Millions of South Africans joined snaking queues to form a new country on April 27 1994. It was the first time that South Africans stood side by side – diverse in their cultures, languages, race, age and gender – to vote for a democratic government.
This was to be a country where all were equal before the law; a new country that said no one, no matter what, would be discriminated against.
Nelson Mandela led the initial phase of this newborn nation and he was the glue that kept the country together.
As we celebrate 23 years of democratic governance on Thursday, we should look back at the tremendous progress that has been made in building a nation. Millions of people have benefited from government’s social upliftment programmes – houses have been built for the poor, the majority of the population now has access to clean water and electricity, and millions receive social grants that take care of their basic necessities. Although our education system is in perpetual crisis, this sector is recognised as a priority by all.
At the same time, South Africans have not been afraid to gather in their thousands and take to the streets to voice their anger over government policies and actions. In recent weeks and months, people have joined protest marches to call for President Jacob Zuma to resign and to voice their concerns over how he has done his job.
None of those who took part in the protests feared being killed or detained without trial – something that was all too common during the dark days of apartheid.
An independent judiciary, free press, strong trade union movement, engaged clergy and vibrant civil society ensure that our democracy is not dependent on the whims of those in power.
We have a Constitution that is revered across the globe, and we are held in high esteem for our non-violent transition. All the rights, as enshrined in the Constitution, are being observed and respected.
There are few countries in the developing world that can boast the same kind of quality democracy. Even some developed nations marvel at the dynamism of our 23-year-old democracy. We can indeed be proud.