Celebrating 20 Years of Democracy - 27 April 2014

The energy has been great and as a broadcaster it would be fantastic to sustain the energy.  We have an excellent team in place.  Perhaps we continue to underrate and under-estimate ourselves because we constantly get bruised by many forces beyond our control.

There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again an again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a man who with patience, wisdom and a willingness to sacrifice for others, led a movement to unify a divided nation and reconcile decades of pain and racism. Throughout his life, Mandela continuously chose to learn from his mistakes rather than repeat them. This personal integrity helped him win South Africa’s first democratic presidential election, and calm the fears of a nation in turmoil.   Mandela’s biggest triumph was not his election as president of South Africa, rather, it was the lessons he learned and the path he repeatedly chose to walk many years before.

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.” – Nelson Mandela

As the public broadcaster and a catalyst for driving positive change, we have a calling to look deeper into what is announcing itself and what is not announcing itself at this turning point in our history.

The SABC has a responsibility in the spirit of public service and as a hub of information, education and entertainment to:

    Pioneer social cohesion
    Instil morals, values and ethics
    Mobilise the definition of South Africa’s identity
    Engender patriotism without diverting from the essence of who we are
    Create a platform for debate and discussion for weaving African solutions
    Inspire greater possibilities

We need listening integrity, elevated thinking and to encourage bold and truthful discourse thus drive the inner healing agenda which resonates with Madiba, as the Father of our Nation.  He walked the freedom journey with many stalwarts, institutions, various political parties, organisations, artists, educationists, unionists, countries and leaders throughout the world who all shared a common vision of freedom and democracy for all.

Let’s explore innovative and unemotional dynamics and forward thinking solutions in our discourse and engagements with the public nationally and globally moving forward to inform, educate and entertain South Africa (our country), Africa (our continent) and the world.

The passing of Nelson Mandela gave South Africa an opportunity to go down memory lane and explore the history of where we come from, make us think about where we are and envision where we are going.  Our audiences were glued to their screens and radios which demonstrated their thirst and quest for untold authentic stories that were shared by diverse voices with plurality across, age, gender, creed, religion, race, class, socio-political and economic backgrounds with great editorial rigour.  Looking forward, digital terrestrial is here, opening doors that we did not even know existed.  There are no precedents or experiences from which to learn.  Public broadcasting is on the brink of its greatest age of broadcasting.

Here are some thoughts to ponder as we celebrate 20 years of Democracy:

    What have we learnt on this journey? What are we doing with our freedom now and in the future?
    What are our strengths?  What are the untapped opportunities?  What is threatening us?  How can we rise above our weaknesses?  What are our solutionsto the threats and weaknesses?
        Humanity vs. democracy?  What does freedom mean at a practical level and on a day-to-day basis?
        What is the new struggle?  Values?  Poverty alleviation?  Well balanced and happy children?  Unified nation?
        Are we archiving our history properly as writers, poets, musicians, film and theatre actors, librarians, teachers, broadcasters, other media?
            What are the benefits of our democracy for Africa and beyond?  What are we doing to harness this and to tell the good news stories?
            What are the achievements across disciplines today in Sport, Education, Arts, Science, Technology, Health, Medicine, architecture and civil engineering??
            What are the regrets and how will we not repeat them?  What are our unforgettable and defining moments?
            Do we still live our authentic vision, mission and goals?  Are people aware of the 2030 Vision?
            What has been the price of freedom for all?  How do we share the lessons learnt?
            How do we sustain the morals, values and ethics that gave us freedom?
            Who are the martyrs, ambassadors and stalwarts of the struggle?
            What happened to the invisible martyrs of freedom?  Where are they now?  Did they live to see freedom?
            How do we express our compassion and love to those who suffered and paid a heavy price for freedom?
            How do we educate the youth about the struggle?  What do we have to teach them?  What is the legacy?
            Who are the organisations that supported the struggle across the board within South Africa, Africa and the world?
            Are we all embracing the New South Africa and being patriotic in our thoughts, actions and words?
            Are we all on the same page in the journey of the emergence of the New South Africa
            What makes us unique on the Continent and in the world??  In short what is the South African DNA?
            Do we have a culture of diligence, success, performance and camaraderie?
            What has been the outcome and the results of the creation and transformation of labour movements?
            Do all our citizens live South Africa’s vision?  Do they even know what the vision is?
            Do we honour and learn from our mentors and heroes across all spectrums?
            Would today’s future leaders fight as righteously for their freedom as the older generation?
            What is the role and involvement of the youth today in driving socio-political and economic freedom?
            Are our youth as patriotic as the previous generation?  If not, why?  What needs to be done?  If so, how do we sustain it?
            Do our youth understand our constitution, history of our democracy, the principles and values that underpin the spirit of freedom??
            Our constitution reiterates human rights, human dignity, equality and freedom.  Where do we stand with living these words?
            How do our youth today live and understand their African identity?  What does it mean to them to be an African?
            What do our young people need / want to know about where we come from and how we got to where we are?  Where to from here?
            Does the way we live our lives now, show that the journey was a worthy cause?  What should we change or stop doing??
            Are we still on a journey of healing?  Have we sustained deep wounds that continue to fester?
            Have we healed from the opium of racism and apartheid??  Where are we with the trust, faith and belief in our ourselves?
            Are we on the quest for African Renewal?  What is the plan??  How are we going to achieve it?
            What is our answer to xenophobia?  What is our human solution to the challenge?  Where can we start?
            What is our solution to the land ownership challenge?  How do we address the issue without causing more conflict?

Nelson Mandela (18th July 1918 – 5th December 2013)

Nelson Mandela casting his vote on 27th April 1994

 You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.

Clarence Darrow

Freedom Day is an annual celebration of South Africa's first non-racial democratic elections of 1994. Peace, unity, the preservation and the restoration of human dignity hallmarks Freedom Day celebrations on the 27th of April of each year.


The road to democracy was a long and difficult one. Since the arrival of the White man at the Cape in 1652, the indigenous peoples of South Africa came under White control and domination. Soon all peoples of colour were denied the vote and hence a say in the running of the country. South Africa was never truly independent nor democratic. The exclusion of the majority of South Africans from political power was at the centre of the liberation struggle and resistance to white minority rule.

Despite much opposition to White rule to halt white encroachment on black land in South Africa, blacks were systematically herded into restricted areas and homelands and their rights to equal opportunity denied.

With the formation of the South African Native National Congress (which later became the African National Congress (ANC) in 1912, the resistance movement became formalised. The ANC strived to improve the conditions of the blacks. Its task became more difficult after the Nationalist Party victory of 1948 - when the grand machinery of Apartheid was put into motion and became law. Each race was given different privileges, some more and others less.

Nevertheless, the ANC and its allies continued to seek the freedom of all its peoples and continued to challenge the unjust apartheid laws. When The Congress of the People (held in Kliptown in 1955), adopted the Freedom Charter, the blue-print for a democratic South Africa was laid. The Charter affirmed 'that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no Government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people'.

In 1961 South Africa became a Republic and the 31st of May was declared a national holiday (Republic Day) by the National Party, yet it was never celebrated by all South Africans. The Umkonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC was formed during this period as a means of armed resistance. Many of the leaders were banned, imprisoned and tortured.

Meeting to launch the Defiance Campaign

After 1976 the liberation struggle gained momentum. The Soweto Uprising of 1976 saw increased militancy. Trade Union movements started to revive and assert the rights of workers. Hundreds of residents' associations, sports, student, women's and religious organisations joined the resistance struggle. The Church could no longer stand by silently and added its voice to the liberation struggle.

In 1984, the Government introduced the Tri-cameral parliament, giving Coloureds and Indians the right to vote. The Blacks, who were in the majority, were excluded from this formula. The United Democratic Front (UDF), launched in 1983, brought over 600 organisations together to demand the scrapping of the Tri-cameral parliament. In 1985 the Government declared a State of Emergency in an attempt to suppress the freedom movement.

By 1988 a stalemate had been reached. The Government began looking for a way out and as a result started negotiations with the ANC leadership. The ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP), Pan African Congress (PAC) and other organisations were unbanned on 2 February 1990. A non-racial constitution was eventually agreed upon and adopted in 1993. The new Constitution came into effect on 27 April 1994, the day the nation cast its vote in the first democratic election in the country. The ANC was voted into power and Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the President of South Africa on 10 May 1994.


Today, our country celebrates Freedom Day to mark the liberation of our country and its people from a long period of colonialism and white minority domination - which means that we no longer have the situation in which political power is enjoyed and exercised by a minority of our population, to the exclusion of the majority. Freedom Day is not an African National Congress day, but a day for all South Africans. When South Africa was liberated both the oppressor and oppressed were liberated. We pledge "Never again would a minority government impose itself on the majority".

South Africans are "One people with one destiny". It is therefore imperative for South Africans of diverse political and economic backgrounds to work towards a common objective. On Freedom Day we celebrate the relentless efforts of those who fought for liberation, of the many men and women who took up arms and courted imprisonment, bannings and torture on behalf of the oppressed masses.

However "Are we really free when our people remain poor, when there is mass unemployment, unwarranted violence and crime"? Freedom should mean emancipation from poverty, unemployment, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination- but poverty continues to exist, with black people, women, children, the disabled and the elderly. "We need to continue to work to eradicate poverty, racial inequalities and socio-economic disparities," Freedom Day means something very valuable, the necessary condition for us to achieve the vital and fundamental objective of a better life for all.

On Freedom Day, we commit ourselves to ensuring the defence of the sacred freedoms that we had won as a result of a long, difficult and costly struggle. We remind ourselves that the guarantee of these freedoms requires permanent vigilance. It is our pledge to devote ourselves to continue to work to wipe out the legacy of racism in our country. We need to ensure that all our people enjoy these freedoms not merely as theoretical rights but they must form the daily life experience of all South Africans.

As South African citizens we need to embrace the power of unity and to take responsibility and accountability as individuals, as families and as communities to contribute towards celebrating the past 17 years of our democracy.  Despite all the challenges and many unresolved issues, we have a lot to celebrate and to count our blessings for.  We need to collectively contribute towards addressing the areas of concern and to fix what is not working.

What makes South African’s unique?  Is it the strength of our diversity? Is it the beauty and the variety of the South African landscape? Is it the achievement of democracy, against all odds?

Unity has the ability to break down these barriers.   South Africa still grapples with many socio-political and economic issues, yet has much to offer the world in respect of breaking down these barriers.

The miracle that is South Africa today is perplexing to many but can be seen in the spirit of “Ubuntu.” We, as South Africans can show the world this quality by being united.  This goes beyond symbolic gestures but also how we can impact the lives of our fellow citizens in everything we do, we think, we say.  We can look inwards and show the World how differences can be overcome.  By turning inwards and contemplating, many projects could arise that will inspire others and could also be the impetus for outsiders to get involved in helping build our country and also using SA as a model for change in the world.

As South Africans we have been on a journey of discovering each other’s humanity over the past decade and a half. We are a nation characterised by resilience and friendliness. We have an opportunity to show the world our unique hospitality by welcoming guests with good service, and a pride in what we have achieved. If we get this right many will return and others will be inspired to visit our beautiful country in the future.

Most importantly, while the many areas of the World are becoming more divided we have a chance to break down our barriers further and be a model for a better world.

We can further explore other elements, ties and linkages that lay the basis of our distinctness.

    Birthrights:  We are South African by birth, identity and citizenship.
    History- share, and collective experience: South Africans share a distinct and common history.  We can now claim a distinct and common national heritage. South Africans, in the main, recognise our national symbols, the national anthem and constitution.
    Locality- physical environments: We share a common geophysical space.
    Language and symbols: We acknowledge a multilingual society, made up of 11 national languages; we are sensitised to the indigenous languages of the Khoi, Nama and San peoples; and Sign language. We acknowledge the development of patois, popularly used local vernaculars or dialects made up of different national languages like Tsotsitaal and Scamto as a means of cross -cultural communication.
    Cultures - evolving a national culture: While we acknowledge that we live in a majoritarian African cultural domain (83%) within an African country, South African society, through its history, is made up of diverse cultures (17.5%).
    Socialisation: We have evolved a long established basis of socialization and social relations, previously characterised by colonial and apartheid values and, which is now guided by fundamental freedoms and human rights, enshrined in the South African Constitution.
    Nationhood and democracy: South Africa is in the process of monumental democratic, socio/cultural and economic change. In that process a national cultural character, the foundations of which have been explored in the foregoing section of this report, will emerge organically over time.

Many forces, many critical actions, understandings, knowledge and learning need to impact on society for its growth and emergence as a truly distinct entity. Again interventions in culture and history, through projects and programmes: in arts, communication; in values, morality, and education; in media, self image projection, collective identity and many other areas ought to provoke debate and discussion in the understanding of our distinctiveness.

 Let us all stand up and be counted.  We need to preserve and uphold what we have achieved together

 If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other.

Carl Schurz

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