Everything You Need To Know About Freedom Day

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It was on April 27, 1950 that the-then Apartheid Government of South Africa (SA), under Premier Daniel Malan, passed the ‘Group Areas Act/Population Registration Act’ to segregate the races, creating special areas for ‘Whites,’ ‘Blacks,’ ‘Asians’ and ‘Coloureds!’

Was it pure coincidence – or sheer machinations in terms of statistical probability of success or failure – that the Government saw it fit to make a U-turn in its governance system 54 years later? On April 27, 1994, South Africa conducted ‘democratic’ elections in which ‘Blacks’ voted for a new Govt.!

But, I’m rushing things here… Legislating Apartheid via the Group Areas and Population Registration mode on a date like today’s 66 years ago was a calculated continuation of the Apartheid policy and practice of separate development of the races in SA. Although the heinous Apartheid system was in place from much earlier than that, it was nonetheless given impetus in earnest following the political victory of Malan’s Nationalist Party in the 1948 Elections.

Thereafter – and virtually up until the universal suffrage elections of April 26-29, 1994 – Government policy, legislation and practice required severely restricting ‘Blacks’ to specified occupations (employment and residence), and socio-economic amenities/facilities such as schools, medical services, sports, entertainment… ‘Blacks’ were paid lower wages than ‘Whites’ in similar employment.

They couldn’t vote or seek public office in the national Government; couldn’t ‘date/socialise’ or marry across racial lines – and were destined to travel separate political paths to Independence in Bantustans…! What with one thing leading to another, the Government passed legislation in 1959 which provided for the creation of partially self-governing territories as ‘Bantu nations,’ a.k.a. ‘Homelands/Bantustans.’

In nomenclature, the ‘Bantu-stans’ were on the lines of ‘Afghani-stan,’ ‘Paki-stan,’ Uzbeki-stan,’ etc. Hence Transkei (Xhosa: 1976), Bophuthatswana (‘Bops,’ Tswana: 1977), Venda (Venda: 1979), Ciskei (Xhosa: 1981)…

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However, none of these were officially recognized beyond Apartheid SA’s borders in the comity of nations! The unfairness of it all – among others – was that, for example, Blacks were allocated only 13 per cent of the country’s 472,359sq.m land area (1.221m km²).

According to the last (2011) census, 76.4 per cent of the 51.58m population were Blacks; 9.1 per cent Whites; 8.9 per cent Coloureds; 2.5 per cent Indians/Asians, and 0.5 per cent ‘Others/Unspecified!’

So: all those Blacks were squeezed into a 13 per cent corner, whereas the smattering few ‘Whites’ were allocated much of the economically-productive areas! In due course of time and events – including social, economic and political sanctions at the international level – the Government sort of tossed the Apartheid system to the Four Winds.

This was ostensibly in the interests of ‘birthing’ what the country’s first ‘Black’ President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013) termed ‘The Rainbow Nation’ that’d bring together the different races under an inclusive, democratic system.

So, following the April 26-29, 1994 elections – and the Interim Constitution which came into force on today’s date (April 27) – ‘Tata’ Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, won 62.7 per cent of the valid votes cast, as against the 20.4 per cent won by the thitherto dyed-in-the-wool Apartheid National Party! In the event, Mandela assumed the Presidency – and formed a Government of National Unity (GNU) which included all the major political parties.

Tata took into the Wheelhouse of the Ship of State as his Vice-President the immediate-past President-cum-National Party Chief FW de Klerk, and the Inkatha Freedom Party Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, whose Party garnered 10.5 per cent of the votes.

What else/more could one have wished immediately on the heels of a convincing electoral victory by the Black Majority after more than two generations of Apartheid where ‘Blacks’ were treated as no better than the south-end of a prairie horse? What else, pray…? I ask you! Oh… I nearly forgot! While right-minded, bona fide well-wishers of the Republic of South Africa as a nation-state observe April 27 as ‘Freedom Day,’ at the extreme end of a New Divide is a divided lot that sees it as ‘Un-Freedom Day!’

UnFreedom Day is an unofficial South African ‘day of mourning’ also marked on April 27 – today this year, calculated to coincide with the official Freedom Day! While (some) South Africans celebrate that country’s first non-racial democratic elections in 1994, members of the ‘Abahlali baseMjondolo’ Movement mark April 27 by demonstrating via films, discussions and performances that the poor are still not free in South Africa!

Also known as ‘AbM’ or ‘The Red Shirts,’ the Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu for the ‘Shack-Dwellers’) campaign to improve the living conditions of the poor – and to ‘democratize society from below… ‘ Sheesh! Oh… April 27 can indeed be a sad day for many – ‘Freedom Day’ or ‘Un-Freedom Day’ notwithstanding! It was on April 27, 1972 that Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah (born 1909) died of prostate cancer…

And all members of the Zambia national football team died in a plane crash off-Libreville, Gabon, en route to Dakar, Senegal, to play a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Senegal. Tears!


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