Sunday was the twentieth Freedom Day celebration and it came barely a fortnight before the arguably most contested election since the demise of apartheid in 1994. Across the width and breadth of the country, the majority of political parties took the time to speak to their supporters and try to send messages about their suitability to run the country.
In Pretoria, President Jacob Zuma spoke at the Union Buildings at the Freedom Day celebrations as is the tradition on this day every year. However, what was not tradition was that other political parties were not given the opportunity to address the crowd as usual. Zuma spoke extensively about the gains the country had enjoyed under the leadership of the ANC. Enjoying a welcoming crowd that ululated and danced as he made his entrance, Zuma urged the supporters to go in their numbers to vote for the consolidation of the gains of the young nation’s democracy. He appealed to those attending the commemorations to ensure that the election would be free, fair and also peaceful.
Also present at this event was the deputy president Kgalema Motlante, the Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane and the Arts Minister Paul Mashatile. The guest of honour and also the president of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba, who also spoke during the celebrations, paid tribute to the South African government for the role the country has played on the African continent. In apparent reference to the peace keeping role that South Africa has played in the likes of the Central African Republic, Pohamba said other African leaders were aware of the leading role South Africa was playing in peace keeping on the continent.
Also speaking on Freedom Day was the former head of the PAC and current Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille who lambasted the current crop of ANC politicians for not having respect for the constitution and the rule of law. She noted that these leaders were prepared to risk all the gains of the struggle to ensure that one person remained the head of the country. De Lille said that it was important to get rid of Zuma as he was ‘hurting the country’. She contends that there is still a lot of work to be done and prioritizes the creation of opportunities for employment as well as grooming young individuals with the requisite capacity to grasp opportunities and put them to good use.
The EFF leader, Julius Malema was addressing his last rally in Durban on Freedom day. His speech, however, came later than expected as Juju arrived more than three hours later than expected. There was, however, no dampening of the spirits of the supporters despite this late entrance as the leader of the red brigade was greeted with rapturous welcome when he finally made his entrance.
The head of the official opposition, Hellen Zille also presented a statement in which she said that as long as the people of South Africa were still homeless, jobless or were still suffering from preventable diseases, the freedom did not mean anything. She added that the people of South Africa need never give up on the aspirations of prosperity they once harboured as her party was working on ways of achieving an ever more meaningful freedom. Zille went on to pay tribute to the heroes of democracy, Nelson Mandela and FW de Clerk for the work they did in bringing about the current democracy.
Adding his voice to the massive cries of discontent was veteran clergyman and politician, retired Reverend Desmond Tutu, who did not have much good to say about the current state of affairs. The undeclared leader of the struggle in the absence of Mandela and Tambo went as far as to say that he was glad that Mandela and the other authors of the struggle were dead and could not witness the rot that was the order of the day with the current crop of politicians. The long time friend of Madiba who almost did not attend the global icon’s funeral because he had not been invited by the ANC has already made it clear that he would not be voting for the ruling party in the upcoming elections.