To celebrate Freedom Day, we sat down with a local resident who was one of the people who voted in 1994. This is his recollection of that day, in his own words:
I remember the 27th of April 1994 very well. I don’t think many who were there will ever forget it. The weather was beautiful; I know it was sunny but I don’t remember feeling the heat. There was a sense of calm in the atmosphere; the energy was calm yet full of excitement. Everyone was enthusiastic, hopeful of a new world. The excitement was of something unknown and foreign to us, we wanted to see how voting worked because we didn’t know.
My name is Phindile, born and raised in the Eastern Cape. In 1994 I was 20 years old. I voted at Makhazi in Mooiplaas (Eastern Cape). It was packed; everyone and anyone was there. All I saw was my black brothers and sisters. It’s funny, but we didn’t even know that much about the ANC. I knew of Mandela and I knew they were fighting for our country, but that’s all we knew. We depended on word of mouth mostly, as even the media wasn’t trustworthy or accessible. There wasn’t any fanfare of a campaign or rally, but it went without saying that ANC was the only option for us.
For the first time as a black person, a black man, I felt my dignity being restored. During that time, I couldn’t walk anywhere, sit anywhere, or travel anywhere, without permission or a dompasi. As a young man, that day gave me the freedom to tell everyone about my rights – especially if they violated it. Before the day arrived, I was hopeful and trusted the leaders that we would vote for; we trusted the process because we knew nothing else.
Now at 48 years old, so much has changed; a good and bad change. But isn’t that the beauty of democracy? We can question, we can voice and we can review our leaders. We have options because we have rights; we must use them to the best of our abilities.
The youth that vote today may be unsatisfied with a lot of issues, but the power is in their own hands. Which is why it’s time for young people to start fighting for themselves because now the fight is beyond the right to vote.
Unfortunately, being South African, especially a black South African, will always be political, even outside of our own country. Embrace it because it means we will never be boring as a nation, I am proud of all the work that has been done and I look forward to more changes every day.
Tell us: Have your family members told you about their experience of going to vote for the first time in 1994?
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