South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has led his nation in celebrating 25 years of democracy, while at the same time highlighting the challenges that persist in the country of 57 million during Freedom Day celebrations held in the Eastern Cape Province.This year’s Freedom Day events, held at the Mili Yili Sports Grounds in Makhanda on Saturday, commemorated 25 years since South Africans headed to the first democratic elections in 1994 to elect Nelson Mandela as the country’s first black president.
“On this day 25 years ago, we founded a new country defined by the principles of equality, unity, non-racialism and non-sexism.
“Despite the passage of time, it is a day we remember vividly – the exhilaration of seeing nearly 20 million South Africans of all races waiting patiently at polling stations around the country to cast their ballots.
“For those of a certain age, we remember the moment we placed a cross on a ballot paper for the first time in our lives.
“I remember voting at Kloof Gold Mine in Westonaria among the mine workers who built the country’s wealth but had never before been accorded the most basic right of citizenship – that of voting,” Ramaphosa said.
He added: “On this Freedom Day, as we celebrate this great human achievement, we must reflect on how far we have travelled over the last quarter century, reflecting on the progress we have made in setting right the wrongs of the past, in bringing development to communities where there was once only neglect, in restoring human dignity where there was once only contempt.”
But despite “these remarkable achievements, too many of our people still live in poverty. As we celebrate 25 years of democracy, we need to focus all our attention and efforts on ensuring that all South Africans can equally experience the economic and social benefits of freedom.”