South Africa flag Reconciliation Day

South Africa flag being waved by a man celebrating success at the top of a mountain. 3D Rendering. Photo: Adobe Stock

In quotes: Words of wisdom from SA leaders on Freedom Day

South Africans today reflected on the country’s post-1994 journey and honoured the sacrifices made during the struggle.

South Africa flag Reconciliation Day

South Africa flag being waved by a man celebrating success at the top of a mountain. 3D Rendering. Photo: Adobe Stock

Freedom Day celebrations were arranged all across the country today, but when it’s all over and the dust settles, we need to reflect on what we’ll be taking away from the day.

While looking back on the journey – and celebrating our achievements as a country – it is important to remember that there’s still more work left to be done. After all, more than half of our population, approximately 30 million, still live below the poverty line.

UnFreedom Day

In fact, today thousands of South Africans also celebrated Un Freedom Day, a movement that began in 2009 to demonstrate that the poor are still not free in SA.

It was ANC Youth League Provincial Secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo who said you “can’t eat votes.” Members who support the Un Freedom Day movement use 27 April to host discussions, performances and screenings to spread awareness and education.

Conclude your Freedom Day by reflecting on the words from South Africa’s struggle heroes, words spoken during the liberation struggle and thereafter, to keep on challenging each other, to move forward together.

Nelson Mandela

“As long as many of our people still live in utter poverty, as long as children still live under plastic covers, as long as many of our people are still without jobs, no South African should rest and wallow in the joy of freedom.”

This quote was taken from an address by the late President Nelson Mandela at a thanksgiving service for Archbishop Desmond Tutu on his retirement in 1996.

“The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.”

Mandela was reflecting on working toward peace when he penned these words. It was included in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

Nelson mandela london exhibition south africa
Former South African President Nelson Mandela leaves the Intercontinental hotel in London, on June 26, 2008. AFP PHOTO /Shaun Curry SHAUN CURRY / AFP

“It can be argued that some have never seen the freedom we pride ourselves on. When 2. 2m South Africans are missing a meal a day and one in 15 children die before their fifth birthday due to malnutrition, we must ask where those conversations disappear to when we stand in fury at an injustice.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation

Clarence Makwetu

Clarence Makwetu was a political activist who joined the African National Congress in 1954. He was part of the breakaway faction which founded the Pan African Congress two years later.

Clarence Makwetu political activist south africa
Photo: SA History

After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Matkwetu was one of the three PAC members in parliament. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 87.

“We are fighting for our land and that land is still in the hands of the oppressor. In other words, the struggle can’t stop until we attain our goal.”

Clarence Makwetu

Mmusi Maimane

In 2017, Maimane addressed a rally in Pretoria. He called for President Zuma to step down, saying it’s time for a new fight for freedom.”

Mmusi Maimane democratic party south africa
South African opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane is pictured during the policy decision session during the policy decision session at the federal congress in Pretoria on 8 April 2018. Photo: AFP/Gulshan Khan

“All of us have seen what happens when you give one man too much power. We have seen what happens when one party is in power for too long. Together, we are building a new movement to realign politics as we know it.”

He urged South Africans to unite on Freedom Day to “save the country’s democracy” from corruption.

Jacob Zuma

This quote is from an address by former President Jacob Zuma on the 23rd celebration of Freedom Day in 2017.

“We have achieved political freedom but economic freedom still remains largely elusive. It is for this reason that we speak about radical economic transformation.”

Jacob Zuma Gaddafi US dollars
DAVOS / SWITZERLAND, 27 January 2010 – Jacob G. Zuma speaks at the Opening Media Lunch ‘World Cup 2010 – before the kick-off’ during the Annual Meeting 2010 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 27, 2010 at the Central Sport Hotel. – Photo: Michael Wuertenberg

He ended the speech by reminding those gathered that freedom comes with responsibility. Zuma added that we must unite to build safer, crime-free communities.

“Freedom comes with responsibility. We must continue to work together, each making their own contribution to build a South Africa that is free of poverty, inequality and unemployment.”

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

In 2017, Madikizela-Mandela spoke out against the African National Congress with a stern warning:

“All what we fought for is not what is going on right now. It is a tragedy that he lived and saw what was happening. We cannot pretend like South Africa is not in a crisis. Our country is in a crisis and anyone who cannot see that is just bluffing themselves.”

International women's day iwd2019 south african women
Anti-apartheid campaigner Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the former wife of South African former President Nelson Mandela looks on during the funeral of anti apartheid stalwart and Women’s Rights activist Fatima Meer at Durban’s Exhibition Centre on 13 March 2010. South African anti-apartheid activist Fatima Meer, a close friend of former president Nelson Mandela and supporter of the late Steve Biko, died in hospital on 12 March 2010, a family friend said. She was 81. Photo: AFP/Rajesh Jantilal

Chris Hani

“Socialism is about decent shelter for those who are homeless. It is about water for those who have no safe drinking water. About health care, it is about a life of dignity for the old. It is about overcoming the huge divide between urban and rural areas. And it is about a decent education for all our people. Socialism is about rolling back the tyranny of the market. As long as the economy is dominated by an unelected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist.”

Chris Hani
Who is Chris Hani
Fromer Secretary General of South African Communist Party (SACP) Chris Hani speaks at a press conference on the third day of the first SACP legal congress inside South Africa in 41 years, in Soweto on December 07, 1991.

O. R. Tambo

This quote is an extract from letters sent by Oliver Tambo to E. S. Reddy between 1964 and 1969. Reddy released the letters to the public in 1995.

“The fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest.”

Oliver Tambo
Oliver Tambo in Holland on 17 October 1981. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Rob Bogaerts/Anefo

Thabo Mbeki

In 2012, former President Thabo Mbeki broke a four-year silence. He spoke out about “the violent strikes and dampened self-confidence” which left him deeply troubled.

“I am convinced that it would be treacherous to hide our heads in the sand and behave as though we remain on course in terms of the achievement of our shared and various national objectives.”

The following quote is from Mbeki’s I Am an African speech in 1996. He was vice president at the time, and the speech defined the political mood of a post-Apartheid South Africa.

“Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say – nothing can stop us now!”

Thabo Mbeki SACP
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – NOVEMBER 19: Former South African President Thabo Mbeki addresses the audience during the National Consultative Conference of the Stalwarts and Veterans of the African National Congress (ANC) at Constitution Hill on November 19, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. During his address, Mbeki said the ANC has been captured by “a dominant faction which in fact is not ANC” and needs to be liberated. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)