South African president Jacob Zuma says the country has made great strides – 20 years to the day since its first fully democratic elections. Thousands of people spent the day at the Union Buildings to celebrate what’s officially known as Freedom Day – and in an optimistic mood.
The nation held its first general elections in 1994, when voters sent Nelson Mandela to the presidency with a resounding win that helped the country distance itself from the scourge of apartheid. The 1994 election concluded a lengthy transition process that began after decades of apartheid ended. Four years earlier, Mandela had been freed from prison. At the same time, political parties such as his African National Congress were released from a government ban. After the historic vote of April 27, 1994, Mandela went on to lead South Africa into a new era.
The death of the inspirational leader last December sent the country into mourning. Sunday’s celebrations held a special poignancy as this is the first “Freedom Day” since the passing of Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon who died in December at the age of 95. His name was evoked several times by South Africa’s current president Jacob Zuma during a ceremony attended by around 5,000 people under bright autumn skies outside of the ornate Union Buildings, the seat of government. CCTV’s Guy Henderson reports from Pretoria.