Leader of the Democratic Alliance
The 20th Anniversary of Democracy
Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first democratic election and the end of apartheid.
Even in an election period,
today’s commemoration transcends party politics. Today is a
celebration of a nation, not of a party. South Africa is an infinitely more just, humane, and peaceful place to live today than twenty years ago.
The original Freedom Day, the 27th of April 1994, will always be remembered as a time which brought out the best in South Africa. Despite the violence of the weeks and days preceding that first election, all South Africans were united in a sense of great hope for the future.
Many people here and across the world said it could not be done
but South Africa did it.
With exceptional leadership, we transcended the divisions of the past to negotiate a peaceful solution to one of the defining struggles of the twentieth century.
Our divided history means that the transition from apartheid to democracy was less the stuff of a miracle, and more the product of hard work, skilful negotiation, and the insight of the small group of exceptional leaders who united the country and led from the front. Today we remember the giant of that group, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. We remember his selflessness, his incorruptibility, his deep personal commitment to a united South Africa, and his efforts to extend opportunities to those who had been denied them in the past. We also pay tribute to the exceptional leadership of F W de Klerk, who managed to lead the majority of his followers out of the dead-end path of conflict, towards a negotiated settlement. And the extraordinary individuals who played such pivotal roles in our negotiated settlement around a path-breaking constitution.
Madiba taught us that freedom is not an event, but a process. We all have a responsibility
to keep the promise of our nation’s founders: to be a non
-racial, open-minded, tolerant, and generous spirited people.
And if such a high price was paid for our freedom, we are duty bound to protect it, and use it every day. The institutions of democracy must be defended and buttressed and citizens should never fear those with power.