South Africa is marking the 20th anniversary of post-apartheid democracy. The country still faces many challenges, among them corruption, racial inequality, poverty, rampant crime and a lack of basic services.
On Sunday, South Africans celebrated 20 years since the country's first election open to all races, with President Jacob Zuma and others reflecting on the struggle against apartheid. The main Freedom Day festivities in Pretoria included a full military procession with a 21-gun salute and fly-pasts, prayers, music, dance, and a colorful cultural parade that entered the Union Buildings gardens to the official anthem of the South African 2010 World Cup, "Waka Waka" (This Time for Africa).
"Our country has done well," Zuma said two decades after Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president. "We all have a good story to tell."
Even though social mobility appears to have improved, since 1994 inequality has undermined democracy, with the average white household receiving an income six times that of the average black household, and overall unemployment standing at 25 percent. The government‘s failings have become a rallying point for the opposition ahead of general elections on May 7, the fifth since the end of decades of sanctioned racial oppression. All of the county's elections since 1994 have been won by the African National Congress, the party founded by Mandela and currently led by Zuma.
"Our freedom was not free," Zuma said Sunday, urging voters to the polls. "It came about through blood, sweat and tears. That is why we must defend it at all cost. We are succeeding to heal the wounds of our brutal and divided past."
Zuma faces corruption allegations for using $20 million (14.5 million euros) in state funds to upgrade a private home. The public protector recommends that the president pay back some of the money.
Desmond Tutu dissents
On April 27, 1994, black, Indian and mixed-race voters lined up for the first time with whites to cast ballots. Retired Bishop Desmond Tutu said that day felt like "falling in love." FW de Klerk, the last apartheid president and co-recipient with Mandela of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their work to bring full democracy to the country, described the day as "our proudest moment as South Africans."
Tutu, who won the 1984 peace prize for battling apartheid, said Mandela, who died in December at age 95, would not have appreciated the slow pace of transformation, the allegations of corruption in his party or continued injustices.
"I'm glad that Madiba is dead," Tutu was quoted as telling South Africa's Sunday Times, using Mandela's clan name. "I'm glad that most of these people are no longer alive to see this."
mkg/mz (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)