Freedom Day in South Africa

When is Freedom Day in South Africa?

Freedom Day in South Africa is on April 27, 2023. It falls on Thursday.

How many days until Freedom Day in South Africa?

There are 338 Days left until Freedom Day in South Africa.

Is Freedom Day a public holiday in South Africa?

Freedom Day is a public holiday observed in South Africa every 27th of April each year. This holiday is celebrated to commemorate the first fully democratic non-racial election which took place on the 27th of April 1994 and marked the end of the Apartheid system. Apartheid is a government system in South Africa which segregates the society based on race. With this system, the black South Africans did not have any human rights and did not have any political power since they were not allowed to vote. However, this system ended when the country observed its first national non-racial election in 1994.

On this day, qualified voters in South Africa from all races, are given the right to suffrage for the first time. Thus, to honor this important day, Freedom Day was instituted under the governance of Nelson Mandela, the one who won this election and became the first Black South African President. At present, many companies suspend business operation on this day though there are other business establishments which remain accessible to the public. Some of these businesses follow restricted schedules due to the holiday. On the other hand, schools, universities, banking institutions, and the government and public offices should totally close off for the day.

Freedom Day Origin in South Africa

Freedom Day is one of the most important national holidays celebrated in South Africa. This holiday was established to look back on the day when all South Africans, regardless of race, were finally granted the right to vote the government officials who they deemed fit to rule the country. This was not the case in the former years. South Africans, being under colonialism for hundreds of years, had their own share of terrible experiences in the past. One of the most brutal phases the South Africans have undergone is when the Apartheid policies were implemented in the country.

The Apartheid System

Apartheid is a government system instituted in South Africa back in 1948 wherein a segregation of the country’s society was made based on racial backgrounds. The white minority were placed above the black majority. The black South Africans, which consist most of the country’s population, suffer countless injustices and discrimination under this system. While the few white minority enjoy many rights and privileges, the black population on the other hand, were not granted even the basic forms of human rights. The right to suffrage is one of those rights not exercised by the black population. Although other non-whites are given limited rights to vote, the black South Africans are totally shut off from exercising any political power.

First Full Democratic Election in South Africa

For many years, the black South Africans embarked on numerous battles to fight for equality and freedom from the Apartheid regime. Many had sacrificed and lost their lives fighting on these battles. However, after years of struggles, the light of freedom has at long last arrived for the majority. In 1994, the Apartheid rule finally ended when South Africa observed its first ever fully democratic election, inviting all qualified voters to vote freely regardless of their race. The black South Africans, along with other people of color, were finally granted the right to suffrage for the first time. Qualified voters (who should be more than eighteen years of age), as well as foreign citizens who are permanently residing in South Africa, participated in the general election which occurred for four days (from the 26th of April until the 29th of April). This event has become one of the most important events in the country’s history since it paved the way for the establishment of the country’s democracy.

The results of the election had placed Nelson Mandela, one of the anti-apartheid leaders, to officially become the nation’s first black President.

Who declared Freedom Day as a national holiday in South Africa?

Under Nelson Mandela's governance, the 27th of April was designated to become a national holiday called Freedom Day, in commemoration of the day when all people from all races who are of voting age, are allowed to vote and have finally broken free from the brutal reigns of the Apartheid system and the country’s previous colonialism. The holiday was first celebrated the following year, on the 27th of April 1995, and continued to be celebrated until the present.


Freedom Day Traditions in South Africa

Countries which have undergone colonization by other powerful nations often celebrate a specific day when they acquired full independence from their foreign colonizers. South Africa, being a subject if colonization for hundreds of years, is no different. The country observes a holiday called Freedom Day to celebrate the country’s liberation from the Apartheid policies, as well as the colonialism which haunted the country for so long. To celebrate the holiday, various events are held on this day which include parades.

Cultural Parade

A cultural parade is a typical activity organized to celebrate this day, alongside singing, and dancing activities. While there are many parades held in the different parts of the country, the cultural parade held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria (which also houses the offices of the President of South Africa), is the most famous and the biggest one. The parade displays people from diverse groups donning on their respective traditional clothes. This activity shows the unity of the country as a whole and is one of the main highlights of the holiday’s celebration, along with the Presidential address.

President's Speech

The President’s speech is also one of the focus of this day’s observance. Every year, the President of South Africa will deliver his address to the public in celebration of Freedom Day. The speech is a tribute for all the brave heroes (named and unnamed) who endured many struggles for the sake of freedom. This event invites the people from across the country, thus, on this day, crowds of people would usually gather at the Union Buildings in Pretoria (one of the capital cities in South Africa) to join the celebration.

Visiting Museums and Historical Sites

In South Africa, Freedom Day means several things. It could be arts, sporting events, festivals, historical sites, galleries, and museums. Some of these galleries and museums even offer free entrances to the public during the holiday. For the South Africans, a visit to these places is a good way to spend the holiday because by doing so, they can gain more knowledge on how things were like in the past, those years when freedom is but a dream to the people, and by that, they could better appreciate the democratic country they currently have. Some of the most visited museums during Freedom Day are as follows:

  • The Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, Eastern Cape - a museum which displays the life of Nelson Mandela, former President and one of the most iconic man in the history of South Africa particularly in his contribution in ending Apartheid system
  • The Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal - the place where Mandela was arrested for being an anti-Apartheid activist, and now, has become one of the attractions in the country where his beautiful sculpture was built
  • The Robben Island in Cape Town, Western Cape - a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where Mandela spent 18 years of imprisonment as an anti-Apartheid leader
  • The Apartheid Museum in Soweto, Gauteng - a great place to visit if one wants to learn more about the difficult times endured by the people during the Apartheid regime, and how the country as a whole, was able to overcome it
  • The Kliptown Open Air Museum in Soweto, Gauteng - where South Africa’s Freedom Charter was drafted way back 1955.

People from across the country often visit these museums and other historical sites on Freedom Day as a way of paying respect to the important people and events which helped led the way for the liberation of the country.

Music Festivals and Concerts

Festivals and concerts are also organized on this day. The Back to the City Hip-Hop Festival which is held at Mary FitzGerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg, is one of the most popular festivals visited by thousands of South Africans during Freedom Day. What’s fascinating about this festival is the fact that it does not merely offer good music, but it is also packed with several other artistic activities which is open to those who would like to participate. Another musical event also held on this day is the Breath of Life concert. The Breath of Life is a concert held at the Gold Reef City in Johannesburg which offers a different kind of music than that of the first festival mentioned.

Freedom Day Marathon

Aside from the music-related activities, other South Africans also participate on sporting activities organized for the holiday. Freedom Day Marathon is an example to this. Freedom Day Marathon is a physical activity that are participated by many, especially by those who are looking for a fun, yet healthy way of spending Freedom Day. This marathon is usually held at Kliptown, Soweto in Gauteng, South Africa.

Dates of Observance for Freedom Day
Year Date Day Holiday
2023 April 27 Thursday Freedom Day
2024 April 27 Saturday Freedom Day
2025 April 27 Sunday Freedom Day
2026 April 27 Monday Freedom Day
2027 April 27 Tuesday Freedom Day
2028 April 27 Thursday Freedom Day
Upcoming South Africa Holidays
Holiday Date
Youth Day June 16, 2022
Father's Day June 19, 2022
Nelson Mandela Day July 18, 2022