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South African freedom day marked by celebration as elections near

4/29/2014, 4:25 p.m.

Apr. 28 (GIN) – Nationwide celebration on Apr. 27 marked Freedom Day in South Africa. The day marks the 20th anniversary of elections in which all citizens were able to take part.

Voters that day sent Nelson Mandela to the presidency with a resounding win that helped end the reign of white supremecists in a system known as apartheid.

South Africa now faces a new round of national elections which may reflect growing unease over the unfulfilled promises to fairly distribute the country’s vast economic wealth among its citizens. Polls will take place on May 7.

President Jacob Zuma spoke about the country's progress at a rally.

"The precious right to vote was gained through relentless struggles and sacrifices. Therefore, on the 7th of May, let us go out in our millions to vote and celebrate our hard won freedom and democracy. Let us vote to consolidate democracy and all the achievements of our young nation. And, as we did in 1994 and in subsequent elections, let us deliver peaceful, free and fair elections."

But an editorial titled Democracy Has Also Brought Us Great Inequality by Mosibudi Mangena in the South African Mail & Guardian held a different perspective.

“We are about to hold democratic national and provincial elections that will put in place the fifth Parliament of the Republic of South Africa,” he wrote.

“There might be some blemishes, such as intimidation, killings related to votes, biased coverage by the public broadcaster and allegations of vote rigging. There might also be some complaints about the unsavory role of money in South African electoral politics. But, according to all indications, the elections will most probably be declared free and fair and a true expression of the will of the people…

“That is an achievement some countries elsewhere in the world can only dream of…

“Even those of us in the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) harbored the hope that, as long as stability, the rule of law, free media and other elements of democracy remained in place, there was a chance that we could, in time, remedy the imperfections inherent in that political settlement…

“But, alas, many of us are now experiencing a sinking feeling – that the dreams of building a bright future for our children might be fading and that we might in fact be descending towards a failed state…

“Who could have imagined a democratic government under a former liberation movement mowing down striking workers (at the Marikana mines) with automatic weapons?..

“Azapo observed that the 1994 political agreement was big on rights for all citizens but glaringly defective on economic justice. It was clear that issues relating to land restoration and economic ownership were left untouched…

“Some of us felt that, as long as ethical, moral and honest governance existed, there was a chance that these serious problems could be remedied by the state. For that to happen, however, we need a leadership that truly wants to serve the needs of its people…

(But) people get cynical when those in the leadership pretend to oppose corruption but are blatantly involved in it – they talk left but walk right…

“The failed state might be our destination if we do not slam the brakes on corruption.” (pix from a Mail & Guardian photo retrospective)

(The full article can be found at http://mg.co.za/article/2014-04-24-democracy-has-also-brought-us-great-inequality)