South Africans celebrate 25 years of freedom

Freedom fighter: Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for “conspiring to overthrow the state”. He died in 2013.

Is Nelson Mandela’s work done? Twenty-five years ago, the hero activist was elected president, spelling an end to the racist apartheid era. However, South Africa is still deeply unequal.

What’s happening

On 27 April every year, South Africans celebrate Freedom Day. The holiday remembers the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected president. This also marked the end of a racist era called apartheid.

Twenty-five years on, South Africa is still deeply divided.

Find out more

For fifty years, South Africa was ruled by its white minority. Black South Africans were banned from running businesses and owning or living on land in white areas. They were also not allowed to vote, or work in many professions.

For decades, Nelson Mandela led the fight against apartheid. He even went to prison for it.

At last, non-white South Africans were given the vote in 1994 and Mandela was elected president with his party, the African National Congress (ANC). Apartheid was over.

However, its effects are still felt today. South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries. Over the years, the ANC government has become more corrupt.

Is Mandela’s work done?

Some say…

No. Many of the features of apartheid are still clear to see: poor, black areas and wealthy, white areas. Racism is common. Half the population is in poverty, with the black majority worst affected by far. Corruption is getting worse. The fight is far from over.

Others think…

We must celebrate how far South Africa has come. Yes, there are problems, but South Africans of all colours are free to vote, protest and speak freely. For many decades, when the country was under colonial and white minority rule, this freedom would be unthinkable.

You Decide

  1. Apart from Nelson Mandela, can you think of other anti-racism heroes?


  1. Write down what you think these words mean: prejudice, human rights, protest and segregation. Can you also think of antonyms (words that mean the opposite) for them?

Some People Say...

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

Nelson Mandela

What do you think?

Word Watch

In a democracy, all adults get to vote to choose their leaders.
Literally, means “apart-hood”. In South Africa, it was the law to keep black people apart from white people.
A group that makes up less than half of the population.
Jobs or careers.
When someone with power or influence acts in a dishonest way, often to make money.
When one country takes control and rules over another country.


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