South Africa marks Freedom Day ahead of tense election

South Africa on Saturday marks Freedom Day – 30 years since the first multiracial elections and the emergence of democracy after 46 years of apartheid. However the country faces a myriad of economic challenges which will be at the heart of elections next month.

Freedom Day is a public holiday in South Africa and is celebrated on 27 April, the same day Nelson Mandela from the African National Congress (ANC) was elected in 1994.

It commemorates the day the new constitution was introduced, affording all South Africans equal rights, abolishing the racially discriminative system of apartheid.

It is a day where the "unsung heroes and heroines who fought for freedom and paved the way for an equal, representative, non-racial nation" are honoured, the government said in a statement.

List of improvements

President Cyril Ramaphosa touted South Africa's achievements under his party's leadership on Saturday just a month before its most consequential election in decades.

"South Africa today is an infinitely better place than it was 30 years ago," Ramaphosa said in a speech marking "Freedom Day" at the Union Buildings, the seat of government, in Pretoria.

The 71-year-old used the occasion to list improvements shepherded by the ANC, which is struggling in the polls and risks losing its outright parliamentary majority for the first time.

"We have pursued land reform, distributing millions of hectares of land to those who had been forcibly dispossessed," he said.

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