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20 years of South African freedom celebrated in London

WALKERS: Participants at the park

SOUTH AFRICAN and British communities came together to celebrate Freedom Day twenty years after black people were able to vote for the first time in post-apartheid elections that saw Nelson Mandela come to power.

A group of charities held a “Walk for Freedom” event that took place yesterday (Apr 27) and was inspired by Mandela, elected in South Africa’s first black president in elections held on April 27, 1994. Supporters walked 2.7 miles around Wimbledon Park, in memory of Mandela’s 27 years in jail.

“Freedom Day is a day that us South Africans really enjoy because we found equality,” said Okuhle Mngomezulu, a 19-year-old from Johannesburg. “Different people, Black and white, celebrate together and to me that’s something incredible. No one is treated less.”

Okuhle is visiting London with the support of The Daneford Trust, one of the six charities involved in the day. A budding musician, he has learnt how to read music since he has been here. “Life is kind of hard in South Africa,” he says, “because there’s a lack of opportunity. I wasn’t great in school but I want to advance myself.”

“It will take more than a vote to get over the legacy of apartheid,” explained Tricia Sibbons, director of another charity, the Trevor Huddleston Foundation. “There are 26 universities in South Africa, but remember that during apartheid Black people could only go to one, so there’s still a lot to do.”

The Johannesburg-based charity is named after an Anglican Bishop whom Sibbons says Mandela talked about as “the white person who did the most”.

“It took everybody in the world to overcome apartheid,” said Sibbons.

“The Anglican network and many others worked really hard for years as part of the anti-apartheid movement. We’re trying to build on that and we’re also trying to get it to the next generation. We got political freedom, but actually what we now need is social and economic equity.”

Darius Barid, a 21-year-old Guyanese youth worker from Earlsfield, and founder of ‘Youth Creating Change’ project, said: “There is unemployment here but there is unemployment in South Africa too.

“A lot of young people over here should get involved - they’re struggling with identity issues, they seem to have lost their cultural roots, their heritage,” he said, “so people need to understand that we’re part of one big community.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba sent a message of support to the group, calling the event an “innovative method of drawing people together to walk on perhaps the most important day in the South African calendar, giving us all a day to remember the legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela when he asked us to consider how the lives of the world’s children can be improved.”

In his own message, British prime minister David Cameron said: “I am honoured to congratulate the people of South Africa as you celebrate 20 years of democracy.

"South Africa’s struggle to achieve freedom and democracy has shown the world how much can be achieved with courage and determination."

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