On June 16th 2014, with Spain by its side, South Africa celebrated its 20th year of freedom at the Hotel InterContinental on Paseo de la Castellana, 49, Madrid. Actually, June 16th and the year 2014 have inter-related dual meaning. June 16th is Youth Day in South Africa, an official holiday, in remembrance of the thousands of the nation’s heroic youth some 200 0f whom made the ultimate sacrifice, killed in a series of protests known as the Soweto Uprising that began on the 16th of June 1976. It has been 38 years to the day.
As for 2014, it marks the 20th year of Nelson Mandela’s election (1994-1999) as the first black President of South Africa following the first fully representative multiracial election in the country. This great event marked the beginning of South Africa’s liberation and freedom.
The early 1990s was witness to the escalating civil strife as a result of the apartheid that the Soweto Uprisings protested against. Apartheid was a system of racial segregation and extreme oppression in South Africa.
The strength of the peaceful-resistance party called the African National Congress (ANC), whose Youth League Mandela helped found, took the government by surprise; the ANC, despite the government’s mock reforms and mass arrests, would not back down. Jailed for 27 years for his efforts to stop the apartheid, Mandela went on hunger strikes in prison. He would be released in 1990.
After wearing down the minority white South African government through a series of negotiations and external pressuress, the South Africans had their first democratic presidential election on the 27th of April 1994. Sworn into office, Nelson Mandela put his power to use by dismantling the apartheid, implementing economic reform to eradicate poverty, and promoting education.
Today Nelson Mandela is considered the Father of the Nation. In life and in death (he died on the 5th of December 2013 at age 95) he symbolizes freedom, hope, and prosperity not only for South Africa but for other struggling nations. Consequently, July 18th, Mandela’s date of birth, has been declared Mandela Day by the United Nations.
More than 300 people from the Diplomatic Corps and the high reaches of the Spanish society gathered in Hotel InterContinental’s Salon de Plata to commemorate South Africa’s inspiring journey to liberation. As I stood and watched the South African performers, the person next to me said she loved the culture! I asked why and she told me that the African culture is “united” like no other culture. She said that the South Africans move and talk with so much spirit, that their energy is contagious. As the performers continued with their dance and music some of the guests jumped in and joined the dancing.
The speech of South African Ambassador Fikile Sylvia Magubane was the highlight of the memorable event. She gave the speech in Spanish, thanking Spain for its help in building South Africa and wished the Spanish team the best of luck in the FIFA World Cup! Actually South Africa and Spain have a lot to celebrate as their relations have resulted in mutual advantages. Their economic relations have grown at a very rapid rate in the last few years, their bilateral trade amounting to some ZAR (South African Rand) 20 billion. (€1.00 = +/-ZAR 14.60)
Ambassador Magubane ended her speech chanting “Viva Sudafrica!”
It was a great evening befitting a great commemoration. The South African embassy deserved all the kudos for the highly successful event.
Rosa Maria comes from an artistic family in New York, attends the City Universtiy of New York Lehman College with a double major in art and multimedia journalism, but is currently living in Spain. Says Rosa, “I love all forms of art but I take a special interest in photography which saves moments that the mind will one day forget.”
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