Milestones of 20 Years of Freedom

1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014




South Africa held its first democratic elections on 27 April 1994.

South African flag


The national flag was used for the first during the 1994 elections.

Nelson Mandela


Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa's first democratic president on 10 May 1994.

RDP houses


The Government of National Unity implemented the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). The RDP was a socio-economic policy framework which sought to address the immense socio-economic challenges brought about by apartheid. 



Constitutional Court logo


The Constutional Court was formally opened by President Nelson Mandela on the morning of 14 February 1995.

Commission on Restitution of Land Rights logo


The Commission on Restitution of Land Rights was constituted on 1 March 1995 to assist claimants in submitting their land claim, receive and acknowledge all claims lodged and advise claimants on the progress of their land claim.

Springbok emblem


The 1995 Rugby World Cup was hosted and won by South Africa. It was South Africa’s first chance for the whole previously segregated country to unite behind the national team, in the sport that has been viewed as the very personification of apartheid.

Auto manufacture. Photo: Volkswagen South Africa


The Government of National Unity identified the automotive industry as a key growth sector and in 1995 implemented the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP). This programme is widely regarded as a major success of South Africa's post-apartheid trade and industrial policies. On 1 January  2013 it was replaced with the Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP).


TRC logo


On 15 April 1996, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), under Chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu, began its first formal hearings in East London City Hall. The TRC was set up to help deal with violations of human rights during the apartheid era.



President Nelson Mandela signed into law the Constitution of South Africa on 10 December 1996.

Africa Cup of Nations


South Africa hosted and won the 1996 African Cup of Nations.




A shortened, combined version of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and The Call of South Africa became the national anthem of South Africa.

Robben Island


The Robben Island Museum was officially opened on 1 January 1997. Two years later it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



The Constitution came into effect on 4 February 1997. The week of 17 to 21 March is named national Constitution Week: more than seven million copies of the Constitution are distributed in all 11 languages.




Voortrekkerhoogte is renamed Thaba Tshwane.

TRC logo


The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is published.


Former President Thabo Mbeki


South Africa held its second National and Provincial Elections on 2 June 1999.  Former President Thabo Mbeki was inaugurated on 16 June 1999 at the Union Buildings.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park logo


In 1999 the iSimangaliso Wetland Park became the first site in South Africa to be inscribed on the World Heritage List by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). It was since joined by other sites, namely


Coat of Arms


The Coat of Arms of South Africa was introduced on Freedom Day, 27 April 2000. The motto !ke e: /xarra //keis written in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people and translates literally to "diverse people unite".

AIDS logo


The 13th International AIDS Conference held in Durban from 9 to 14 July 2000 presented a very important opportunity to focus on HIV/AIDS in the developing world, as South Africa was the first developing country to host the Conference. It also demonstrated clearly that South Africa is capable of hosting large conferences.


wcar logo


The first World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) was held in Durban from 31 August to 7 September 2001.


Mark Shuttleworth - Wikipedia


Mark Shuttleworth became the first South African in space in April 2002. He was a cosmonaut member of the crew of Soyuz mission TM34 to the International Space Station.

wssd logo


The World Summit on Sustainable Development was successfully held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002. It focussed the world's attention and direct action toward meeting difficult challenges, including improving people's lives and conserving our natural resources in a world that is growing in population, with ever-increasing demands for food, water, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services and economic security.

Hector Pieterson Memorial - Photo: Chris Kirchhoff


The Hector Pieterson Museum opens in Soweto on 16 June 2002. The museum is named after one of the first casualties of the march through Soweto on 16 June 1976, when police were ordered to shoot at a crowd of demonstrating students.


TRC logo


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released the last volumes of its final report on 21 March 2003.

Cricket World Cup logo


The 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup was co-hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya from 9 February to 23 March 2003. This edition of the World Cup was the first to be played on African soil.


2010 world soccer cup


On 15 May 2004 FIFA President Sepp Blatter, announced that South Africa would host the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Charlize Theron


Charlize Theron became the first South African to win an Oscar as Best Actress.

Elections 2004


South Africa held its third democratic elections on 14 April 2004. President Thabo Mbeki was inaugurated on 27 April 2004 at the Union Buildings, Pretoria.

Expanded Public Works Programme


In 2004 the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) was launched as nationwide programme covering all spheres of government and state-owned enterprises. The programme provides an important avenue for labour absorption and income transfers to poor households in the short to medium-term.


Freedom Charter -


2005 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter. It was adopted at the Congress of the People held in Kliptown, near Johannesburg, on 26 June 1955. The Charter became a powerful force in uniting the people of all racial origins in a common struggle for the elimination of apartheid and the establishment of a non-racial democratic state. It later formed the  basis of the Constitution.



The Southern African Large Telescope (Salt) in Sutherland, the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, is inaugurated.




Tsotsi, a film about a young street thug who steals a car only to discover a baby in the back seat, is released. The film, directed by Gavin Hood, wnet on to win an Oscar as best foreign language film in 2006.



South Africa becomes the fifth country in the world, and the first in Africa, to allow legal marriages between same-sex couples with the promulgation of the Civil Unions Act.


United Nations logo


South Africa is selected for the first time as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2007/08.

Springbok emblem


The Springboks win the 2007 Rugby World Cup in Paris, France.

Fredom Park


Freedom Park opens its doors in December 2007.


Natalie du Toit


On 3 May 2008, Natalie du Toit qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics after finishing fourth in the 10 km open water race at the Open Water World Championships in Seville, Spain. She became the first amputee ever to qualify for the Olympics, where she placed 16th in the 10 km swim.


Mandela Day


18 July 2009, former President Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday, also marked the inaugural Mandela Day. After the success of this first Mandela Day, the United Nations adopted it as a day for global humanitarian action calling it “Nelson Mandela International Day”.

President Jacob Zuma


South Africa held its third national and provincial elections on 22 April 2009. President Jacob Zuma was inaugurated on 9 May 2009 at the Union Buildings, Pretoria.


2010 world soccer cup


South Africa hosted a successful 2010 FIFA World Cup from 11 June to 11 July 2010.

Gautrain logo


The first part of the Gautrain system, between Sandton and OR Tambo Airport, opened to the public on 8 June 2010. The route from Rosebank to Pretoria and Hatfield commenced operations on 2 August 2011, while the remaining section from Rosebank south to Johannesburg Park Station opened on 7 June 2012.



South Africa became a full member of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) at the end of 2010.

New Growth Path


Government, under the leadership of Minister Ebrahim Patel, on 23 November 2010 released the Framework of the New Economic Growth Path aimed at enhancing growth, employment creation and equity. The policy’s principal target is to create five million jobs over the next 10 years. This framework reflects government’s commitment to prioritising employment creation in all economic policies. It identifies strategies that will enable South Africa to grow in a more equitable and inclusive manner while attaining South Africa’s developmental agenda.


Census 2011


South Africa conducted its third census by a democratic South African government in 2011. It formed part of the 2010 round of African censuses, which aim to provide comprehensive data on the continent, for improved planning and to aid development.

COP17 logo


The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was successfully held in Durban from 28 November to 9 December 2011. The conference agreed to establish a legally binding deal comprising all countries by 2015, which was to take effect in 2020.


National Infrastructure Plan


During the 2012 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma announced an estimated R4 trillion will be spent over the next 15 years on the National Infrastructure Plan.



On 25 May 2012 the Members of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation announced that the SKA telescope would be split between Africa and Australia, with a majority share of the telescope destined to be built in South Africa. All of the Phase 2 dishes destined will be built in Africa.

African Union


On 15 July 2012 Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was elected by the African Union Commissionas its chairperson, making her the first woman and South African to lead the organisation. She took office on 15 October 2012. She served as Minister of Home Affairs before her appointment.

Mandela banknotes


The South African Reserve Bank issued new banknotes bearing the face of former President Nelson Mandela.

National Development Plan


Government launches the 2030 vision for the country known as the National Development Plan.

Chad le Clos


Team South Africa won six medals (three gold, two silver, and one bronze) at Summer Olympic Games in London. At the  Paralympics, South Africa took 29 medals - eight gold, 12 silver and nine bronze.


Smart ID card


The roll-out of the new smart Identity cards starts to replace the green ID book.

Natives Land Act centenary poster


2013 marks the centenary of the Natives Land Act of 1913. The Act became law on 19 June 1913, restricting black people from buying or occupying land in South Africa except as employees.

Former president Nelson Mandela


South Africa’s first democratic elected President Nelson Mandela passed away on 5 December 2013.


20 years of freedom logo


South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy.

20 Year Review


President Jacob Zuma releases the 20 Year Review on 11 March 2014.

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