Let us celebrate African solidarity towards freedom


By Phumla Williams

April is a special month for Africa, as many nations on the continent celebrate their independence and freedom from colonialism.

In South Africa, April will forever resonate in the history of the nation as the month that ushered in the first democratic elections on April 27, 1994, which saw Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela — popularly known as Tata Madiba — becoming the country’s first democratically elected President.

As we celebrate this historic milestone marking the birth of our hard-won freedom and constitutional order from the bondage of apartheid, we should also acknowledge the relentless support and solidarity from many African countries. They made immense contributions and sacrifices during our struggle for freedom.

Many other countries in Africa owe their independence from colonialism to the material and general support from other liberated countries in the continent.

In this regard, South Africa joins the rest of the African countries — including Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe — which are all celebrating their independence this month. Our success as nations is inextricably linked to the success of the African continent. Sadly, this year these countries celebrate their independence and freedom in the midst of a devastating COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the freedom of movement and assembly for many people. It also had a negative impact on the economy of many countries.

Tanzania’s role in African liberation

The then Organisation of African Union, now known as the African Union (AU), spearheaded the freedom of the entire continent. A number of African countries such as Tanzania, Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland, provided refuge, material and military support for South Africa’s struggle for liberation. All peace-loving Africans in our continent have embraced the vision of leaders such as Nkwame Nkrumah, who became the first President of Ghana after it attained its independence in March 1957.  Tanzania is one of the first countries that served as a base for many liberation movements, including the African National Congress, Pan Africanist Congress, Mozambique’s Frelimo and Angola’s People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola.

Through the initiative of the AU, Tanzania is currently leading the “Roads to Independence in Africa” project, which includes the construction of a museum, library and archives to recognise the spirit of solidarity and cooperation amongst Africans. This project seeks to ensure that current and future generations in Africa never forget the liberation history and solidarity shown by the people of Africa towards one another in the road to independence.

African and global voices against the apartheid system, which led to South Africa being expelled from the United Nations in 1974, put more pressure on the repressive regime and paved the way for South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

We should fight for the ideals of liberation struggle leaders

Whilst we celebrate these freedoms lest we forget the historical ideals espoused by the liberation struggle leaders. The ideals for a free and prosperous Africa remain true today. The continent continues to strive for development, integration and socio-economic growth.

Africa’s socio-economic growth continues to show a remarkable improvement and has, in many instances, surpassed the global average. This is also evidenced by the landmark support for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into operation in January this year.

The unveiling of the AfCFTA fulfils a dream crafted by the founders of the OAU over 60 years ago when they conceptualised an integrated Africa. The AfCFTA brings with it the promise of new beginnings and increased economic opportunities for the African continent and its people.

This year, South Africa marks the 150th anniversary of struggle icon and human rights campaigner Charlotte Maxeke (née Mannya). She and other selfless women of her generation across the continent fought against oppression at a time when such defiance was met with brutal force. She helped organise the anti-pass movement in Bloemfontein in 1913 and spearheaded the fight for social justice to dislodge the oppressive system that ruled our land.

The brave women of Africa

Africa has had many brave women such as Maxeke who were steadfast in the liberation of their countries and, in particular, the rights of women in society. One of them is Nigeria’s Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, who led the women’s movement in her region of south-west Nigeria and played an important role in the independence movement.

As the continent remembers these brave heroines, it is incumbent upon Africa to continue to build on the significant progress made by the continent in the course of building on the gains of freedom and democracy. Despite the strides the continent has made, it still faces many challenges in ensuring food security and finding ways to combat internecine conflicts.

As we celebrate Freedom Month in South Africa along with four other countries celebrating their freedom in April, let us put economic prosperity, silencing the guns and gender-based violence and femicide atop of the continent’s agenda. The road to freedom and independence required untold sacrifice, and many people paid the ultimate price. As the continent fights a new enemy in the form of COVID-19, let us protect our gains and create an Africa that will be counted among the community of the world that fought and defeated the pandemic.

  • This article first appeared on news24.com
  • Phumla Williams is the director-general of the Government Communication and Information System, South Africa