Monday marks 29 years since former President Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and became the first black President of a democratic dispensation four years later. 

South Africa’s transition from apartheid ended formally on 27 April 1994 with the first democratic general election following. These were years of peace-making, negotiating, reckoning and transforming.

This year marks the 25th anniversary since South Africans cast their votes in 1994. 

The Nelson Mandela Foundation says while South Africans should still celebrate the country’s break from colonial and apartheid shackles, it should be acknowledged that the promises of the 1990s have not been delivered.

“Nonetheless, we urge South Africans to go out in their numbers to vote in the 2019 general election. For us this has to be about a vote for delivery. We need a leadership at every level of society which holds the promise of the 1990s as a sacred duty and which is not compromised by the looting which has despoiled the democratic era,” the Foundation explains in a statement.

According to the foundation Mandela’s presidency was focussed on transforming society.

“In many ways, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) which he appointed in 1995 reached far beyond its mandate to reckon with oppressive pasts and promote reconciliation – we would argue that its 1998 recommendations can be read as an agenda for transformation as the 1990s drew to a close.”

It has described lack of government’s response to TRC recommendations as symptomatic.

“The country has not done well at the reparation, restitution and redistribution absolutely critical to transformation.  In this context we welcome recent indications that the state is revisiting the TRC recommendations, but urge all decision-makers to prioritise the needs and listen to the voices of those who were intended to be the beneficiaries of the recommendations.”

In 1999, Madiba stepped down as President and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) as his post-presidential office and vehicle for supporting what he regarded as unfinished business. 

“This year we mark the twentieth anniversary of the NMF’s founding.  The imperative to contribute to transformation endeavour is more urgent today than it was in 1999.  We dare not linger.”