Many anti-apartheid activists of my generation sang this song, along with others. I can still feel the yearning for freedom, which we believed Nelson Mandela’s ascent to the presidency would bring.
And so, on the eve of his release, we marched and danced in the streets of KwaThema; the next day we watched on big screens as he walked out of prison, raising his fist. For many of us that was the first taste of how freedom felt – and our struggles seemed closer to an end.
On April 27 1994 we voted for the ANC and for Mandela as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. In May that year, on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, Mandela said: "We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens."
Encouraged by many calls to build a new South Africa, about 70 lesbian, gay and human rights organisations launched the South African National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality (NCGLE) in Johannesburg in December 1994. This new formation had the objective of guaranteeing equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation, in the country’s new Constitution and legislation. The coalition’s strategy was informed by the diversity of its constituency and in recognition of all forms of oppression. It thus campaigned for equality for all.
This significant moment in the history of gay and lesbian organising in South Africa had its roots in the anti-apartheid struggles, in which many openly gay and lesbian people were active. It was also a moment for the majority in South Africa collectively to define the nature of the way we relate to each other as a people, informed by a past filled with exclusion, oppression, discrimination and violence.