Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s biggest champion and first black president, recently passed away at the age of 95 on December 5 after a lifetime of activism for his country, and the world at large. Ever since South African Apartheid was dismantled in 1994, the country has seen tremendous growth in their economy, politics, and human rights. Though Mandela has passed on, the country continues to progress in breaking through new milestones. Here are some of the important achievements South Africa has made since the end of Apartheid.
1994: South Africa holds its first elections. Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years for crimes of conspiracy against the government, is elected president. He promises to serve only one term of five years, making good on his word when he steps down in 1999.
1995: South Africa works to heal Apartheid-era crimes. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is formed to help survivors cope with the human rights violations they faced during Apartheid. The Commission works to expose instigators and encourages both perpetrators and survivors to come forward about their experiences.
1996: A new Bill of Rights and Constitution are passed. They dictate -- for the first time in any country’s Constitution -- that all people of South Africa shall be protected from state discrimination based on sexual orientation under Section 9. Other noteworthy points of protection: equality based on pregnancy, marital status, social origin, and conscience.
1999: Second general election is held. The African National Congress is elected as the ruling party once again, dramatically increasing its status as a majority government. With its roots in intentions to champion the rights of the black South Africans of the country, it has continued to remain in power since 1994.
2002: A same-sex union dismissal leads to challenging the High Courts. A lesbian couple applies to have their marriage recognized. They are rejected due to legal technicalities, and appeal to higher courts. In 2004, the highest court in the country unanimously decides that the couple were discriminated against. This launches a challenge against the seemingly outdated Marriage Act of 1961.
2006: South Africa legalizes same-sex marriage. It then becomes the first African country and the fifth country in the world to do so. It grants recognition to same-sex and opposite-sex couples in unions, regardless of marital status. Though independent parties challenge the Civil Union Act which would make it possible, the bill is nevertheless passed by the National Assembly.
2010: South Africa hosts the 19th FIFA World Cup games. Though the South African national team fails to advance to the round of 16, the games boost the host cities’ economies, infrastructures, and quite possibly spiked sales in earplugs thanks to the storm of vuvuzelas blaring from all stadiums.