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article imagePhoto Essay: South Africa’s Freedom Day Special

By Christopher Szabo     Apr 28, 2011 in World
Pretoria - Thousands thronged the South African capital’s historic Church Street, some climbing into trees, to get a glimpse of President Jacob Zuma during Freedom Day celebrations. The country recalled 17 years of democracy and the end of apartheid.
Digital Journal was present at the April 27 events, which were opened by a military band and the National Ceremonial Guard’s salute, followed by a 21 gun salute and a massed fly past of the South African Air Force (SAAF). A brigade-sized march past followed, featuring units from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF)’s Army, Navy, SAAF and Medical Health Services.
Leader of the band.
Leader of the band.
The band of the SANDF performs for the President on Freedom Day.
The band of the SANDF performs for the President on Freedom Day.
Military precision: The National Ceremonial Guard at Open Order March.
Military precision: The National Ceremonial Guard at Open Order March.
One group of the massed flypast  including Cessna Caravans and VIP tranporter Beechcraft KingAirs.
One group of the massed flypast, including Cessna Caravans and VIP tranporter Beechcraft KingAirs.
Hawker fighter trainers roared over the crowd  as glimpsed here through the trees.
Hawker fighter trainers roared over the crowd, as glimpsed here through the trees.
First in the Army line-up were Special Forces  who had the highest casualties and won the most medal...
First in the Army line-up were Special Forces, who had the highest casualties and won the most medals.
President Jacob Zuma and Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu salute the march past.
President Jacob Zuma and Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu salute the march past.
The Navy Band played  Anchors Aweigh !
The Navy Band played "Anchors Aweigh"!
For the first time, military veterans from both the liberation movements and the former armies of the apartheid era joined the Freedom Day Festivities, resplendent in their new official uniforms given by the Department of Military Veterans (DMV), itself a new organisation.
Captain Franklin “Lin” Barratt, who spent the five years from 1958 to 1963 in the South African Air Force (SAAF) flying fighters, maritime aircraft and eventually transporting paratroops, said of the new uniform:
“It’s a wonderful thing to have something you can call your own, as it were. It’s certainly good for the image and status of the veterans. I think they’ve been overlooked to a large extent, particularly the previously advantaged. I think the general man in the street is making that effort to try and get closer. We continue living in our own ghettoes but the barriers are breaking down. When I went in to get my uniform on Monday I was one of only six or seven, maybe eight paler people surrounded by 300 or 400 (Black people). Everybody seemed to be quite friendly, saying ‘hello’ and shaking your hand. I think you could say in all there was a definite feeling of goodwill.”
Senior veterans from various service associations including  Lin  Barrett  fourth from the left.
Senior veterans from various service associations including "Lin" Barrett, fourth from the left.
The veterans were followed by cultural groups dancing derivatives of traditional dances and a group of bikers paid tribute by revving their bikes rhythmically.
One of the cultural groups performing on Freedom Day.
One of the cultural groups performing on Freedom Day.
These children were in dress inspired by Nguni traditions.
These children were in dress inspired by Nguni traditions.
There isn t much to beat the sound of African drums.
There isn't much to beat the sound of African drums.
Janet Szabo, Used with permission.
Following the parades, the VIPs crossed to the Union Buildings lawns and addressed the massed onlookers from there. There were also dancers and speakers who were born after April 27, 1994, dubbed the “Born-Frees”.
The main stage for the  Born Frees .
The main stage for the "Born Frees".
Unfortunately, the crowd heckled speakers of opposition parties so much that eventually they had to be called to order by the Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, who was compéring the event.
Arts and Culture Minister Mashatile calls on the people to stop heckling and give the opposition spe...
Arts and Culture Minister Mashatile calls on the people to stop heckling and give the opposition speaker a chance.
President Zuma admitted during his address that many goals had not been attained, and mentioned the current poverty and lack of education as serious issues that needed seeing to.
A look at the government administrative center  the Union Buildings  from the South Lawn.
A look at the government administrative center, the Union Buildings, from the South Lawn.
Despite the heckling, the mood in the crowd was overwhelmingly friendly and it seemed a great way to pay tribute to all those who worked, fought and died for South Africa’s new freedoms.
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