25 Unforgettable Moments in SA's Democracy

Reliving iconic moments from the past quarter-century.

Some things just get better with age and South Africa is no exception. As we celebrate 25 years of democracy this year, we can't help but pause on a few key milestones and iconic moments that have shaped our democracy during its youth.

Here are 25 moments worth reminiscing about:

1994 - Nelson Mandela's Inauguration

South Africa had its first national democratic elections in April 1994. Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first democratic President at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 10 May 1994.

1995 - Springboks win the Rugby World Cup

The 1995 Rugby World Cup Final took place at Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg between South Africa and New Zealand. An iconic moment in sporting history took place when President Mandela, awarded the Webb Ellis Cup to captain Francois Pienaar after the Springboks won the match with a final score of 15-12.

1996 - The adoption of the Constitution

The adoption of the South African Constitution on 8 May 1996 was a milestone for the democracy of South Africa. With a Bill of Rights second to none, the Constitution is still considered by many as one of the most advanced in the world.

1997 - The National Anthem is born

A combined version of Enoch Setonga's Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and C.J. Langehoven's Die Stem van Suid-Afrika became the South African National Anthem in 1997. It was performed for the first time at the opening of the parliament in February 1997.

1999 - SA's First Natural World Heritage site

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal was listed as South Africa's first natural World Heritage Site in December 1999 in recognition of its superlative natural beauty.

2000 - Kgalagadi marks a milestone for conservation in Africa

Southern Africa’s first transfrontier conservation area, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, was formally opened on 12 May 2000 by the presidents of Botswana and South Africa. By supporting sustainable economic development, TFCAs play a key role in Africa’s ecotourism development.

2001 - Anti-apartheid human rights lawyer George Bizos awarded

Anti-apartheid human rights lawyer George Bizos was awarded the 2001 International Trial Lawyer Prize of the Year by the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. During the Rivonia Trial, Bizos defended Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Walter Sisulu.

2002 - Mark Shuttleworth travels to space

On 25 April 2002, South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth became the second self-funded space tourist and the first-ever South African in space when he travelled to the international space station onboard the Russian Soyuz TM-34 spacecraft.

2004 - Charlize Theron wins best actress at the Oscars

2004 - SA Swimming Relay team win gold at the Olympic Games in Athens

The South African swimming squad of Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling clocked 3 minutes and 13.17 seconds to win gold in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay at the 2004 Olympic Games.

2006 - Tsotsi wins Foreign Language Film at the Oscars

Tsotsi, the South African film about a Johannesburg township thug, won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2006. Director Gavin Hood, actor Presley Chweneyagae, actress Terry Pheto and President Nelson Mandela celebrate this proud moment below.

2007 - Springboks win the World Cup

South Africa defeats England 15-6 in the final to win the 2007 Rugby World Cup for the second time since 1994.

2009 - Archbishop Tutu receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from USA

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s historic accomplishments and efforts to promote peace in the world were formally recognized by the United States in 2009, when President Barack Obama named him to receive the nation's highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

2009 - Mandela Day launched worldwide

The United Nations officially declared 18 July Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009, recognising Mandela's "values and his dedication to the service of humanity." The idea of Mandela Day was inspired by Nelson Mandela at his 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in 2008 when he said:

“It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It's in your hands now.”

2010 - SA hosts the FIFA World Cup

As soccer fever gripped the nation and all eyes turned to us,  the country was at a fever pitch by the time the first game was played.  The country seemed to explode when in the first match, magic happened. In the 55th minute Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal for South Africa and the crowd went wild!

2010 - Graça Machel Trust launched

Graça Machel established the Graça Machel Trust in 2010 as a Pan-African advocacy organisation focused on child health and nutrition, education, women’s economic and financial empowerment, leadership and good governance. 

2012 - Table Mountain named 7th Natural Wonder of the World

On 2 December 2012, Table Mountain was officially inaugurated as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

2013 - Nelson Mandela passes away

On 5 December, Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 at his house in Houghton, Johannesburg .

2014 - Cape Town becomes Design Capital of the World

Cape Town become South Africa and Africa's first city to be designated World Design Capital. Cape Town democratized design, showcasing the value of design thinking at the neighbourhood level, according to the World Design Organisation.

2015 - Trevor Noah takes the Daily Show

South African comedian and local-turned-international celeb Trevor Noah stepped into Jon Stewart’s renowned shoes as host of America's The Daily Show in 2016. Noah, who grew up in Soweto, has taken US television by storm while remaining grounded (and vocal) to his roots in SA.

2016 - Wayde Van Niekerk Sets New Record At Olympics

2016 - Temba Bavuma

On 5 January 2016, Temba Bavuma became the first black cricketer to make a Test century for South Africa. In the same year he made his One Day International (ODI) debut for South Africa against Ireland and scored his maiden ODI century - making him one of only 15 players in the world to have accomplished this.

2016 - SA's all-female anti-poaching pioneers take on Africa

In 2016, SA's first all-female expedition embarked from SA to Kenya to help stem the tide of poaching. The Journeys with Purpose: Elephant Ignite Expedition brought together 13 women who embarked on a 100-day journey to Kenya to raise funds and awareness among communities along the way.

2017 - Nkosi Sikelel'iAfrika voted best anthem in the World

The South African national anthem was named best national anthem in the world by The Economist. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika won this award because of its inclusivity and ability to bring people together, according to the Economist's poll.

2018 - Phetogo Molawa breaks barriers as she becomes captain in SA Air Force

Phetogo Molawa, South Africa's first black female helicopter pilot, also became the first woman and the first black person to take command of a South African Air Force installation. She is currently a captain in the South African Air Force.

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