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For nearly five decades, South Africa’s apartheid system proved to be an ugly reminder that racism and segregation was an issue worthy of the protests and outcry from within the country and around the globe. After years of political machinations, demands for reforms and opposition from within, apartheid would be dissolved in 1994 by way of a historic three-day election event that began 18 years ago today and is celebrated as a national holiday on April 27 as Freedom Day.

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Although Whites in South Africa were the ruling class, they were also the minority in the country. Black organizations and groups, such as African National Congress (ANC), fought for years to end the centuries-old ruling of Whites. With the help of more than 22.7 million eligible voters — some waiting as long as 12 hours to cast their ballots — the election was more than just a symbolic gesture.

Watch South Africa’s 1994 election season here:

The next month, Nelson Mandela would become President of the ANC, standing in tandem with Bishop Desmond Tutu as he addressed the throng of supporters at his May inauguration of that year.

Watch the inauguration here:

To this day, the ANC remains in power, even as the now-dissolved National Party (NP), which enforced apartheid throughout the country, tried desperately to undermine the will of the people by reorganizing their political structure. The NP, dealing with conflict among its members and unpopularity with voters, would end in 2005.


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