From tearful meetings with Nelson Mandela and stockpiling canned foods, to the simple realisation that two best friends can go to the same public swimming pool together, we journey through the past two decades to Remember the Time.
Peter Gird (55)
Peter Gird: 21 years ago, I was making a TV commercial in which an old man is accompanied by his granddaughter to the polling stations as he and the viewers are taken through the voting process. Because we were shooting in the Groot Marico (near to where three AWB members had recently been gunned down) and with a predominantly black crew, I was nervous about the possibility of tensions erupting. I needn't have worried. The town welcomed us with open arms, proof that change is always possible with the right attitude.
Voting day 1994 was the most exciting day of my life. We hoped that nothing would sour the occasion and while we all secretly held that fear, we wouldn't show it. It was on this day that we experienced real joy and a promise of a new tomorrow. It was the first time that I could honestly say that I was a proud South African.
At the time I knew that freedom for all was the only way to move forward and the only solution to save a broken nation. I was part of a generation that was sent to the army straight out of school to be brainwashed and frightened by the ever-present "threat" against my loved ones. It was a cruel system that resulted in me despising the government at the time.
We chatted to 4 Afropolitans about where they were 21 years ago, what democracy means to them, and where they think South Africa is headed for the next 21 years.
Democracy is the only way that we can decide our peoples' futures, but leaders should be warned that abusing the system, not allowing people the freedom of choice, misusing government funds and employing old-style propaganda tactics will send us back to the dark ages of the 1970s.
Meeting Nelson Mandela was the biggest highlight of my 32 year career. When we put together the Alive With Possibility campaign, I remember thinking: What do you say to the most famous person in the world? I greeted him, "Thank you for joining us today sir." Madiba was a huge man, strong as an ox and he stared down at me. There was a long pause before he said, "No, Mr. Gird. Thank you very much for inviting me." I burst into tears. He'd taken the time to find out my name!
Meeting and working with Archbishop Desmond Tutu touched my life profoundly. From collaborating on a series of sensitive TV commercials to setting up the Sunflower Fund (an NGO in aid of children suffering from leukemia), I remain in awe of his spirit and his unfailing dedication to this country. He is true South African role model.
Along with some real disappointments from the ANC government like blatant corruption and poor service delivery, running a small business in South Africa is a constant challenge. I believe that with government assistance, small businesses have the potential to turn the economy around and create jobs, which is what we need right now.
I will always be positive about South Africa. If you look beyond the daily newspaper of doom and gloom, you'll see that our business sector has adapted to change and is strong, tourism is booming, and we make small steps everyday.
We need to focus on our education system. High quality education is the key to our future, as is skills development. Among our future scientists, we also need more skilled artisans like plumbers, electricians and nurses.
I see a bright future for South Africa and it's the place I want to be. Having been lucky enough to have travelled the world, I know there is no other place that compares to South Africa. In the words of our Alive With Possibility TV commercial, "Today I woke up in a place that said to me, be free!" We are free and we will prosper.
Mkhuseli Mancotywa (37)
Mkhuseli Mancotywa: 21 years ago I knew that the country was about to change. I was in my second-last year of high school in Mthatha, Transkei, and excited because I was about to have access to a future which would have otherwise been denied to me. I saw doors opening and a happy country ahead.
Restriction of movement was one of the worst aspects of Apartheid, especially for someone who had grown up in multi-racial schools since the age of four. At the time, I defined democracy as the freedom to choose where you want to be, whenever you want to be there. It was that simple for me.
Today, I define democracy as equal treatment and equal opportunity for all. To create a prosperous future we need fair and smart governance, diplomacy, and respect for the world at large.
Seeing Nelson Mandela inaugurated as our president was one of the highlights for me as a South African. Other moments of pride include winning the Rugby World Cup, winning the African Cup of Nations, graduating from university and having the incredible privilege of living and working in Cape Town.
Continued prejudice and racism is a daily challenge in South Africa, as is gaining respect in the workplace in my own right, and not as a token placement. Along with crime, road deaths and alcoholism, there are many issues that need to be seriously addressed.
South Africa is at a tipping point, and I'm cautiously positive about our future. Things can go either way, but we're good people. It's unlikely that we'll nosedive into an extreme situation like civil war.
We need to prioritise education and entrepreneurship. There are too many people complaining and too few driving their own prosperity and starting businesses that contribute to South Africa's future.
21 years from now South Africa will have younger, more savvy leaders. There will be more jobs and less poverty. I'll be retiring by that stage, enjoying the excellent internet connectivity.
Dinesh Joseph (38)
Dinesh Joseph: 21 years ago I remember being more curious than scared. There was an air of pride around the elections, but it was thinly veiled by an atmosphere of anxiousness. I vaguely recall the neighbours and my parents stocking up on canned foods, bottled water, and batteries (because electricity would be the first thing to go in a civil war). And ammunition. My dad might have been optimistic but he had his gun loaded!
Umtata (Mthatha) was a haven from Apartheid. I was naïve when it came to things like The Struggle. The Transkei was a democracy as far as I was concerned and I didn’t experience the limitations or struggles that other non-white people were facing in mainland South Africa. We had our own flag, national anthem (Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika), and our own parliament building (the Bunga). I went to a multi-racial school, rode my bicycle to play with my multi-racial friends and came home just in time for supper and the A-Team.
To me, democracy simply means "power through the people." Democracy means allowing the people of a country to have a say in what decisions are made.
Visiting Robben Island had a profound effect on me. I think this was because I grew up entirely sheltered from the realities of Apartheid.
Nothing on earth unites people like sport. Winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup was one of my proudest moments as a South African. I attended the opening game at Newlands in a standing area surrounded by strangers. When we scored a Try against Australia, I felt myself being lifted off the ground by a rather large, khaki-wearing Afrikaner man next to me. I thought he was going to throw me off the edge of the stadium, but instead he hoisted me onto his shoulder, and carried on cheering!
A few girls have broken my heart because I'm "the wrong colour," and I still experience the odd racist comment here and there.
Service delivery in South Africa is in a shambles. My British girlfriend has been trying to obtain a visa for over a year and a half. Initially, Home Affairs told us the process would take between six and eight weeks. It's been close to 70 weeks and we're still fighting this battle. Add on Eskom's load shedding and the frustrating service delivery from Telkom, and I often wonder why we don't immigrate back to the UK.
It's tough not to have an exit strategy, given the corruption and greed we're currently witnessing. While we managed to negotiate a massive shift from Apartheid to Democracy without a full-scale civil war back then, what we need now is our government to steer this country in a more appropriate manner.
If I could make one change today, it would be housing. It’s inexcusable that people in this century are still living in shacks without electricity and running water. I believe that giving people real homes would have a positive knock-on ripple effect throughout South Africa. It would bridge our massive inequality gap, provide hope and restore pride. Happy people are productive people and productive people are profitable people.
Despite it all, I still maintain a rose-tinted view of South Africa's future. In the next 21 years, South Africa will be more tolerant and technologically advanced. The townships will have blossomed into suburbs, and the major cities will be safe and integrated. The world will look upon us as the economic powerhouse of Africa and as a competent world player in terms of mineral resources, IT innovation and cinema. And we would have superseded the Kiwi’s as the world’s number one rugby team!
Tammy Lewis-Houghting (33) is a freelanceTelevision Producer who has travelled to some of the most beautiful places in Africa. She has set up a filming studio in Cameroon and has worked with some of South Africa's story telling legends including Jann Turner, Rolie Nikiwe and Khalo Matabane.
I was only 12 years old at the time of our first democratic elections, but I remember it being such an exciting and happy time in our household.
My grandfather defied Apartheid by falling in love with and living with a black woman, and my parents were progressive for the time, so I had been exposed to integration from a young age.
As a child, democracy meant that I could swim in the same public swimming pool as my best friend Lindy. In 1992 my primary school admitted black children for the first time. From the moment Lindy and I clapped eyes on each other, we were inseparable, but it was difficult for us to understand that there were certain things we were prohibited from doing together because of race.
Today, I define democracy as the freedom to choose and accepting responsibility for our choices. If everyone understood the power of their vote, our democratic system would start working for the people, and we'd be able to create the South Africa that we've been dreaming about for 21 years.
Seeing my mom and her partner marry in a same sex marriage is one of the biggest highlights for me as South African, and one that underlies how progressive we are as a young democracy.
My challenges are similar to those of every South African. I've been lucky in that I was able to go to university, get a degree, and build a career in the television industry, but I often feel that poor service delivery and a disappointing government undermines all our best efforts to create a happy and united South Africa.
I won't give up on South Africa. We have amazing and friendly people, the best weather, and some of the most phenomenal landscapes in the world. 21 years from now, I hope to be sitting in my beautiful garden in the heart of Johannesburg in a country that has recognised its unbelievable potential and progressed in such a way that we're all proud to call South Africa home. The alternative is simply too sad to think about.