#FreedomDay: ‘The bitter fight for freedom wasn't in vain’

Johnny Issel’s children say today is an annual reminder of his dedication to bring about change in SA.

Johnny Issel. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - The children of anti-apartheid activist and United Democratic Front (UDF) co-founder Johnny Issel say Freedom Day is an annual reminder of his dedication and determination to bring about change to South Africa.

Eyewitness News has spoken to several people who grew up watching their parents fight the apartheid regime.

Issel died in 2011 after receiving several accolades for his role in the liberation struggle, including the Companion of the Order of Luthuli in Bronze, which he received from former President Thabo Mbeki in 2007.

When Leila Issel was nine years old she read a message, on her dad's behalf, at the UDF's launch in Mitchell's Plain.

Her father could not attend as he was under a banning order, imposed by the government at the time.

She said, "He believes freedom will come in our lifetime, Amandla! Awethu!"

Her brother, Fidel, has recounted the many times his father was dragged off by police in the middle of the night.

"There were many mornings when we were faced with cops in our room with these big machine guns, looking for our father."

The siblings say their mother Shahieda was also detained on several occasions.

The two agree they are proud of the roles their mother and father played in the struggle for democracy, despite the tumultuous times in which they grew up.


Leila says she waited eagerly for Freedom Day.

"Your entire life, everything that we resonate with and was for today."

She says her memories of 27 April 1994 are so vivid she can't believe two decades have passed.

"I wore my best, you did your hair and you did your make-up. And when we were finished we didn't leave immediately because it was such a grand moment."