Wednesday, 27 April 2022
Middleburg: Despite a raft of challenges that continue to besiege South Africa, the lives of citizens have significantly improved since the country became a democratic state in 1994.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday reflected on the gains made and challenges the country has grappled with since April 27, 1994. The President led Freedom Day celebrations at the Kees Taljaard Stadium in Middelburg, Mpumalanga.
He said: “Today across our beautiful land, the people have tasted the fruits of freedom despite the many challenges that we face today.
“Challenges of unemployment, challenges of crime, and challenges of gender based violence and many other challenges. Despite all those many challenges, our people have tasted the fruits of freedom,” he said in his address.
Emphasising this point, the President said the citizens’ quality of life has improved since 1994, with 81% of people now living in formal housing, which was not the case during apartheid.
“Nine out of 10 South Africans do have access to clean water and more than 85% have access to electricity, despite the challenges that we have with our electricity generation,” he said.
Above this, in democratic South Africa, basic education and healthcare were no longer privileges reserved for a few, he said.
“When our forebears said the doors of learning shall be opened in the Freedom Charter, this is what they had envisaged would happen. That our children would be able to go to school and to learn and to be enlightened,” said the President.
Today, 96% of children of school going age were in school.
President Ramaphosa, however, conceded that “”much more still needs to be done”.
Recognising the injustices of the past that saw black South Africans disposed of their land, the President said the government was implementing a restitution and redistribution program.
Rule of law
The South Africa of today was “democratic and open”, he said.
He reiterated that government was based on the will of the people and every citizen was equally protected by the law.
“The people’s voices are heard and they are right to be part of any decision that affects their lives is protected in our free society. Anyone can approach our courts for the enforcement of their rights and to challenge any executive decision,” he said.
The law, said the President, should work for the citizenry.
“We have laws to protect against gender-based violence to uphold the rights of children and to empower persons with disabilities,” he said.
Despite all these achievements and much progress, the country is not where it ought to be, he said.
“We want to be much further than where we are. We want to be where the Freedom Charter, a document that underpins our constitutional architecture, where the Freedom Charter wanted us to be is where we want to be.”
The vision for the country South Africans had in 1994 had been slightly “blurred a little bit over time” due to a number of other developments. He said as much as the as the country has had diversionary events such as corruption and state capture, South Africa is “determined to rebuild that vision”.
In recent years, the ruinous apartheid inheritance of poverty and unemployment had been worsened by global economic shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment.
Societal ills such as gender-based violence, substance abuse and crime and violence had worsened, he said.
“We can only defeat crime if we work together as families, as communities, as community leaders, as faith communities, and leaders and as individuals,” he said, adding that communities had been at the forefront of curbing criminal elements.
The President also used the occasion to call for an end of the unwarranted targeting and attacks on foreign nationals in the country, saying it was “deeply troubling”.
“There can be no doubt that we must work urgently as South Africans to resolve the issues of illegal immigration and the impact that it is having on our economy and on our society,” he said.
However, there could never be any justification for South Africans to perpetrate acts of violence against immigrants who seek refuge from persecution, and have legitimate grounds and those who have entered our country legally.
“They have legal rights to be here,” said the President.
President Ramaphosa also held a moment of silence for victims of floods that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces earlier this month. The floods claimed 435 lives while many people remain missing. The deadly floods also led to infrastructure damage amounting to billions of rand, and displaced thousands of families.
He said overcoming poverty, unemployment, and inequality remained government’s foremost consideration.
Through the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, government continues to work to create a conducive environment for those who have money to invest in the country’s economy.
Concluding his address, President Ramaphosa said government should consolidate efforts to deliver on its promises.
This, he said, would be achieved by managing public resources “properly and wisely” by taking a firm stand in line against corruption.
“Our people are tired of corruption. They want municipalities that are going to work for them. They want municipalities that will provide good services. They want leaders who are not going to steal their money.” he said.