Monday, 19 July 2021

Pretoria: Following the unrest in some parts of the country last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa has emphasised the importance of transforming the economy, creating jobs and sharing in the country’s wealth to lift millions of South Africans out of poverty.

In his newsletter on Monday, the President said South Africa is not only rebuilding after the destruction of the past week; but it is also rebuilding after the devastation of decades of dispossession and exploitation.

“We need to fundamentally transform our economy and our society, deepening our efforts to create employment, lift millions out of poverty and ensure that the country’s wealth is shared among all its people,” the President said.

The unrest resulted in the deaths of civilians and looting of public and private property, destruction of infrastructure and the suspension of essential services in Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng.

“As we work to stabilise the country and secure essential supplies and infrastructure, we must work together to mitigate the effects of this unrest on society’s most vulnerable.

“We are called upon to help with food relief and support businesses in distress. We are called upon to join small volunteer teams to help clean up affected communities if we are able to do so, all the while mindful of the pandemic and what we must do to keep safe,” the President said.

President Ramaphosa has encouraged businesses to provide employee wellness and other support to staff who have been affected by the violence.

“The events of the last week are a stark reminder of how deep the problems are and how far we still have to go. These events must propel us to act with greater purpose and speed.

“We should continuously strive to give true meaning to the promise of equality and freedom for all by making every day Nelson Mandela Day, more now than ever,” the President said.

On Sunday, South Africa joined people across the world in marking Nelson Mandela Day through acts of service and generosity.

The President said this Nelson Mandela Day was different to previous years as it took place in the aftermath of a week in which parts of the country were gripped by violence and mayhem.

“It was a week in which we were confronted by deeply unsettling images of desolate owners standing outside the shells of what was once a thriving business; of looted shops and warehouses; of burning trucks and buildings and streets strewn with debris; of anxious citizens barricading their communities; and of snaking queues of people lining up to buy food.

“Despite this, we observed Nelson Mandela Day not as a country on its knees, but as a people who collectively embody the spirit of Nelson Mandela, perhaps as never before.

“What I have seen in the last few days is a people united, resolute and determined to protect this country from anyone and anything that wants to destroy it,” the President said.

He said those who lit the tinderbox of this unrest hoped to mobilise people by exploiting their conditions of hardship.

“They were counting on citizens falling for crude propaganda designed to turn them not just against the state, but against each other. What they were not counting on was the enduring ability of South Africans to unite in the face of a common threat. This has always been our greatest strength as a nation, and it came to the fore,” the President said.

In Tembisa, residents stood at night outside shops to protect them from looters while in Mthatha, taxi drivers formed a protective cordon around shopping malls.

In Mahikeng, community members organised themselves to guard businesses and in eThekwini, students from Mangosuthu University of Technology as well as other campuses embarked on clean-up campaigns in the inner city and other affected areas.

In Soweto, a young activist who leads the Soweto Youth Parliament has mobilised scores of young women and men to defend the Maponya Mall on a 24-hour basis in defence of “their township economy”.

“On this Nelson Mandela Day, the South African people are the heroes of which Madiba once spoke; the people who make peace and build where it is easy to break down and destroy,” the President said.

He said the true cost of this campaign of destruction will be keenly felt, especially by the poor.

“Businesses have been destroyed and livelihoods lost at a time when we are already feeling the strain one and a half years into a global pandemic. The economic damage has sapped many of the budding shoots of recovery we were witnessing just a few weeks ago.” the President said.