Active citizenry key to thriving society: President

Monday, March 21, 2022

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to exercise their constitutional duties in order to improve their lives and build a better society.

“To build the South Africa we want, we must make our voices heard on the laws and policies that affect us through public hearings and community meetings. We must be active citizens that support community-based organisations that are performing invaluable work in the places we live,” the President said on Monday.

He made these remarks during the 2022 Human Rights Day national event held at the Reagile Community Centre in Koster, North West.

The President called on citizens to hold those tasked with public office to account.

“My message to all South Africans today is that the Constitution is not a mere piece of paper. It is a document that empowers you.  As much as it places responsibilities on the State, the Constitution also confers duties of citizenship.  

“We can only win the war against poverty, inequality and unemployment if we rid our society of the ills that continue to set back our progress. These ills include crime, substance abuse, gender-based violence, damage to essential infrastructure and violence in our schools,” he said.

The President said South Africans must reclaim the Constitution.

“We must obey the law and report those who break the law. We must work with the South African Police Service and other law enforcement agencies.

“We must join community policing forums to help keep our communities safe, and local businesses should support their work. We must pay for the public services that we use beyond the basic amount of services that we receive for free,” the President said.

He said trust and confidence in municipalities can only be restored if citizens work with municipalities and pay for services so they are restored to sound financial health.

“We must take care of public infrastructure and report acts of vandalism that destroy structures built for the benefit of our communities. As individuals, let us meet our common responsibility to help and care for the elderly, persons living with disabilities, and children,” the President said.

Today marks 62 years since the Sharpeville Massacre occurred on 21 March 1960, where 69 anti-apartheid protesters were killed by the police.

This national day also honours the 35 people who were killed when police cracked down on community members in Langa, Uitenhage, where they had attended a funeral on 21 March 1985.

Weeding out corruption 

The President urged South Africans to report all acts of corruption.

“Just as Sharpeville continues to live in our minds and stand as a symbol of courage, the Constitution reminds us to strive for a society that is not only free and equal, but one in which corruption has no place.

“We have seen how corruption and incompetence have together had a devastating impact on the delivery of services, especially to society’s most vulnerable,” he said.

The President said corruption and State capture have eroded human rights, weakened institutions of the State, and undermined the rule of law.

“It is one of the reasons that people here in the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality – like many others in the North West and around the country – experience problems with getting decent drinking water and proper sanitation.

“It is one of the reasons entrepreneurs and businesses struggle to get permits or basic services like water and electricity to keep their businesses running. Because of corruption, our people are forced to pay for services that are their right.”

He said government infrastructure is vandalised or left to decay so that private service providers can be contracted to take over.

“It is because of complacency and arrogance that many elderly citizens cannot receive the medical care they need, communities aren’t being properly protected from criminals, and children don’t have the textbooks they need.

“We cannot reduce poverty and inequality as long as public money is being plundered. We cannot transform our society when people are confronted with arrogance or indifference,” the President said. –