Good health care a marker of progress

Friday, March 21, 2014
Nthambeleni Gabara

Sharpeville – President Jacob Zuma says one of the markers of a progressive democracy is improved health care for the nation.

The President was addressing the Human Rights Day gathering, held at Sharpeville cricket ground on Friday.

President Zuma said government’s plan to implement the next phase of its proposed National Health Insurance scheme in the next five years was aimed at increasing the accessibility of health care to all South Africans.

“This will enable us to expand the free primary health care programme, improve the management of public hospitals and reduce the costs of private health care,” he said.

President Zuma said one of the best stories of the past five years was the HIV and Aids turnaround.

“We increased the number of people on ARV treatment, which improved the quality of life of people living with HIV. Through the prevention of mother to child transmission programme, the number of babies born HIV positive was reduced by 66%.

“Due to all these new measures, the average life expectancy increased to 60 years in 2012. South Africans are healthier and are living longer.”

President Zuma said in the next five years, government will intensify the HIV and Aids campaign to put at least 4.6 million people on anti-retroviral treatment.

He said government will also expand male circumcision and HIV counselling and testing programmes


President Zuma told the crowd that over three million free houses have been built, benefiting more than 16 million people.

He said about 12 million households have access to electricity, seven million more than in 1994. Nearly 500 informal settlements have been replaced with quality housing and basic services.

“We also plan to connect an additional 1.6 million homes to the electricity grid over the next five years. Government will also continue to expand access to clean water and decent sanitation,” he said.

Close to 16 million people receive social grants, which is one of the most effective poverty alleviation mechanisms in the country. The majority of the beneficiaries are orphans and vulnerable children, said President Zuma.


President Zuma said employment is now higher than it has ever been, with total employment standing at 15 million people.

He said more than R1 trillion has been invested in national infrastructure projects, which improve the quality of life and create jobs.

These include projects to expand electricity, water, sanitation, ports, roads, rail and a lot of other economic and social infrastructure.

More importantly, the President said, government would continue to prioritise youth employment.

President Zuma said in the nine months since the adoption of the Youth Employment Accord, which was signed in Soweto last year, youth employment has grown strongly.

He said 420 000 new jobs have been created, mainly in construction linked to the National Infrastructure Plan, in the trade sector, government programmes, business services, transport and communication sectors.

President Zuma said Gauteng accounted for about half of the new youth jobs (210 000) registered in the province. Gauteng has also spent about R120 million on youth enterprises.

The Youth Employment Accord has also promoted the creation of internship opportunities for the youth in national departments, municipalities and state-owned enterprises.

The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) has created 3.7 million work opportunities for unemployed people in the past five years.

“In the next five years, we plan to create a further six million work opportunities through the public works programme,” said the President.

Restoration of land

After the elections, President Zuma said government will implement new programmes to improve the pace of land reform, including reopening the lodgement of land claims for those who missed the 1998 deadline.

“Nearly 5 000 farms, comprising 4.2 million hectares, have been transferred to black people, benefiting over 200 000 families in the past 20 years.

“Nearly 80 000 land claims, totalling 3.4 million hectares, have been settled and 1.8 million people have benefited,” he said.



President Zuma singled out the increase of Grade R enrolment, from 300 000 in 2003 to around 800 000, as one of the good stories the country had to tell.

“We are happy with this growth and we want to make Grade R compulsory to prepare our little ones for their school years,” he said.

The percentage of children, up to four years old, attending early childhood development facilities has increased by 18 percent between 2007 and 2011.

The President said the number of new teacher graduates doubled from 6 000 in 2009 to 13 000 in 2012 in a move to invest in better delivery of education.

The adult literacy rate has also been increasing steadily over the past 10 years. Illiteracy has decreased from 30 percent in 1995 to 19 percent in 2011.

“We are building 12 new FET colleges in rural areas, and are refurbishing two others. We have also responded to the increased demand for university education,” he said. 

Human Rights Day

Government declared 21 March as Human Rights Day in South Africa. The month of March is generally regarded as Human Rights Month.

This year’s Human Rights Day theme is ‘Celebrating 20 years of changing lives through human rights’.

On Human Rights Day, South Africans remember atrocities committed by the apartheid government and celebrate the achievement of freedom and democracy.

In 1960, the disfranchised people protested against the racially discriminatory pass laws in Sharpeville, Langa and elsewhere in the country. The apartheid police shot and killed 69 of the peaceful protesters in Sharpeville, while several others were wounded.

The South African Constitution was signed into law by the late President Nelson Mandela in Sharpeville on 10 December 1996, symbolically to pay homage to those who were killed. -

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