President Zuma recounts 20 years of freedom

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pretoria - South Africa has progressed in the past twenty years of its democracy, but it’s not been easy, says President Jacob Zuma.

Speaking at the Freedom Day celebration at the Union Buildings on Sunday, President Zuma admitted that the country was straddled by huge economic challenges of unemployment and inequality.

On the flip side, he pointed to progress in social and basic services, buoyant economy and infrastructure development and building of an inclusive South Africa.

"We have done well on all of these pillars in the past 20 years. We have moved closer to our cherished dream of a united non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa,” he told the crowd gathered.

“Step by step, we are building the South Africa that our selfless and committed freedom fighters fought for. We are making tremendous progress each year.”

Referring to the Twenty Year Review Report , which government realised recently, the President said South Africans have made considerable progress building a better life for all.

“Over the past 20 years employment, both formal and informal, has grown by around 5.6 million people, which is far faster than it was the case previously. More work however still needs to be done to expand the capacity of our economy to absorb more people, especially the youth.”

Health care

Building on the foundation laid by Madiba, the country has registered significant improvements in access to health care.

More than 1 500 new health facilities including clinics have been built while others have been refurbished. 

Most clinics are now open 24-hours a day and people do not pay to receive health care, while HIV and Aids programmes have yielded dramatic results.

There is increased life expectancy and thousands of children have been saved due to improved mother to child HIV transmission prevention programme.

“Thousands more people are receiving treatment, and more than 20 million have boldly taken the HIV test following the launch of the testing campaign in 2011,” said President Zuma, reminding people not to become complacent just because the treatment programmes are effective and easily accessible.

“We must still follow the prevention messages and ensure that there are zero new HIV infections each day in our country.”

Access to basic services

Regarding the expanding access to basic services, the President counted that in 2012, 83% of households had access to proper sanitation compared to 50% in 1994.

Access to water has also increased from 60% in 1994 to over 95% in 2012 and around 86% of households now have access to electricity compared to 50% in 1994.

As part of developing sustainable rural communities, the democratic government has distributed 9.4 million hectares of land, benefitting almost a quarter of a million people.

While on housing, over the past twenty years, close to 3 million houses were built and over 800 000 serviced sites were delivered.

Fight against crime

With regards to the fight against crime, serious crime and property crime have declined and progress has been made in the area of improving access to justice, especially for those who were previously marginalised.

“But we are not complacent. Work continues to build even safer communities. We are concerned that crime levels, particularly crimes against vulnerable groups such as women and children, remain of serious concern. This area will continue to receive our priority attention.”

National Development Plan

Looking ahead, the President said government will continue to work hard to eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment. He said the foundation - the National Development Plan (NDP) will ensure that this dream is achieved.

“The next decade of freedom must be one in which we work together to advance economic transformation.

“We will continue to work with the business sector to advance broad-based black economic empowerment and affirmative action, in order to change the ownership, control and management of the economy.”

Government will also continue to focus on making improvements in five priorities - job creation, health, education, rural development and land reform as well as the fight against crime and corruption while expanding access to housing and basic services.

“There is a lot of work to be done, but we will succeed if we work together.”

Tribute to SA

President Zuma also used his address to thank unions, media, faith based organisations, women, youth, political prisoners ordinary South Africans and the world who made apartheid unworkable during the apartheid.

“We pay tribute to the South African masses who organised themselves into various formations, defying the might of the apartheid state,” he said, adding that today was a reminder that our freedom was not free.

“It came about through blood, sweat and tears. That is why we must defend it at all cost.

“We should congratulate ourselves for all this hard work. We must not deny or downplay these achievements, regardless of our political differences or contestation at any given time, including the election period.”

Thousands of people braved the scorching heat in the lawn area at the Union Buildings for the annual Freedom Day commemoration which was held under the theme: “South Africa – A Better Place to live in”.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) paraded as they marched onto the stage to provide the guard of honour for the state President Zuma.

The ceremony saw the National Anthem, the 21-round gun salute and a flypast by the two Oryx helicopters.

President Jacob Zuma, who arrived just after 10am for the official ceremony, sat in a white tent next to Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, Minister in the Presidency's Collins Chabane and speaker of Parliament Max Sisulu.

President Pohamba, who spoke on behalf of SADC, said 1994 marked the resilience of human spirit and congratulated South Africa.

“We are happy that the culture of democracy has found deep roots in the country. We are confident that the upcoming elections will be free and fair,” said Pohamba.

Later on, President Zuma is due to hand over national orders to numerous outstanding South African citizens and foreign nationals at an event to be held at the nearby Sefako M Makgatho presidential guest house. -


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