SA must celebrate achievements of last 15 years

Monday, April 27, 2009

Durban - South Africans must celebrate all that has been achieved in South Africa's 15 years of democracy.

"Fifteen years later, and following our fourth general election, we can and should as a country, celebrate the achievements that have been made in entrenching democracy and creating a better life for all," said President Kgalema Motlanthe in Durban on Monday.

He was addressing the thousands of people gathered at the Absa Stadium in Durban for the national event to mark Freedom Day.

Held each year on 27 April to observe the day on which the first democratic election took place, Freedom Day celebrates the achievement of freedom and democracy in the country. This year's celebrations also take place against the backdrop of a successful fourth General Election.

The masses sang and chanted, in a massive display of how important democracy and political freedom are to South Africa.

Raising his voice to ensure he could be heard over the joyous singing, President Motlanthe said 27 April was the day on which for the first time all people exercised their democratic right to cast their votes for the party of their choice.

"Essentially, this day, marked the unity of our people and a beginning of a long journey from our divided past. Much has been achieved since that epoch-marking day in the evolution of our nation's history," he said.

The President said these achievements flowed from policies developed by the democratic government to address the all-pervasive legacy of apartheid, which had virtually affected all facets of our people's life.

He added that the term "freedom" included freedom from ignorance, diseases, want, landlessness, homelessness, joblessness, poverty and fear.

However, the President said government was aware that despite all the gains made during the 15 of democracy, much more still needed to be done to roll apartheid legacy backwards, and especially, pushing back the frontiers of poverty.

"Government is similarly conscious of the scale of work still to be done further to uproot this odious legacy of apartheid, whose pronounced effects can be felt in terms of service delivery,
employment, social cohesion, transformation, empowerment, education and skilling of our people, among other things.

"In this regard, the democratic government had clearly understood that our people cannot enjoy full and meaningful freedom without development, reconstruction and growth, which are the key elements of prosperity for our people."

He said it was also up to all South Africans to work harder to consolidate participatory democracy in the country.

"Participatory democracy requires much more than just trooping to the polling stations to cast votes at the end of every five years. As South Africans, we need to embrace the reality that only collective efforts from all sections of society can enable us to deal with our unique challenges in a way that yields results."

He said freedom was a lived reality. "Let us all work together to improve the quality of life for all so that the fullness of freedom becomes our lived reality as a united and prosperous people.

"On Freedom Day Government reaffirms its commitment to consolidate democracy and create a South Africa united in diversity," said President Motlanthe.

The Minister for Art and Culture Pallo Jordan, the KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sibusiso Ndebele, MEC for Economic Development Zweli Mkhize and other senior official governments also attended the celebrations.

Held under the theme: "Together celebrating a vibrant democracy, and building a better life for all", the day celebrates South Africa's resilient and maturing democracy and invokes a spirit of hope and resilience.

The day is also a call to all South Africans to be proud of the vibrant democracy and it communicates a message to our people, that together we must build our nation and take advantage of the benefits and opportunities created by democracy so that we fully realize our vision to create a better life for all.