SA's democracy restored the dignity of millions

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

South Africa's democracy has restored the dignity of millions of South Africans and changed the lives of its citizens for the better, says Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Zizi Kodwa.

Addressing the launch of national Freedom Month in celebrating 30 Years of Democracy, the Minister urged South Africans to acknowledge the remarkable progress made since the dawn of democracy in 1994 as the country commemorates this significant milestone.

“Our journey has been marked by monumental achievements; from the dismantling of apartheid to the establishment of a constitutional democracy founded on the principles of equality, justice and human rights.

“We have witnessed the triumph of hope over despair, and the resilience of the South African spirit in the face of adversity.

“From inheriting a divided country, with gross inequalities in every aspect of life, we have done much to bridge this divide. We are also aware that there is much more still to be done, as the injustices and imbalances caused by apartheid could not all be resolved within 30 years,” Kodwa said on Tuesday at the Freedom Park and Museum Amphitheatre in Pretoria.

He highlighted the progress that has been made in the democratic South Africa as stated by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he delivered the State of the Nation Address in February.

“Our economy is today three times larger than it was 30 years ago. The number of employed South Africans increased from eight million in 1994 to over 16.7 million today. According to Census 2022, 88.5 percent of people in the country now live in formal housing, compared to 65 percent in 1996.

“South Africa’s social protection policies and programmes have been implemented to reduce poverty and vulnerability. South Africa has the most extensive HIV treatment programme in the world, which continues to save millions of lives.

“In sport, our transformation programmes are being implemented, as you see in our champion teams, such as the Springboks, whose players are truly representative of the nation they represent,” the Minister said.

As the country celebrates its successes, the Minister emphasised that the challenges that lie ahead should be confronted.

“Despite the progress we have made, we cannot ignore the persistent inequalities that continue to plague our society. Economic disparities, social injustices, and systemic barriers still hinder the realisation of our collective aspirations.

“We cannot claim true freedom and democracy until every South African, regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status, enjoys equal opportunities and access to basic services.

“As custodians of this democracy, it is our duty to address these inequalities and to build a more inclusive society where every individual can thrive and fulfil their potential,” he said.

Three decades ago, South Africa embarked on a journey that fundamentally transformed the fabric of society, a journey that was paved with sacrifices, struggles, and unwavering determination.

On 27 April 1994, a large majority of South Africans stood in long queues to vote in democratic elections for the first time.

"Our road to democracy required untold sacrifice, and many paid the ultimate price for us to be free. The sacrifices made to bring that day to fruition live within our hearts and minds, therefore we will always be indebted to those who went before us.

"The freedoms we enjoy were built on the backs of heroes at home and abroad. We truly stand on the shoulders of giants, their legacy is our freedom, and we must honour it by continuing to build a just and equal society," the Minister said.

He said the gains of democracy stand in opposition to fascism, gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), lawlessness, crime, inequality, corruption and other social ills.

Celebrating the constitution as the supreme law

This year, South Africa also commemorates the 28th anniversary of the enactment of the Constitution as the supreme law of the country.

“Our rights are protected under our constitutional democracy, which promotes inclusivity, equality, non-racialism, non-sexism, national unity, social cohesion, justice and diversity.

“In celebrating 30 years of freedom and democracy, we must also reflect on the values that have guided us thus far; reconciliation, unity, and nation-building. It is only through a commitment to these principles that we can overcome the divisions of the past and forge a common future based on mutual respect and understanding.

“As we navigate the challenges of the present and the uncertainties of the future, let us draw strength from the lessons of our past and the resilience of our people,” the Minister said.

Kodwa called on the nation to once again remind the world about the importance of democracy and freedom.

“Let us recommit ourselves to the ideals of freedom and democracy that have defined our nation for the past three decades. Let us strive to build a South Africa that is truly united in its diversity, where every citizen is empowered to contribute to the advancement of our society. And let us never forget the sacrifices of those who came before us, who fought and died so that we may live in freedom and dignity,” he said. –