Pretoria - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has urged South Africans to be mindful of those less fortunate and lend a hand were possible during this festive season.
In a special Christmas message, Motlanthe said many families had had a difficult year, considering the economic downturn this year.
"We remember those citizens who are suffering due to the negative effects of the global economic recession which ended the most sustained economic upswing in our country.
"During this festive season, all of us who can, and are able to, are compelled to lend a hand to those individuals and families that are unable to support themselves, and to show compassion to children that do not have clothes, something to eat or a simple gift to bring a smile to their little faces," said the Deputy President.
He said the Christmas period urged one to spread the message of love and peace to our neighbours and to those who may disagree with us politically or ideologically.
Looking back over the year, Motlanthe said 2009 would be remembered as the year in which South Africa held its fourth national democratic elections and ushered in a smooth transition and administration committed to the values that have stood South Africa in good stead in 15 years of freedom.
"In fulfilment of a legacy built by Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, President Jacob Zuma defined the priorities of government which includes fighting poverty, creating jobs and growing the economy," he said.
Motlanthe said it was important to recall that the country was steadily but surely weathering the recession storm based on the viability of the multibillion infrastructure programme which had helped bring relief to the lives of many South Africans who are barely eking out a living.
South Africa also hosted a successful FIFA Confederations Cup, which was a litmus test for the 2010 FIFA World Cup as well as the World Cup Final Draw. "Happily, and as it were to be expected, we were not found wanting," said Motlanthe.
He said it is heartening to see government, business, civil society and labour, working together to take to a higher level the fight against HIV and AIDS and commitment to programmes meant to cater for people with physical and mental disabilities and fighting women and child abuse.
The Deputy President said that it was by caring for our most vulnerable members of society that we can save and cure the soul of the nation.
Noting that there is still a high crime rate, Motlanthe commended the men and women in the police force who were geared to fighting crime and bringing lawbreakers to book as well as other law enforcement officers who are ensuring that rules of the road are obeyed.
He further saluted the medical personnel who sacrificed the time they could be sharing with their families to save lives and congratulated the sporting men and women who had proudly placed South Africa on the international map in 2009.
"I applaud our athletes for putting on a sterling performance at the Berlin World Championships and congratulate Team South Africa for winning the Dakar Rally. I pass on good wishes to the Springboks for being named the IRB Team of the Year."
Motlanthe said he remained convinced that the national soccer team would surprise many in the World Cup as they did in the Confederations Cup. He hoped that thousands of vuvuzelas would ring loud at Soccer City during the opening match against Mexico.
He remembered those who had passed away over the last year, including Helen Suzman, former Deputy Minister of Agriculture Dirk Du Toit and former minister MantoTshabalala-Msimang.
Lastly, Motlanthe appealed to road users to abide by the rules of the road and not to drink and drive and for all to practice safe sex.
"Let peace reign in our hearts, care for one another and spread festive cheer to those who do not have. We wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."