Tintswalo, a child of democracy

Thursday, February 8, 2024

As the country marks 30 years of democracy, President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his State of the Nation Address (SONA) to outline how government has impacted the lives of ordinary people over the past three decades.

Painting a picture of a child born in 1994, the President told a story of Tintswalo who grew up in a society that was worlds apart from the South Africa of her parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

“The story of the first 30 years of our democracy can be best told through the life of a child called Tintswalo born at the dawn of freedom in 1994. She grew up in a society governed by a constitution rooted in equality, the rule of law, and affirmation of the inherent dignity of every citizen.

“Tintswalo, and many others born at the same time as her, were beneficiaries of the first policies of the democratic state to provide free health care for pregnant women and children under the age of six. Tintswalo’s formative years were spent in a house provided by the state, one of millions of houses built to shelter the poor,” President Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

He described her upbringing as being in a household provided with basic water and electricity, in a house where her parents were likely to have lived without electricity before 1994.

“Tintswalo was enrolled in a school in which her parents did not have to pay school fees, and each school day she received a nutritious meal as part of a programme that today supports nine million learners from poor families.

“The democratic state provided a child support grant to meet her basic needs. This grant, together with other forms of social assistance, continues to be a lifeline for more than 26 million South Africans every month.

“With this support, Tintswalo – democracy’s child – was able to complete high school. Through the assistance of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, Tintswalo attended one of our Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and obtained a qualification,” the President said.

When Tintswalo entered the world of work, she was able to progress and thrive with the support of the state’s employment equity and black economic empowerment policies.

“With the income she earned, she was able to save, to start a family, to move into a better house, and to live a better life. This is the story of millions of people who have been born since the dawn of our democracy,” President Ramaphosa said.

Lifting millions out of poverty

Delivering the last SONA for the sixth administration at the Cape Town City Hall, the President said government’s policies and programmes have lifted millions out of dire poverty.

“Today, fewer South Africans go hungry and fewer live in poverty. In 1993, South Africa faced a significant poverty challenge, with 71.1 percent of its population living in poverty. However, under the democratic government, there has been a consistent decline in these numbers.

“By 2010, the poverty rate had dropped to 60.9 percent, and it continued to decrease, reaching 55.5 percent in 2020, as reported by the World Bank. This progress has been made possible by extensive support to those in society who need it most,” the President said.

Five years ago, government introduced a further measure to tackle poverty by introducing the National Minimum Wage as envisaged in the Freedom Charter.

“The decision by key role players, being business and labour and communities, to introduce the minimum wage immediately raised the wages of over 6 million workers,” the President said.

He said today, nearly nine out of every ten households live in a formal dwelling.

“One of the most visible, impactful and meaningful achievements in the first three decades of freedom has been in providing homes to the people. Today, nearly nine out of every ten households live in a formal dwelling.

“Where there were once shacks and mud houses, there are now homes of brick and mortar. These are homes with water to drink and to wash with, homes with electricity for lighting and cooking.

“At the end of apartheid, only 6 out of 10 people had access to clean drinking water. Today, that figure has increased to nearly 9 out of 10 South Africans,” the President said.

South Africans living longer than ever before

“Life expectancy has increased from 54 years in 2003 to 65 years in 2023. Maternal and infant deaths have declined dramatically. We have built more hospitals and clinics, especially in poor areas, providing better quality care to more South Africans.

“Today, 95% of persons diagnosed with HIV know their status, 79% of those receive antiretroviral treatment, and 93% of those are virally suppressed. New HIV infections among young people have declined significantly,” the President said. – SAnews.gov.za