Address by President JG Zuma at the Freedom Day celebrations, Union Buildings, Pretoria
27 April 2013
Honourable Deputy President,
Chief Justice of the Republic,
Speaker of the National Assembly,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces,
Ministers, Premiers, Deputy Ministers, MECs,
Members of Parliament and provincial legislatures,
Heads of chapter 9 institutions,
Executive Mayor of Tshwane and all Mayors present,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps and all international guests,
Fellow South Africans,
Molweni, dumelang, sanibonani, good day to you all!
We have come together to celebrate the most important day on the calendar of our young nation.
On this day, we look back with pride as a nation because the struggle for national liberation achieved its primary purpose.
We achieved the elimination of apartheid colonialism and institutionalized racism and replaced, it with a new society founded on human rights, equality, justice, dignity, peace and stability.
Together we affirmed the assertion of our wise and forward looking forebears who stated in the Freedom Charter, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it was based on the will of all the people.
Our transformation journey began immediately after elections in 1994, under the leadership of President Mandela and later President Thabo Mbeki.
During the first ten years of democracy alone, the democratic Parliament approved 789 laws or amendments to eliminate racism from our statute books.
From the fragmented public administrations of the apartheid era we constructed a unitary state, nine provinces and a reconfigured municipal landscape.
As we look back at the road travelled since 1994, we recall that it has not been easy. It was never going to be easy. But we have made tremendous progress.
We are a very humble nation. We do not boast about our achievements. We also tend to be highly critical of ourselves.
But on this special day, we must declare that we are a truly remarkable nation for walking away from that evil system of governance that was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations. When the going gets tough at times, we look back at how far we have come. There were episodes that could have made a less resilient nation lose hope and give up.
A case in point is the senseless assassination of one of the key leaders of the ANC and SACP, Mr Chris Hani and also the horrific Boipatong massacre at a critical point of negotiations.
To outsiders, South Africa was heading towards a civil war. We made the right choice. The nation subjected itself immediately to the leadership of the then ANC President Mandela and we overcame anger, frustration and helplessness. We returned to the negotiating table to build our future.
Together we went on to have a historic peaceful election and achieved a transition that was declared a miracle by the world as they were truly surprised by the success. It was not really a miracle. We worked very hard to achieve that transition.
Thanks to our hard work and putting our country first before sectional interests, today we live in a country with a Constitution that guarantees the rights of all irrespective of their race, gender, ethnicity, creed or sexual orientation.
We enjoy the right to equality, to freedom of expression and assembly, the rights of workers, women, children as well as rights to culture and languages. We have socio-economic rights which other nations avoid putting in their Constitutions.
Importantly compatriots, since 1994, we have made significant progress in healing the wounds of our unhappy past.
We went through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process in order to confront the demons of our past. Very few countries brave this exercise for fear that it would backfire and cause more conflict.
We are moving ahead to promote unity and social cohesion. In April last year more than a thousand delegates met in Kliptown for the National Summit on Social Cohesion.
The conference appointed eminent women and men as Advocates for Social Cohesion, such as Ms Sophie de Bruyn, Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, Advocate George Bizos, Ms Brigalia Bam and others.
We must all participate in making the country’s social cohesion programme a success.
If we are to genuinely say that South Africa belongs to all who live in it; then all our people must be able to equitably share in the benefits of a free society.
The triple manifestations of the apartheid legacy - poverty, inequality and unemployment - reaffirm our belief that political freedom must be accompanied by economic freedom, as the next phase of liberation.
The economic wealth of the country must bring about fundamental social change in the lives of all, especially the youth, the poor and the working class.
It is for this reason that we have adopted the National Development Plan as our socio-economic development blueprint, to help us further implement the vision outlined in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the Republic.
The adoption and acceptance of the National Development Plan by all parties in the National Assembly and almost all sectors of society is yet another magnificent achievement of this remarkable nation.
It brings us closer to achieving the vision of our forebears and the mission of building a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
In celebrating our democracy and freedom of expression, we must allow the space for those who still wish to engage the National Development Plan and raise their concerns or suggest improvements.
But we are forging ahead with implementation, building on the successes of the past 19 years.
Indeed, the results of Census 2011, released last year, revealed substantial progress already in the expansion of basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, housing and others.
Njengoba sigubha usuku lwenkululeko namhlanje, sibonga ukuthi ukuhlukumezeka kwaphambilini, kwabantu abamnyama bephathiswa okwezifiki bengenasithunzi ezweni labo, sakuqeda sibambisene sonke ngonyaka ka- 1994.
Impilo iyathuthuka kubo bonke abantu njalo nje.
izibalo ziyakhombisa ukuthi sebandile impela abantu asebefakelwe ugesi, amanzi nasebakhelwe izindlu nokunye.
Kodwa siyazi ukuthi akwanele, asikakaqedi ngoba isibalo sabantu abantulayo sikhulu kakhulu. Abantu abamnyama babeshiywe ngemuva kakhulu ngesikhathi sobandlululo.
Sizoqhubeka nokusebenza ngokuzikhandla, sibambisene nemiphakathi, ukulungisa izindawo ezihlala abantu nokuletha izidingo.
Lokho kuzokwenza ukuba izithelo zenkululeko zibonakale kuzo zonke izinkalo kulelizwe.
Housing continues to be a challenge, but progress is being made.
The RDP housing programme has built over three million housing units since 1994.
The percentage of households with access to potable water has increased from 60 per cent to over 90 per cent. Access to electricity has increased from 50 per cent of households to approximately 80 per cent.
While income inequality remains high, the expansion of our social grants system from 2, 7 million people in 1994 to 16 million currently has contributed to a significant reduction in the proportion of households living in poverty.
The further extension of basic services requires the public service to be more efficient, effective and caring, in order to make people’s experience of government a pleasant one.
There are many achievements on the economic front as well. The South African economy has expanded by 83 per cent over the past 19 years.
The national income per capita has increased from R27 500 in 1993 to R38 500 in 2012, which is an increase of 40 per cent. Disposable income per capita of households has increased by 43 per cent.
Total employment has increased by more than 3.5 million since 1994.
The average real wages in mining and industry have increased by over 150 per cent since 1994 for which we congratulate business and labour.
Our country’s economy continues to perform well in many areas including infrastructure, institutions, goods and market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, business sophistication and innovation.
Only yesterday we received the exciting news that South Africa has won the Offshoring Destination of the Year Award for 2013, from the European Outsourcing Association. This confirms our status as a leading business process outsourcing destination of choice.
On the 25th of April, we announced a whopping 10.2 percent increase in tourist arrivals to our country for 2012, while the world average increase is at around four percent.
In 1993, South Africa received a mere 3.4 million foreign visitors.
By 2012, the figure had grown by 300 percent to 13.5 million visitors, of which 9.2 million were tourists. This is an outstanding achievement for a country that was once a pariah state. The fruits of our freedom have indeed come in many forms!
The financial sector remains robust and healthy, with strong growth in turnover on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, highly liquid capital markets and a well regulated banking and financial services industries. This remains one of the primary selling points of our country globally.
We also celebrate progress in the communications sector. As of last week, there were 63 million cellular phone subscribers in the country, across the networks.
Other than demonstrating a very conversational nation, this achievement should position South Africa very well on her journey towards creating the robust knowledge and information society envisaged in the National Development Plan.
In other communications industry achievements, 37 new post offices were opened last year, mostly in rural areas. South Africans visited SA Post Office branches 81 million times last year for various services.
Another 2.3 million people renewed their vehicle registrations at the post office. And this past year, 4.3 billion rand was deposited into the Postbank, which has 4.5 million customers, mostly the working class and the poor.
We are also proud of achievements in infrastructure development. Building on previous successes such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup projects, we have undertaken major national road improvements and have begun the expansion of power generation and rail transport capacity.
The total value of infrastructure projects currently under way and in planning amounts to over 3.6 trillion rand.
We cannot allow corruption to steal the fruits of our freedom. Positive inroads are being made in the fight against corruption by various state agencies.
In 2010 we established the Justice, Crime and Prevention Security Cluster’s Anti-Corruption Task Team, to fast-track high-priority and high-profile corruption cases. The team works with government departments to strengthen governance systems, reduce risks and prevent corruption.
By the end of December 2012, criminal investigations were initiated against 237 persons by the task team and 21 staff members within the criminal justice system were convicted.
A total of 718 persons are currently under investigation for corrupt activities. Freezing Orders to the value of more one billion rand have been obtained.
In addition, I have signed 34 proclamations between 2009 and 2013, directing the Special Investigating Unit to investigate various government departments and state owned entities.
The Unit has completed some of the investigations and will be sending reports to the Presidency.
A lot of good work is being done by a host of other state agencies to fight corruption and we congratulate them on their good work. We encourage the private sector to also assist us by intensifying the fight against corruption within its own ranks.
Our national priority going forward is economic transformation and the continued implementation of programmes to fight poverty and inequality and to alleviate unemployment.
The gap between white and black households, for obvious historical reasons, remains wide as revealed by Census 2011, with white households earning six times more than black households.
The transformation of ownership and management of the economy continues.
It is encouraging that over 600 billion rand of black economic empowerment transactions have been recorded since 1995. Another success story is that the number of Black people and women in senior management has increased from less than 10% in the 1990s to over 40% today. However, accelerated progress is still needed in this regard. The recent Employment Equity Report revealed that at the top management level whites are at 72.6% and blacks at 12.3%.
The gender breakdown is 80.1% male and 19.8% female at top management. People with disability constitute 1.4% of the total workforce, which means we must move faster in order to achieve the target of 2% representation by 2015.
With regards to the ownership of the economy, the 2012 Johannesburg Stock Exchange indicated that direct black ownership of shares on the exchange is less than 5%.
Working together, without apportioning blame against one another, we need to fast-track transformation in order to achieve full emancipation for all.
Fortunately we have enough legal instruments to assist the social partners to take this process forward.
In the State of the Nation Address I announced the intention of government to reopen restitution claims for those who lost their land since June 1913 but had missed the deadline of 31 December 1998. A draft Bill to that effect will be tabled in Cabinet soon.
Compatriots and friends,
We have come a long way since 1994. We have faced many hurdles along the way, but we remain on course. At this point, I would like to thank all South Africans for the unity displayed during difficult situations.
We stood together during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, when about a million of our people lost jobs. Government, business, labour and the community sector came together and worked on mechanisms to cushion the economy against further economic turmoil.
We are working together again to shield the economy during the current economic crisis caused by the meltdown in our key markets in Europe and the United States.
Most importantly, we stood together in shock and pain during the horrific killing of more than 40 compatriots in Marikana, near Rustenburg.
Many thought the Marikana tragedy marked the end of the road for a peaceful and democratic South Africa, but working together, we rose above the tragedy and put our country first. We await the conclusion of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into this painful matter.
Let me also thank all South Africans for the support provided to the families of our 13 soldiers who fell tragically in Bangui in the Central African Republic and the five soldiers who died in a helicopter crash near Kruger National Park last month, on a mission to save our rhinos from ruthless poachers.
We also continue to work together to promote youth development. Only last week, the NEDLAC partners - government, business, labour and the community sector signed the National Youth Accord, committing themselves to promoting youth employment and skills development. The Minister of Finance announced a youth incentive scheme in the Budget Vote in February which complements this Accord. The proposal will soon serve in Cabinet and later in parliament.
On this important day, we also celebrate the role the country plays internationally. We are playing our part in reconfiguring global economic arrangements, through participation in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the G20, the Financial Stability Forum, the World Trade Organisation and more recently in partnership with the BRICS countries.
The participation in cementing peace and stability in Africa also continues, as is our passionate involvement in promoting the African agenda of renewal and sustainable development and positioning Africa positively in world affairs.
Fellow South Africans and friends,
Our freedom was not free. It came at a huge price. On this day, let us pause to think of all our compatriots and foreign nationals who paid the supreme price for our freedom and lost their lives.
In their memory, we congratulate all South Africans for choosing the path of peace in 1994. As we mark 100 years since Charlotte Maxeke launched the women’s struggle for freedom, we salute all women for their contribution to a free South Africa.
Let us renew our commitment to rid our society of violence and the abuse of women and children, in the home and everywhere else. On this 50th anniversary year of the Rivonia Trial we salute Madiba and all our leaders, the Rivonia trialists, and pledge to continue learning from their resilience, strength, wisdom and their boundless love for this country and its people.
On this important day we also salute members of the Anti-Apartheid Movement abroad who never gave up fighting until we were free. We also thank our brothers and sisters in the African continent for solidarity under difficult conditions.
Later today we will celebrate our freedom further through bestowing National Orders to some outstanding men and women from our country and abroad, who have contributed to the success of our country in various ways.
Let me also thank the other two arms of the State, the Legislature and the Judiciary, with whom we work as the Executive to take forward the mission of building a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
Indeed, we have come far since 1994. Where we have made mistakes, we must learn from them as we continue building our beloved South Africa together.
As we head towards 20 years of freedom next year, let us deepen unity amongst all the South African people. We must build South Africa together, as directed by our founding President, Madiba, when he said:
“We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society where all South Africans, both Black and White, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their right to human dignity; a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world’’.
Compatriots and friends of the Republic around the world,
Happy Freedom Day to you all!
I thank you.