Address by President JG Zuma to the launch and naming of new ID Smart Card Printing Machines, Government Printing Works, Pretoria
30 July 2013
Minister of Home Affairs
Ms Sophie de Bruyn and all veterans and families of our veterans,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am happy to join you today here at the Government Printing Works.
I have just collected my smart I.D card at the Home Affairs office at Byron Plane at the corner of Sophie de Bruyn and Nana Sita Streets. I am mentioning the name of the street deliberately as it proves just how far we have come in our country in only 19 years.
We are proud to have our streets being named after the heroes of our struggle for liberation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a few days we will mark the beginning of Women’s Month.
We will be remembering the march on the Union Buildings by more than 20 000 women who were tired of the pass laws and the impact they had on their lives.
The pass laws dictated where people should live, where they should work, where their children could go to school, based on the colour of their skin. Carrying a pass then was an insult and an affront to the dignity of our people.
In his Presidential Address to the 1941 ANC conference, former ANC President, Dr AB Xuma said the following which highlights what the African people went through.
Dr Xuma said:
“The African is the worker of South Africa.
“However, because of his lack of political power and because of the existence of many statutory restrictions against him such as the Pass Laws, the Natives Service Contract Act, the Masters and Servants Act, the Natives Labour Regulations, the African finds himself debarred from benefits of certain labour awards.
“For instance, the Pass Laws restrict his freedom of movement, limit his bargaining power, expose him to exploitation by a certain type of employer and exclude him from enjoying benefits to be derived from the Industrial Conciliation Act.
“The African is paid wages far below the cost of living. He is debarred from skilled trades. He is a pawn between the white worker and the employer.
“He is forced to live below the bread line. Besides African wages are further depressed by the uneconomic system of recruiting and importation of African labour which exempts the mines from the operation of economic and industrial laws, supply and demand so far as Africans are concerned. He is allowed to trade on sufferance and under great restrictions.
The African is a great producer and consumer of goods.
“He should, therefore, be allowed to trade freely according to his means and ability to help raise his economic status’’.
This is the history we come from. It is for this reason that women decided that enough was enough, took to the streets against pass laws and other discriminatory legislation.
This year is special in this struggle against pass laws as we are marking 100 years since Charlotte Maxeke led the women’s pass against pass laws in Bloemfontein.
Incidentally it is also the 100 year anniversary of the Union Buildings, which we will mark in December on the National Day of Reconciliation.
The 1956 Women's March on the Union Buildings was building on the 1913 march, which demonstrates that women have been active in South African politics and the struggle for a century! The struggle against pass laws is thus an important milestone in our history because it acknowledges and affirms the role of women in bringing about the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.
The introduction of the new Smart ID Cards thus remind us of the courage and zeal by women in 1913 and 1956.
In 1913 about 600 women marched to the Bloemfontein City Council in the Orange Free State to petition the mayor on this inequitable law which undermined the basic human rights of black people.
During the march 34 women were arrested and convicted for not having passes.
The Orange Free State was the only province in which passes were stringently enforced to control the movement of women residing and working in towns in large numbers.
The direct result of this campaign was the establishment of the Bantu Women's League under the leadership of Ms Maxeke.
The Bantu Women's League was adopted and relaunched by the African National Congress as its Women's League structure in the 1940s.
We also remember women’s struggles in Zeerust and also in areas such as Cato Manor in Durban.
Given the important role of women in the struggle against pass laws in this country, it is befitting that we name machines printing identity documents after stalwarts who fought for justice, human rights and dignity for all.
An identity document provides a sense of citizenship and belonging to one’s country. It also opens the door to services offered by government, banks and many other service providers.
We are thus truly pleased that this Government Printing Works now houses important equipment named after our heroines and leaders, Sophie de Bruyn, Ramina Moosa, Lillian Ngoyi and Hellen Joseph.
This gesture is intended to further immortalize their contribution to the struggle for liberation and of building a better South Africa which is home to all who live in it, black and white.
The first cards were issued to veterans and senior citizens from Mandela Day on the 18th of July.
Many people want to know why they need to apply for the new I.D card.
The current bar-coded green ID book has limited security features and has been prone to fraud and identity theft which has affected many citizens negatively.
The new ID smart card has biometric and other features that for the first time will enable individuals to prove their unique identity with 100% certainty. This will prevent many forms of fraud and will enable government and business to deliver services that are more secure, efficient and accessible.
As I accept my innovative Smart ID Card today, I salute all the women veterans of our struggle.
We are pleased to have Ms De Bruyn with us and also representatives of the Joseph, Moosa and Ngoyi families. We salute these pioneers who taught us that human dignity and freedom are paramount in the land of our birth.
I urge South Africans without identity documents to apply for their IDs particularly as we prepare for General Elections next year. The process of changing over to the new card will take long given that there are more than 50 million of us in this country but let us make the start and apply for the new card.
We salute all women and wish all South Africans a successful Women’s Month in August, celebrating the contribution of women to society and the important role they continue to play in building a better South Africa and a better Africa.
I thank you.