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Keynote Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the unveiling of Parliamentary Inscriptions, Parliament, Cape Town

Programme Director, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms Thandi Modise,
Members of the Mandela and Sisulu families
Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe Dennis Goldberg
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Leaders of political parties,
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentleman,

I am deeply honoured to be here today to unveil these inscriptions at the steps to the People’s Parliament, both here at the NCOP and outside the National Assembly.

The citizens of this country – and their representatives – who pass through these doors will be reminded of the fundamental principles upon which our society is founded.

Each one of us will need to reflect on whether our daily actions advance or betray the cause of Freedom and Democracy.

Are we contributing, each of us in our own way, to forging a society characterised by Equality and Diversity, Unity and Reconciliation?

Are we building institutions that promote Openness and Participation, Oversight and Accountability?

Are we pursuing a national programme that advances Reconstruction and Development?

These are the principles for which many in our country fought and for which many lost their lives.

The values that underwrite these inscriptions are reflected in the Freedom Charter, adopted in Kliptown in 1955.

They are the fundamental values of our democratic society, articulated in our Constitution and celebrated every day in millions of different ways.

These values have universal appeal.

They are consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and find resonance with the rest of progressive humanity.

These principles therefore not only bind us together as a nation, but they bind us to the peoples of the world.

It is significant that these principles are being inscribed on the steps of Parliament as we celebrate 25 years of a free and democratic South Africa.

These principles have defined the great national endeavour of the last quarter century, inspiring our people, guiding our actions, setting our destination.

We should use the opportunity of this anniversary to deeply reflect on whether we have given effect to these principles.

It is important also that we are holding this unveiling in the week that we mark Human Rights Day.

The human rights we celebrate on the 21st of March cannot have meaning without the values and principles inscribed on these steps.

When we talk about Freedom and Democracy, Equality and Diversity, Unity and Reconciliation, and Openness and Participation, we are making reference in the main to civil and political rights.

These include the right to life, equality before the law, freedom of speech and the right to vote, among other civil and political rights.

When we talk about Oversight and Accountability, Reconstruction and Development, and Cooperative Governance, we are reflecting on the social and economic development of our society and the well-being of its people.

We are reflecting on rights such as the right to health care, education, shelter and social welfare.

Parliament needs to be applauded for including the inscription of these principles as part of the programme of celebration of the centenaries of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.

There are few South Africans who have embodied the values reflected here with such consistency and integrity as they did.

They were fearless champions of equality, understanding that South Africa would never be free until the rights, opportunities and material conditions of its people would no longer be determined by their race.

They understood the other ways in which inequality was manifested.

As an outstanding leader of both the national liberation struggle and the women’s movement, Mama Sisulu fought against the triple oppression of black women.

She fought not only against national oppression but also class exploitation and gender inequality.

These inscriptions give us confidence that – like Albertina Sisulu – the women of this country will lead the struggle and overcome the social ills that patriarchy breeds – such as discrimination, the feminisation of poverty and gender based violence.

Through these inscriptions, the courage, fortitude and stoicism of Mama Albertina Sisulu will live on among the women of this country – young and old, black and white.

These inscriptions are not mere adornments.

They are instead a constant reminder of the ideals of the democratic and more humane society we are still constructing.

As representatives of the people, we are all duty-bound to live up to these values and principles without deviation.

When President Nelson Mandela opened the democratic Parliament on the 24th of May 1994, he laid the foundations of a new society that would be based on the values and principles now inscribed here.

Thus to immortalise Nelson Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and many of their generation, we have to etch these values on our collective conscience to push the frontiers of human fulfilment and of human freedoms.

As we approach the end of term of the fifth democratic Parliament, I wish to thank all political parties represented here for having done everything within the bounds of human ability to advance and promote these values.

Despite our different political persuasions, these values bind us together and give us our common identity as South Africans.

Both Madiba and Mama Sisulu held a deep respect for the will of people, believing that democracy was not merely a mechanical process, but a dynamic and vibrant engagement of people in all matters that affected their lives.

In his statement to the court in November 1962, Madiba said:

“That the will of the people is the basis of the authority of government is a principle universally acknowledged as sacred throughout the civilised world, and constitutes the basic foundations of freedom and justice.”

As we hold our 6th democratic elections, let us do everything within our power to ensure that the will of the people prevails, and – beyond the election – to ensure that the process of governance is defined by openness, transparency and accountability.

I call on all of us as leaders and representatives of our people – as we embark on elections work and campaign for our different parties – to continue to observe these values and do or say nothing that will cause disunity among South Africans.

Let us all campaign responsibly and do our part to ensure free, fair and credible elections.

Let freedom reign!

I thank you.