20 Year Review: South Africa’s success story

Compared to many emerging economies, South Africa “has a good story to tell” based on its achievements over the past 20 years, President Jacob Zuma said at the launch of the government’s 20 Year Review in Pretoria on Tuesday.

South Africa 20 Year Review
Detail of the cover of the 20 Year Review document, launched in March 2014.

Brand South Africa reporter

The 20 Year Review reflects on South Africa’s progress in reconstruction and development since 1994, and on the challenges facing the country as it enters its third decade of democracy.

Zuma said South Africa had done well in improving the lives of its people through pro-poor economic interventions, and in building social cohesion, after inheriting the apartheid legacy in 1994.

“The biggest barrier to further increasing social cohesion is the remaining inequality in society, which needs to be attended to further,” Zuma said, adding: “Going forward, we should commit to working together further to implement the National Development Plan (NDP) to deal with the remaining challenges and take our country forward.”

Zuma said that the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) that was introduced by the democratic government after 1994 had benefitted millions of South Africans through social security programmes, subsidised housing, and the extension of services such as electricity and water, quality education and health care.

Human rights

South Africans now enjoyed basic human rights that restored their dignity after the adoption of the Constitution in 1996.

“Thanks to our progressive Constitution, we enjoy freedom of movement and of association, the right to own property, the right not to be detained without trial, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, religious freedom and freedom of sexual orientation,” Zuma noted.

“Women have equal rights before the law, which did not exist before 1994.

“Workers have 20 years of enjoying rights, including trade union workplace organising, collective bargaining, equal pay for equal work, health and safety, affirmative action, skills development, minimum wages for workers in vulnerable sectors, the right to strike, and the right to peaceful protest.”

Economic growth

On the economy, Zuma said that despite having inheriting a bankrupt economy in 1994, South Africa’s growth had averaged 3.2% from 1994 to 2012, “a marked improvement over pre-1994 growth rates”, while the number of people in employment grew by approximately 60%, or 5.6-million people, between 1994 and 2013.

South Africa still faced challenges inherited from apartheid, including the uneven distribution of land, the after-effects of Bantu education, unemployment and poor economic growth.

However, partnerships between the government, labour and business, combined with the integration of the National Development Plan, would go a long way towards carrying the country forward.

Since the mid-2000s, the government had placed an emphasis on investing in economic infrastructure such as ports, rail, dams and power stations. Investment in infrastructure, which has also been identified as a key jobs driver, had increased “dramatically” over the past five years.

Social stability

At the same time, Zuma said, the country had made progress in providing social services such as health care, education and housing. Over eight-million school children were now beneficiaries of no-fee schools, while nine-million were being fed through the schools feeding scheme.

In addition to free basic healthcare, more than 1 500 healthcare facilities had been built and existing ones revitalised over the past 20 years.

“One of the major challenges that confronted the democratic government was the rapid rise in the HIV epidemic,” Zuma said. “The country’s improved response to HIV and Aids and TB has resulted in dramatic improvements in health outcomes.”

The Reconstruction and Development Programme had resulted in about 2.8-million government-subsidised houses being distributed and over 875 000 serviced sites being delivered, with 56% of housing subsidies being allocated to woman-headed households

This had given more than 12-million South Africans access to accommodation, and increased the proportion of people living in formal housing from 64% in 1996 to 77% in 2011.

“We have succeeded because of the hard work of all our people who contributed in various ways to rebuilding their country,” Zuma said. “We are honoured to place before the country this 20 Year Review, which provides evidence in this regard. We trust that it will be useful in assessing the path we have travelled thus far, and in moving the country forward.”

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