We are closer to our dream: Zuma

27 April 2014

In its first two decades of freedom, South Africa has have moved closer to its dream of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous country – and “we must not deny or downplay these achievements, regardless of our political differences”, President Jacob Zuma told the nation on Sunday.

Addressing the main Freedom Day event at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Zuma paid tribute both to the various actors and groupings who sacrificed to win the country its freedom 20 years ago, and to the different sectors of society that had, since then, played a part in creating a South Africa that was in every respect “a much better place to live in”.

Measured against the goals the country had set itself under Nelson Mandela in 1994 – including deepening democracy and promoting a culture of human rights, meeting basic needs and developing human resources, building the economy and creating jobs – South Africa had done well, Zuma said.

“We should congratulate ourselves for all this hard work.”

The President listed the country’s achievements in education, healthcare, social security, delivery of housing, water and electricity, women’s rights and youth development.

Mandela had introduced free health care for pregnant women to help ensure that South African children were born healthy, and the government had continued to build on this: today, 8-million children do not have to pay school fees, 9-million children receive meals at school, more than 11-million orphans and vulnerable children benefit from social grants, and the state spends over R1.3-billion per annum on early childhood development centres, as well as R15 per day per child from poor households to prepare them for primary education.

“Our plan is that by 2030, South Africa should have a comprehensive system of social protection that includes social security grants, mandatory retirement savings, risk benefits (such as unemployment, death and disability benefits) and voluntary retirement savings.”

While the country still had some way to go to eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment, Zuma said, the National Development Plan (NDP) had been developed over the last five years in order to address this.

“The next decade of freedom must be one in which we work together to advance economic transformation.

“We will continue to work with the business sector to advance broad-based black economic empowerment and affirmative action, in order to change the ownership, control and management of the economy.

“We will also, working together, continue to focus on making improvements in five priorities – job creation, health, education, rural development and land reform, and the fight against crime and corruption.

“There is a lot of work to be done, but we will succeed if we work together.”

Zuma concluded by reminding South Africans that the right to vote “was gained through relentless struggles and sacrifices.

“Therefore, on the 7th of May, let us go out in our millions to vote and celebrate our hard-won freedom and democracy. Let us vote to consolidate democracy and all the achievements of our young nation.

“And, as we did in 1994 and in subsequent elections, let us deliver peaceful, free and fair elections.”

SAinfo reporter