29 April 2008
Speaking at South Africa’s Freedom Day celebrations at the Turfhall Stadium in Landsdowne, Cape Town on Sunday, President Thabo Mbeki called for “all hands on deck” to tackle the challenges facing the country.
Mbeki urged everyone to get involved in creating a new South Africa; to become the kind of citizens who did not do crime, were not racist, sexist or xenophobic, and who worked hard to make the country succeed.
“We believe that by coming together and working in partnerships as government, business, labour, civil society and communities, we will succeed.”
Mbeki admitted that the country faced many challenges. “There are still too many people who are poor,” he said. “There are still too many people without jobs. There are too many people without houses. There are still too many children who study in dilapidated schools.”
There were also “other problems we must confront together as they impact negatively on the standard of living of the people. These include the national electricity emergency, the high food and fuel prices and the high interest rates”.
Mbeki said that since the government’s call to South Africans earlier this year to work together to save electricity and help stabilise the national electricity grid, much had been done by both businesses and households, and he thanked the nation for their positive response.
He said that even though progress had been uneven since the country’s first democratic elections on 27 April 1994, “there is no doubt that freedom has given us the possibility to move our country away from the terrible legacy of apartheid, opening opportunities in the quest for a better life for all South Africans.”
Fourteen years after the first day that South Africans, irrespective of race, got to vote, “we walk tall because of collective efforts that culminated on 27 April being the country’s Freedom Day,” Mbeki said.
Referring to a recent spate of racist and xenophobic incidents, Mbeki said these showed that South Africa still contained “pockets of backwardness” which had to be confronted. “We cannot allow racism and racist attitudes to prevail in our society, in our communities or in any of our diverse and varied institutions.”
The President also spoke out against violence against women and children. “Clearly we can’t proclaim to be a free nation while women and children are not free to enjoy our freedom.”
He said men had an important part to play in advancing affirmative social values and mending the social fabric that had been torn by “those that behave like animals”. Men had an important message to give to their compatriots, namely that “real men do not abuse”.
Mbeki said that in the country’s work to transform the lives of its people, particular attention needed to be paid to young people, who faced increasing challenges, such as substance abuse, unemployment, crime and the absence of good role models.
“Indeed, many of our young have to face difficult challenges at times without parental or adult guidance.
“All of us, as a society, need to inculcate among the youth the ethos and ethics that help build great and successful nations; we need to help bring about a spirit of resilience in the face of what would seem formidable odds.
“We need to bring up young people who know that, to sustain the progress of the last 14 years, we need skills and better education.”