30 April 2012
South Africans celebrate Freedom Day in order to ensure that the present does not erase the past, and in order to protect the future, President Jacob Zuma said as the country marked its 18th year of freedom on Friday, calling on all citizens to work together to make the country a success.
“We must put the country first in everything we do, and work together to make a success of the second phase of struggle, that of working towards a prosperous South Africa.”
The President was addressing the national Freedom Day celebrations held at the Union Buildings. The day commemorates the first democratic elections held in the country on 27 April 1994.
“Together we have built from the ashes of apartheid a country that is dedicated to patriotism, nation-building and reconciliation,” Zuma said, adding that South Africa had been able to tackle its socio-economic development challenges through the creation of a stable democratic system.
“It has been a short but very meaningful road from a pariah state to a peaceful, stable, vibrant non-racial, non-sexist, democratic country that is working hard to achieve prosperity for all,” Zuma said.
“On Freedom Day we celebrate our victory over racial bigotry.”
He the government was working towards eradicating unemployment, inequity and poverty.
“The challenge has been to ensure that more of our people benefit from economic growth whilst maintaining and indeed building on the strength of our economy.”
South Africa was recovering from the effects of the global financial crisis of 2008-09, with the past 18 months having seen a substantial economic recovery, Zuma said.
“The challenge now is to accelerate our gains, to ensure above all that growth supports increased inclusion, employment and equity.”
The proportion of the population living below the R422 a month poverty line had decreased from 50% in 1994 to 34.5% in 2009, Zuma said, while in 2011, 75.8% of the country’s households had access to electricity compared to 51% in 1994.
“Most importantly, primary health care is now accessible to all South Africans regardless of race, background and nationality,” said Zuma.
Efforts to improve social conditions in the country include an R8.2-billion allocation for school infrastructure, while 43 regional bulk projects for water infrastructure will be completed by 2014, benefiting 3.2-million people.
South Africa was also working to support unemployed young people through the expansion of public employment programmes, Zuma said.