25 April 2014
South Africa’s celebration of 20 years of democracy is hard earned and well deserved, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said at a ceremony to mark the historic occasion at South Africa House in London on Thursday.
“My gut reaction to this celebration is that we deserve it. We have earned it in many remarkable ways,” Motlanthe said. “We have earned this historic moment through the epochal struggles we launched to free the South African population from the clutches of a backward and indeed inhuman ideology.”
Deputy President Motlanthe, who is on a three-day working visit to the UK, said that South Africa was a different nation to what it was two decades ago: “We are a shining example of what humanity can do to bring about a better world.”
The biggest task facing the country was to ensure a growing and prosperous economy to ensure a better life for all South Africans, especially those coming from a background of historic exclusion, he told the audience at South Africa House.
“Without a growing economy to extricate South Africans from the abyss of poverty, unemployment and inequality, democracy holds no meaning. In fact, no democracy can survive under conditions of want, penury and social bleakness,” he said.
Motlanthe said the legacy of former President Nelson Mandela, who passed away in December last year, was underscored by the preamble of the Constitution: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
This should not be seen as a facile slogan, he said. Instead, South Africa was a microcosm of the world, where people from all corners had chosen to live. “Similarly our anti-apartheid struggle was a broad front comprising members of all sections of our society.”
All South Africans had a good reason to celebrate the benefits attained through freedom – and so do the people of the world as a whole, he said. The celebrations, however, did not represent the end of the journey but a start to address the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequity.
Deputy President Motlanthe thanked the UK for joining in the celebrations of 20 years of freedom. He acknowledged the role played by the international community in the struggle for equality – as well as the importance of continued bilateral relations.
The day 27 April 2014 will mark two decades since South Africans of all races voted in the country’s first free and fair election in 1994, ushering in a new democratic dispensation.