22 March 2012
President Jacob Zuma, speaking during an event to mark the country’s Human Rights Day, called on South Africans to pause, reflect and roll up their sleeves to help the government build a better country for all its people.
“Let us celebrate the right of being South Africans and of living in this wonderful country, whose people defeated colonial and racial oppression, to build a country that belongs to all,” Zuma said at the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication in Kliptown, Soweto on Wednesday.
‘We must never take our rights for granted’
South Africa’s Human Rights Day remembers the Sharpeville Massacre, in which 69 people were killed during a peaceful protest again the pass laws. Wednesday marked 52 years since the massacre.
Zuma said the day should also be used to celebrate the country’s Constitution and, in particular, the Bill of Rights. He urged people to familiarise themselves more with this supreme law of the land and appreciate its liberating features.
“We must never take our freedom and human rights for granted,” he said.
Progress made on socio-economic rights
Zuma said the government would continue to make sure that every South African was able to enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.
He said that, since 1994, the government’s national housing programme had delivered 2.8-million houses which provided shelter to 13.5-million people. By December 2011, 87% of rural households had been provided with water, and 75% with access to sanitation.
A total of 15-million people, mainly vulnerable groups such as children, older persons and people with disabilities, now received social grants from the state, while eight-million children now received free education.
“We have done well indeed in a short space of time,” Zuma said. ‘However, we are aware that, as more people gain access to these socio-economic rights, many more still live in hardship, due to decades of neglect.”
‘Second phase’ of freedom
Zuma said the government was serious about getting the country working, and it was for this reason that government had to grow the economy and improve the general standards of living in what he termed as the country’s “second phase” freedom, involving the transition towards a prosperous South Africa.
“All of us have to roll up our sleeves and get down to some serious implementation work, to produce the platform for development, decent work and growth.”
Zuma said the infrastructure project which he first announced in his State of the Nation address in February would lay the foundation for 20 or more years of growth, improved service delivery and jobs.
He said the plan would drive back poverty, unemployment, inequality and under-development while responding to the basic needs of all South Africans.
“The infrastructure plan recognises that black people are no longer temporary visitors in someone else’s city – they are city dwellers, they have rights.
“Infrastructure for development is also about connecting rural communities to economic opportunities through building dams and irrigation systems. It will connect farms and villages to the energy grid and build schools and clinics in rural areas.”
Zuma said that, through working with the people, and with the private sector, labour, education institutions, and all spheres of government, the country would be “working smarter” to make South Africa work for South Africans.