Address on South African Freedom Day 2001, Pietersburg, 27 April 2001

Premier Ramatlhodi
Minister Ben Ngubane
Mayor Thabo Makunyane
Distinguished Guests
People of the Northern Province:

In the past seven years we have travelled a long way and made great progress as a nation, together to transform the South African society.

We therefore meet here today, in Pietersburg, to celebrate the freedom we fought so hard to achieve and the progress we have made in delivering to all our people the basic services they were denied for so long.

As you are aware, for the past two days we have been in the Northern Province.

We came so that we could interact with the people, so that government could get a better sense of the reality of the progress that is being made, and to hear from the people about their concerns and the problems they face.

We are doing this so that government can respond better to the problems and fulfil our commitment to work to ensure that the people of the Northern Province and the whole of South Africa lead a better life.

Our visit, and our interaction with the people of the province, is part of Imbizo, whereby we afford our people the opportunity to make their necessary contribution to the transformation process.

It also means learning from the people themselves about how government can best act to accelerate change for the better.

An important message that has been confirmed during these two days is that all of government - Traditional Leaders, Municipal Councils, Provincial MEC's, Premiers, Ministers and the President - I am saying all of government, should communicate and work together with the people in the spirit of Imbizo.

Your democratic government will continue to work with you, the people. We must continue to work together so that we ensure that we all have food; that we all have access to water and electricity; that all our schools are properly equipped and have trained teachers; that all our clinics and hospitals have enough nurses to care for patients, and that there are adequate medicines, and that we increase the number of jobs created by our economy.

Without these things, which the majority of our people have been denied for so long, our freedom remains incomplete.

We have indeed during these past seven years of freedom made progress in all these areas. Yet we are also aware of the enormous legacy of neglect apartheid has inflicted on our people. We know too the great challenge that lies ahead of us to undo and eradicate the poverty and underdevelopment that still blights the lives of millions of South Africans.

But we also know that unity in action can bring about change for the better in the lives of all our people, especially the poor. At the Marobala Citrus Farm we saw how those who until recently were allowed only to be farm labourers are now owners of the land on which they produced fruit, thanks to the government's land reform policy.

We celebrated with the residents of Malope Village as the taps were opened to bring clean water right into the village and therefore within easy reach of the people. As an old lady in the village suggested, together we could sing: "We have clean water; we have defeated cholera!"

But we also heard, when the Provincial Executive met the Blouberg community, of roads so poor in places that they reduce the life of taxis and ambulances by years; we heard people say that they have the land and skills to produce food but need access to capital and tractors.

The pupils of Phiri-ea-gae School, where excellent matric results were achieved last year, told us they do not have educators to teach them physics and mathematics, no electricity and clean water.

I am sure that you will agree with me that this is a problem not only for Phiri-ea-gae but for many schools across our country. Clearly, this is a challenge that all of us, in both provincial and national government, must respond to without delay.

At Jane Furse we found dedicated doctors, nurses and administrators caring for their patients in run down hospital buildings, waiting patiently for an end to the delays in the completion of the new hospital.

All these things we heard and we agreed that we must indeed do better.

Without water there is no life; without education there can be no development; without properly equipped clinics and hospitals we cannot lead healthy lives; Without these basic needs there cannot be true freedom.

But for all these things to happen, we must all of us work together. For these things to happen we all of us must unite in action for change.

Throughout the country we have to do what we have done in the Northern Province in the past two days. We must go from village to village, from community to community. We must listen to the concerns of our people. We must join hands with our people in their determination to change their lives and our country for the better.

And we must accelerate the progress that has been made, because there has indeed been progress since 1994 when we achieved our freedom, seven years ago. There has been progress in bringing electricity to our homes; in opening access to water and clinics; in upgrading our schools and improving the skills of our teachers; in improving roads.

These things became possible when we achieved the freedom, which we are celebrating on this, our South African Freedom Day.

During the past year we continued with the consolidation of our democracy, when we elected fully democratic local government structures, bringing government closer to the people.

In doing so we ensured fully accountable and representative structures to serve the needs of our people and to expedite the pace of delivery where people live.

Furthermore, we created the conditions for a true partnership for development between government and communities.

I think all of us have to work together to ensure that these local structures succeed in realising the possibilities that freedom brings to make a better life for all.

I am sure all of you are aware that we renamed the Arabie Dam as the Flag Boshielo Dam.

In doing so we paid tribute to a hero who had struggled, like many other heroes most of whom are still unknown, so that we should be free; so that there should be no apartheid; so that we could together build a non-racial society.

At the dam we laid a wreath where the body of Tshepo Matloha was found, cruelly taken from us in his youth.

Today brings an opportunity once again to convey our condolences to his mother and his whole family. Tshepo's brutal death has shocked and hurt the whole nation, and our thoughts are with you in your grief.

All of us should join with the many people in our country, black and white, who are seeking how to deal with the legacy of racism in a way that unites all of us.

As we think of the tragic incidents that have shocked the whole country, I am convinced that they do not reflect on the people of any one province; or on the people of South Africa as a whole.

I am convinced that all sections of our diverse nation are deeply committed to building a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.

The day before yesterday at a meeting of opinion-makers in Pietersburg, one white patriot explained how instead of immigrating to New Zealand, he had "migrated" to the Northern Province from elsewhere in South Africa, because it was "a land of opportunity".

I know that the majority of white South Africans are committed to contributing towards the transformation of our society. These South Africans work very hard, every day and in many ways, to make a success of this beautiful country and not just for themselves. It is important for all of us to follow their good example because they realise that their continued prosperity depends also on the advancement of the poor.

On this Freedom Day we repeat our call to all South Africans, black and white, together to confront the ongoing legacy of racism and to build a non-racial society.

The freedom which we won seven years ago will only be fully realised when all our people have food and do not suffer hunger; when our children can all be educated to become our leaders of the future; when none of us fears discrimination or violence because of the colour of our skins, or because of crime.

We are meeting today on Freedom Day, as South Africans, to pledge together that we will ensure that this vision does indeed become reality.

We are meeting both to celebrate and commit ourselves to ensuring that the advances that we have made as a people are consolidated each and every day. Like the people of this Province and the rest of our people, we are confident that we are on the road to building a great and successful South African nation, which will have eliminated the divisions of the apartheid past.

Together we are striving to eliminate mindsets of inferiority and superiority from the consciousness of our people.

The advances we have made during our seven years of freedom in the most difficult circumstances, inspire us to believe that no matter what obstacles we face, together we will realise our dream of a prosperous, just and peaceful nation.

To reach that goal, our guiding principle must be: Unity in Action for Change! I wish you all a peaceful and happy Freedom Day.

Thank you.

Issued by: Office of the Presidency


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