President Mbeki's New Year's Message, 28 December 2001

Fellow South Africans

We are coming towards the end of the year 2001, the first year of the 21st century. As you know, we have called this particular century the African century. What has happened during this first year of the century has shown what can be done and what needs to be done.

We have moved forward towards peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and during this coming year South Africa will be hosting the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, which will enable the Congolese people to take their country forward.

We have moved forward with regard to peace in Burundi, the transitional government is in place, and units of our National Defence Force are in Burundi to assist the people of Burundi to move further forward.

During this year fundamental steps have been taken towards the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development. The first summit of the African Union will be held in our country and therefore during this coming year, South Africa will assume presidency of the African Union. The executive headquarters of the New Partnership for Africa's Development is being hosted by South Africa at the request of other African states.

As you know, later this coming year we shall also be hosting the World Summit for Sustainable Development, an important process regarding issues of the environment and of development that would impact positively on the poor people of the world.

This year we also held the UN World Conference against Racism very successfully.

All of these things demonstrate the confidence of the rest of the world in our country, in our people. The world is confident that we can contribute to issues of peace, of democracy, of development throughout the world. This is inspired by our own achievements as a country and as a people.

I would therefore like to congratulate all of us, all the people of South Africa, all the political organisations for ensuring that we did indeed overcome the problem of political violence in our country. I would also like to salute our legislators and all our executives from municipal level, provincial and national, for the work they have done, in order to reinforce the process of democracy in our country.

We have also made strides with regard to the challenge of development, and further progress has been made with regard to such matters as housing, schools, clinics and other aspects of social development.

I am also very pleased that we have managed to kick off our Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme, as well as our Urban Renewal Strategy. In particular in this regard, I would like to congratulate our municipalities that have worked very hard to make sure that we have programmes in both rural and urban areas that will actually address the issue of raising the standard of living, of improving the conditions of life of the poorest among our people.

We have also had the experience this year of visiting our people through a process of Imbizo. We are very inspired by the mood among our people who are confident about the future, who are very keenly interested themselves to get involved in the processes of the renewal of our country and our society.

During this coming year, we have to pay particular attention to the issue of human resource development. We have got to make sure that our people are better educated, are better trained in ways that would help them to get employment, so that we can continue to address the matter of reducing the levels of unemployment in our country.

I think we should also be proud that our economy has performed well despite the economic crisis around the world, despite the global slowdown. And in this regard I would like to congratulate both our workers and our business people for the work that they have done to make sure that the economy improves, because it is really only on that basis that we are able to address matters of poverty and underdevelopment.

It is clear that we continue to face many other challenges.

Quite correctly people have continued to focus on the issue of crime, and we must focus on this. And as the year came to its end, we concentrated on rape and in particular the rape of children and infants. This demands that everybody should be involved in fighting this horrible crime. Rapes occur in our homes, they occur amongst relatives, they occur among people who know one another. We must make sure that indeed we break the silence with regard to this, that we report the wrongdoers to the police and make sure that the system of justice punishes these people appropriately. But this is a matter on which both government and the people have to act together.

We have also continued to focus on the question of the health of our people, an important question, including the issue of AIDS. Among other things, what we have to do is ensure that within the public health system, within the clinics, we all act together to fight against theft and corruption within the public health system, because medicines and drugs continue to be stolen, linen continues to be stolen, food continues to be stolen, which results in making it very difficult for doctors and nurses to carry out their responsibility of looking after the health of our people.

The rural development programme and the urban development programme have given us the possibility to make sure that the ordinary people of our country get involved in the process of the reconstruction and development of our country. Not merely to sit and wait for government to do something. We must during this coming year take advantage of these programmes to make sure that our people are mobilised, mobilised to unite in action for reconstruction, for development.

We must exploit the spirit amongst the masses of our people for change to ensure that we do indeed call on the masses of the people to participate in dealing with all of the challenges that face us. And that will include ensuring that we receive the many thousands of guests that will be coming to our country during this coming year, that we receive them well, that we look after them well, and that we show to them the progress that we are making to overcome the problems of the past.

During this period I trust that everybody will continue to drive carefully. It is important that we reduce radically death and injury on our roads. All of us have to arrive alive, and that requires that all of us act together to protect the lives of our people.

We go into a new year of hope, a new year during which we will attain further progress, but this is a year in which we must reinforce the processes of acting together as South Africans, to make sure that we build the kind of South Africa that we would be proud to call home.

I wish all of you a happy new year.

Issued by The Presidency, 28 December 2001

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