Address on Freedom Day, 27 April 2003

Premier Popo Molefe,
Minister Ngubane,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
MP's, MECs, MPL's, Mayors and Councillors,
Traditional Leaders,
Distinguished Guests,
People of the North West,
Fellow South Africans:

Today, we celebrate the 9th anniversary of our freedom, a year before we complete a decade of our liberation.

Accordingly, it is important that we use the occasion of this Freedom Day, as we begin the last year of the First Decade of Freedom, to remind each other that our strategic goal remains the transformation of our society and the reconstruction and development of our country.

Since 1994, we have entered into a social contract, as South Africans, that central to the realisation of our strategic goal, is the eradication of poverty and the defeat of underdevelopment in every corner of our country.

In the last two days we visited different parts of the North-West Province. We interacted with many of our people to discuss the common c!hallenges that face all of us, to review the progress that we have and continue to make in our efforts towards a better life. Our people told us frankly where mistakes are being made, how we should improve the situation, and what needs to be done.

As we all know, to transform this society and bring about the reconstruction and development of our country, all our people must play their active role and ensure that the programmes that are put in place, address the real conditions at local levels.

We therefore celebrate this Freedom Day because of the work that we have accomplished, further committing ourselves to build on what has been achieved in less than a decade and drawing inspiration from one another to accelerate the pace of implementation of our programmes.

We celebrate freedom because it has given us the possibility to deliver services to the people in the last nine years that have not been delivered throughout the years of white minority rule.

Today, we celebrate because millions of our rural people now have access to clean water and electricity, services that benefit especially women and children.

We have cause to celebrate because more than a million previously homeless people, now have housing. Many more will access the state subsidy, so that they have shelter.

We have managed to bring many legible beneficiaries into the welfare system. In the last three years alone, beneficiaries of social grants have doubled. The challenge facing all of us is to ensure that this social welfare system functions well, that it reaches all those who should access it, that we root out all corruption in this system and that we serve our people inspired by the ethos of Batho Pele.

We celebrate with many of our poor children because they are now assured of at least a decent meal a day, through the school-feeding system.

As we celebrate our freedom, let us work together further to improve the education of our children, ensure that there are sufficient classrooms, particularly in the rural areas, work to build laboratories and libraries, supply computers in the black schools and areas and assist children from disadvantaged backgrounds to perform better in mathematics and science subjects.

This Freedom Day is important because it is a day that made it possible for us to improve access to health with the construction of many clinics in areas that had none in the past. Both in terms of budget allocations and increased programmes, we have intensified the fight against communicable diseases like TB, AIDS and Malaria.

Once more, with regard to Aids, we call on our people to act responsibly and respond to the call for abstinence, being faithful and using a condom. The government will continue to implement all its programmes that seek to confront this challenge.

On this Freedom Day we make bold to say we are confident that, working with our brothers and sisters on the continent and through the campaign of Rally Against Malaria, we can and must defeat Malaria, a disease which is the biggest killer on our continent, with more than one million fatalities a year.

Together as we celebrate, let us remember that we have a responsibility to ensure that our integrated community health care system becomes more effective and continue to improve the health of our nation.

In this last year of our First Decade of Freedom, we must advance the struggle against poverty, while we continue to transform our country into a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous democracy.

To this end, our economy must achieve better rates of growth than has been the case so far. We should ensure that individual South Africans as well as both the private and public sectors take the lead in improving the levels of investments in our economy.

To make sure that our freedom becomes meaningful to all our people, we must concentrate more efforts at employment creation as we grow our economy.

In this regard, we all need to do much more because progress in job-creation depends on a partnership among all sectors of society.

We are confident that the coming Growth and Development Summit will take advantage of the conditions that are in place for further improvement in the performance of the economy and ensure that we overcome the persistent structural unemployment problem and defeat the legacy of poverty and marginalisation.

Together we must build an economy that is productive and efficient; an economy that is a preferred investment destination and provides economic opportunities for all, develops our people to their fullest potential and helps to promote social equity, fairness and human dignity.

Chairperson;

We have a responsibility to ensure that our people know and are able to easily access the programmes that have been put in place to improve their levels of skill and expertise.

We must also focus on the community-based public works programme, directed at many of our poor and under-resourced areas. The need to improve our work in this area is a challenge to all spheres of government, state enterprises and the private sector.

Again, we celebrate today because the attainment of freedom has made it possible to use the state budget to improve the lives of the poor through initiatives such as the Integrated and Sustainable Rural Development and Urban Renewal Programmes.

Indeed, in our interactions in the last two days here in the North West, our people have pointed out what more we should do with regard to all these poverty alleviation programmes. To ensure that we all enjoy the benefits of our freedom, we should together improve our work in all these areas.

Government has taken a decision to establish a corps of community development workers within the public service. These workers will work directly with communities and assist our people with various problems of housing, welfare, health, development, education, safety and security and many others, in the spirit of Batho Pele!

Clearly, to consolidate this freedom that we are celebrating today, we must strengthen the sphere of local government. Because local government is the front desk of service delivery to our people, we must ensure that we continue to train those who work at this level so as to ensure efficient and effective implementation of our programmes.

At all times, we should ensure that people deployed at this level are in continuous touch with the mass of our people, that programmes are fully canvassed with communities and members of these communities become active participants in these development programmes.

Fellow South Africans;

We all have a duty and responsibility to work with the police to defeat crime in our areas, through the Community-Police Forums. Last year, many of our people intensified their collaboration with the police to improve safety and security in their areas.

Through our determined efforts, criminals must feel that they do not belong in our communities. Similarly, those who abuse women and children must have nowhere to hide in these communities.

Together we must defeat crime and make our areas safe because we did not win our freedom for criminals to terrorise our communities.

Chairperson;

We recently received the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). We have already reported to the nation, through parliament, the steps that we will take to move forward with regard to the issues raised in the Report.

We created the TRC to help us transform our society, assist the process of reconciliation and nation-building, having decided that in search for solutions to our problems nobody should be demonised or excluded; that we should not take the road of revenge and retribution.

We will continue to intensify programmes that we have implemented since the interim TRC report of 1998, relating to social services, health, housing and education support to the identified victims of gross human rights violations, in addition to the monetary reparations. We will also continue to engage our corporate citizens to partner us in the reconstruction and development of communities, intensifying work towards poverty eradication, black economic empowerment, implementation of equity legislation and the skills training programmes.

Let me use the occasion of this Freedom Day to pay tribute to all those who made it possible for us to celebrate this day, many of whom are no more with us. We should forever remember the sacrifices they made so that our country can enjoy democracy.

In their memory we should, as South Africans, work together to strengthen and entrench this democracy and ensure that we accelerate the process towards a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous nation.

These heroes and heroines include many who are on the African continent as well as in the wider international community.

Next month, on the 25th May, we will have the honour to host the 40th anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which as we know, has now been replaced by the African Union (AU). I trust that all our people will be part of these celebrations and use the occasion, once more, to thank our brothers and sisters on the African continent for their support in ensuring that we attain the freedom that we are celebrating today.

As South Africans, we know that none of us can enjoy sustained freedom and security in isolation. Our future depends on a shared destiny with the rest of the African continent. Without peace, stability and security in our country, on our continent and in the world, our efforts at development will fail. Through the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the African Union's programme, we seek to ensure that our collective efforts, as Africans, bring peace, stability, progress and prosperity to all the people of this continent.

Accordingly, as we celebrate our freedom, let us wish our compatriots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the best of success as they implement the agreements they freely entered into to establish a democratic order in and unify that important country.

We also extend our support to the government and people of Angola as they grapple with a transition from one of the longest conflicts in Africa, towards a stable and peaceful country.

Our support also goes to the people of Sudan as they attempt to close the vicious chapter of war and begin a new leaf of peace and stability. We also extend our support to the government and people of the Ivory Coast.

On Wednesday a delegation from our country will visit Burundi to witness the swearing-in of the President and Vice President of the Republic of Burundi for the Second Transition Phase aimed at stabilising that country and moving it away from the politics of war and violence.

These positive developments indicate clearly that Africans can and must continue to address their main challenges and find solutions to their problems. Accordingly, we have every right to celebrate these successes as well.

As we have done in the past, we would continue to be of assistance to the people of Zimbabwe until they, also, achieve lasting solutions to their problems.

We celebrate our freedom today because none among the African countries that supported our struggle as well as the OAU, became impatient with our efforts, or sought to impose their views on how we should address the varied challenges of this country.

As we celebrate our own freedom, we cannot forget our obligations to the people of Palestine, and the need to find a just solution in the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Fellow South Africans;

On this Freedom Day, let us continue to push back the frontiers of poverty. Let us continue with our programme of volunteerism, of Letsema and Vuk'uzenzele.

Because the tide has turned, let us ensure that the people's contract for a better tomorrow takes shape today.

I wish all the people of our country a happy Freedom Day.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa