Address at Freedom Day Celebrations, 27 April 2003

The Premier of the Eastern Cape Province,
Executive Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Metro,
Mps and MPLs,
Councillors,
Members of the Port Elizabeth community,
Distinguished guests,
Fellow South Africans,

We gather here today to celebrate nine years of freedom, nine years of democracy, and of course nine years of working for a better life to all our people.

It is therefore a special occasion in our lives, and one that seemed unachievable many decades ago. But through the determination of all South Africans, we have managed to come this far.

We must therefore use this April 27 as a day of celebration, but also as a day of reflection. We need to spare a moment to think of where we come from, in order to appreciate the strides we have made in only nine years. Ours is indeed a remarkable achievement.

The 27th of April 1994 marked the beginning of a new era in this country, it marked the demise of the system of apartheid, and ushered in a democratically elected government whose task was to ensure that the lives of all South Africans were improved.

The challenges that we faced in 1994 when we came into power were enormous. The system of apartheid had left many of our people poor, without shelter, no proper education, and jobless.

The 27th of April therefore brought hope to all South Africans that things were going to change for the better.

And we believe they have changed, due to the hard work of all South Africans.

Also important on this day, is to reflect on achievements that are uniquely South African, which have made us an example of many societies in transition. One of these achievements is the readiness of all our people to embrace peace and reconciliation.

The report of the Truth and Reconciliation, released recently, has provided a practical example of the magnanimity, resilience and political maturity of South Africans, for them to be willing to put the past behind and look ahead to a better future.

We should indeed from time to time, pat ourselves on the back for what we have achieved. The TRC has given us an opportunity to entrench reconciliation, and to ensure that never again would such atrocities occur in our country.

The work of the TRC was part of a unique South African solution that set us on a course of reconstruction and development, nation-building, reconciliation and peace among ourselves.

Compatriots, as we enter the last year of the First Decade of Freedom, the question that most people in South Africa and elsewhere in the world are asking is "what progress has the democratically elected government made in respect of addressing the challenges that were identified many years ago?"

Government has made significant strides in addressing these challenges. We have broadened access to basic services such as housing, electricity, clean water and health care. We have provided over eight million of our people with access to clean water since 1994.

We have connected over three million households to electricity. In addition, over 1.4 million families now have roofs over their heads.

We had also made huge progress in the provision of basic health care to all our people including the construction of clinics and hospitals in rural areas, most of which had no such facilities.

There has also been an increased proportion of households with proper sanitation facilities.

Government has also been working very hard at addressing the challenges of poverty that many of our people live in.

In this regard we have intensified our programme of ensuring that all those who qualify for the various social grants do in fact receive them.

We admit that there are backlogs in certain parts of the country and we are putting pressure on civil servants to do their jobs effectively, to ensure that citizens receive the grants and other services that are due to them.

I am aware of the challenges facing this province. The Interim Management Team deployed by President Thabo Mbeki, at the request of the Premier of the Eastern Cape, to deal with maladministration and breakdowns in service delivery in the province late last year, presented its quarterly report to the provincial executive in Bisho last week.

I would like to assure you that the provincial as well as national government are working tirelessly to effect a turnaround.

Compatriots, there are also signs that our programmes for job creation are beginning to bear fruit, but we must also acknowledge that more can still, and needs to be done in this very important area.

Our efforts to create jobs require a partnership between the private sector, and ourselves and in most instances this has proved useful.

The realization that more work is still needed in our drive to deal with the problem of joblessness and influenced our decision on a need for a Growth and Development Summit which take place on June 7.

It is our hope that this summit will allow all social partners to make a meaningful contribution so as to speed up our efforts of creating a sustainable economy, and obviously more jobs for our people.

Compatriots, that in the nine years of democracy we have also worked harder to extend peace to other parts of the continent.

In our foreign policy, we are driven by the belief that there can be no sustainable development and economic growth in the continent without peace. We also believe that all Africans have a right to live in peace and harmony, and to live dignified lives.

You would be aware of interventions in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and other countries.

Our post-apartheid foreign policy has therefore been geared towards building a better Africa and a more caring and just world.

I will be travelling to Burundi on the 30th of April to witness the inauguration of a new President in that country, another success of the peace process in that country.

I am sure you join us in wishing the Barundi people well as they begin the second phase of their transitional period towards peace.

Fellow South Africans, as we celebrate our freedom today, I urge you never to lose sight of the road behind us, because that makes as appreciate what we have achieved, and gives us courage and optimism as we move forward to advance the access to a better life.

Let us, start today, in every town, village, home, factory and wherever we are, to prepare for the biggest celebrations ever next year, when we mark 10 years of freedom and restoration of human dignity.

Any people who have gone through the hardships and suffering that we have gone through collectively, and who have moved on to build a great non-racial society as we have, deserve such a celebration!

But before the victory parties next year, let us all roll up our sleeves, and accelerate programmes of eradicating poverty, creating jobs, fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and improving the quality of life.

As government, we will certainly play our part, to make next year's celebrations more meaningful.

I thank you!

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