Address by the President of South Africa,
Thabo Mbeki, on the Occasion of the Women's Day Celebrations,
Atlantic Park Stadium, Witbank, Mpumalanga, 9 August
Premier of Mpumalanga, Thabang Makwetla,
Honourable Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan,
Honourable Minister of Home Affairs, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula,
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs and Mayors,
MP's and Councillors,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am very happy to address you on the occasion of our
National Women's Day being celebrated here in Witbank
and across the country.
In this year of the First Decade of Freedom, we also
celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the
Federation of South African Women and the adoption of
the Women's Charter. We also commemorate the 48th anniversary
of the renowned Women's march to the Union Buildings
by the women of this country as part of their heroic
struggle against apartheid.
We salute all our unsung heroines who, by their words
and deeds, taught us the true meaning of courage, sacrifice
and determination in pursuit of the noble goal of equality,
freedom and justice for all.
This year we celebrate a decade of freedom because
we were blessed to have such heroines of our struggle
as Charlotte Maxeke, Margaret Mncadi, Ray Simons, Ida
Ntwana, Francis Baard, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi, Lily
Diedericks, Rahima Moosa, Florence Matomela, Victoria
Mxenge, and many others who throughout the long years
of struggle demonstrated fortitude in confronting the
most difficult conditions of organising women under
severe apartheid repression.
As we make further advances in our centuries-old struggle
for freedom from apartheid and colonialism, we also
pay homage to our heroines who were among the first
prisoners on Robben Island in the 17th century like
Krotoa and Catherine of Paliacatt.
We salute too the pioneering entrepreneurship of freed
slave women like Maria Everts and Angela of Bengal who
are the sort of role models we seek today in empowering
women to take advantage of black economic empowerment
and other business opportunities available to all women.
As part of our celebrations today, we acknowledge the
immense legacy of our heroines of the past and those
who are still with us and continue to make their mark
in building a better South Africa and a better world.
It is because of their involvement in struggle over
many years that today's women are playing a central
role in transforming our country into a democratic,
non-racial and non-sexist society. For instance the
work being done today by women trade unionists builds
on the achievements of heroines such as Francis Baard,
Ray Simons and others who led the struggle for the rights
of workers and the possibility to broaden access to
It is because of the sacrifices of women leaders such
as Victoria Mxenge that we have increased the role of
women in all spheres of our lives.
Indeed, walking in the footsteps of Lilian Ngoyi, Helen
Joseph and others, today women play a central role in
different areas such as politics, civil service, business
and civil society.
As we gather to reflect on the journey of the women
whose struggles brought us liberation, we also look
back at ten years of our freedom. Although we still
have a lot of work to do, we have made progress in the
empowerment of women, both with regard to relevant policies
and in the actual implementation of these policies.
Government programme of pushing back the frontiers of
poverty, particularly in the rural areas, has benefited
many women of this country. This work will be accelerated
in the next decade of our freedom.
Because of the rich legacy inherited from our past
heroines, and inspired by the African ethos of Ubuntu,
we are proud that South African women are making an
important contribution in helping our sisters in the
rest of Africa, especially those emerging from conflict
situations, to work for the consolidation of peace and
stability, and plant the seeds for genuine and sustainable
As we celebrate Women's Day, we need further to commit
ourselves to accelerate the process that we have started,
of transforming South Africa from a male dominated society
to a truly non-sexist, non-racial and democratic society.
We need to move with the necessary speed to ensure that
the totality of government do not merely pay lip service
to gender equality. This applies both to the political
institutions as well as the public service, so that
the leadership in these structures become, in reality,
Similarly, we have to work together in all sectors
of business to ensure proper representation of women.
We should work closely with our compatriots in business,
so that together we can move away from the 'old boys
club' mentality that results in the exclusion of women
from positions in top and senior management, and give
the women of this country the opportunity to utilise
their god-given talents and expertise to drive our economy
This also applies to all our professional bodies, especially
in the legal, medical, accounting, engineering and higher
education fields, where women representation, in top
positions, is unacceptably low.
Within the context of the National Youth Development
Policy Framework, on 28 August we will launch the National
Youth Service Programme (NYSP).
I mention this because we expect that young women will
form a significant part of the target of 5000 young
people who will constitute the first intake. Government
is encouraging all NGOS and projects aimed at empowering
young women to register with the NYSP.
There remain many barriers which women still need to
overcome as we all try to overcome extreme poverty,
underdevelopment, disease, gender-based violence and
many complex domestic issues.
Government has heeded the voices of the masses of our
people that there instances where service delivery is
too slow, and the services inadequate and often physically
inaccessible. In many of these situations, especially
in the rural areas, women bear the brunt of this situation
of poor service delivery.
I am therefore happy that new Multi-Purpose Community
Centres (MPCC) have been launched in the month of August,
in the form of the Women's Caravan project. This is
a mobile information and service truck, which will take
some basic government services to the people, particularly
those in the most remote areas of the country.
Across all provinces, we will bring the Women's Caravan
and provide to our people such services as ID book applications,
birth registrations, marriage verification, social grants
applications, access to the Poverty Alleviation Programme,
and assistance to SMMEs, so that as many of our people
as possible are given the opportunity to engage in business
activities and by so doing help to grow our economy
and alleviate poverty.
Further, the National Prosecuting Authority will have
a mobile service to assist women with maintenance issues,
with assistance also being provided through the Public
In addition, government will intensify work around
efficient administration of social grants and also give
advice on government services to prevent gender-based
violence, including shelters and counselling for abused
These are some of the step we must take to improve
on what has been done. In Mpumalanga, you can visit
these mobile centres this week in Ogies and Kendall
We need concrete measures with regard to the empowerment
of women to make the necessary progress in ensuring
that women take leading roles in business, politics
and other areas of our lives.
Accordingly, I was very happy to learn of the achievements
of Monica Dzwinbo of Mpumalanga who is a woman sub-contractor
to Trans Africa Concession (TRAC), which has now empowered
eight woman sub-contractors in the Maputo Corridor Toll
Road. I know that there are many other examples throughout
the country. But we need many more women to be given
opportunities like Monica so that empowerment of women
is not just a matter of theory.
I am told that Monica, the 2000 winner of the prestigious
Pan African Broadcast and Heritage Achievement Award
for women builders in Africa, has a team of workers
in her company which is contracted to install underground
drains and to prevent soil erosion along the Maputo
Corridor Toll Road that passes through Mpumalanga.
Another inspiring story is the recent title bestowed
on Candice Morgan as Miss Deaf World in Prague. Candice
has broadened sensitivity to the issue of the empowerment
of women with disabilities, through her work with Deaf
Women across South Africa are providing us with shining
examples of what each and every one of us can and must
do to re-build our communities, our cities and towns,
our provinces, our beautiful country, South Africa and
We will also remember that last year, in Maputo, the
African Union adopted the Protocol to The African Charter
On Human And People's Rights on The Rights Of Women
In Africa. We need to work together, as social formations
and government, in collaboration with others in our
sister countries, to ensure that we implement this important
This is important because the Protocol addresses the
central challenge of the emancipation of African women
and goes beyond the simple recognition of the rights
of women, but enjoins all Africans actively to remove
all forms of gender discrimination, integrating the
gender perspective in policy decisions, legislation,
development plans, programmes and activities and demands
that corrective and positive action should be taken
in those areas where discrimination against women continues
We must also work to realise the goal set at the last
Summit of the African Union of achieving gender parity
in all decision making bodies in our country.
We also face the important task further to mobilise
the millions of women in our country actively to participate
in the struggle for their emancipation and gender equality.
We must build on the tradition established by the heroic
women who contributed to our liberation to ensure that
women today continue to be activists and fighters for
their own emancipation, contributing to the achievement
of the goal of a better life for all.
Let us celebrate Women's Day with great pride and joy.
Let's us renew our commitment to gender equality and
build a prosperous and peaceful nation free from all
forms of discrimination and poverty.
Enquiries: Bheki Khumalo
Cell: 083 256 9133
Issued by: The Presidency
9 August 2004