Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the National Freedom Celebrations: Galeshewe Stadium, Kimberley, April 27, 2006

Programme Director, MEC Gomolemo Lucas,
Honourable Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan,
Honourable Premier of the Northern Cape, Dipuo Peters,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Worship, the Mayor of the Sol Plaatjie
Municipality, Patrick Lenyebi,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Fellow South Africans:
Dumelang! Molweni! Abuxheni!

I am honoured to address all our fellow South Africans from this podium in the township of Galeshewe. On behalf of our government, I convey the warmest greetings to all of you on this important day in our country's calendar... our Freedom Day.

The celebration of Freedom Day is no ordinary celebration. It is a day when all of us need to pause and reflect on the past, to remember the heroes and heroines who brought us our freedom - those whose sacrifices made it possible for all South Africans, black and white, to enjoy the benefits of democracy and for all of us to prosper in conditions of peace and stability.

As we celebrate this important day we need to ask ourselves whether we are today using all the opportunities brought by freedom and democracy to prepare for a better tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we will be laying to rest Ellen Motlalepule Kuzwayo, one of the exceptional human beings produced by our people, who has left us a legacy of dedication to freedom and democracy and service to the people, especially the poor, which must continue to inspire us as we strive to achieve the goal of a better life for all.

Ironically, we will be burying Ma-Kuzwayo a day after the celebration of Freedom Day, the freedom for which she sacrificed so much, without expecting any material reward in return. We have a duty to honour the memory of Ma-Kuzwayo by further strengthening our democracy, by advancing the agenda for gender equality and the emancipation of women, and by intensifying the fight to defeat unemployment and poverty.

Again, during this month of April our people are commemorating the brutal death of our leader, Inkosi Bambatha kaMancinza Zondi who led the Bambatha Rebellion against poll tax 100 years ago and through his actions inspired many patriots to sacrifice for the freedom that we are celebrating today.

As we celebrate and enjoy this freedom, we must remember and honour the countless heroes and heroines who, like Bambatha and Ma-Kuzwayo made it possible for us to attain our liberty.


In the past 12 years our country has experienced a stable democracy, entrenchment of freedom, a growing economy and steady progress in bringing a better life to all our people.

However, like all of you, our government knows that we still have a lot of work to do before we can say that all our people enjoy a decent standard of living and quality of life. At the same time we are convinced that over the last 12 years we have laid a strong foundation for us to accelerate our advance towards the achievement of the goal of a better life for all.

This means that the government is determined to speed up the process that should help us to achieve higher rates of economic growth as well as create more jobs and reduce unemployment. We are determined to move faster with regard to the reduction of poverty. We have to speed up the delivery of houses, clean water and sanitation, health facilities, electricity, good roads and so on.

It was for this reason that we said that we have entered our Age of Hope... hope that building from the foundations we have established, we will be able to accelerate our progress towards the achievement of the important goal of a better life for all our people. As we celebrate our freedom, we have a duty together to ensure that we do not disappoint the hopes of the nation that with regard to the reduction of poverty and improving the standard of living of all our people, we will indeed meet the target to make faster progress in the next eight years than we did during our first twelve years of our freedom.

Among others, this means that all sectors of our society should work together for:

  • A growing economy that benefits all;
  • Speeding up access to social services;
  • An effective and efficient civil service duly committed to the Batho Pele principles;
  • Improved safety and security for all; and,
  • Africa's renewal and a better world.

As we are aware, the Deputy President of our country, the Hon Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, is leading what we call the Accelerated Shared and Growth Initiative of South Africa (AsgiSA) - a plan for faster and shared economic growth, which is building on the achievements and opportunities that were created as a result of the freedom that we are celebrating today.

Among other things, AsgiSA will ensure acquisition of priority skills needed to grow a competitive economy that creates jobs. This initiative will not only help us to grow the economy but will also contribute significantly towards the reduction of poverty and unemployment by half by 2014, as required by the United Nations.

At the same time, within the context of what we have said about the foundation we have built, enabling us to intensify the fight against poverty and underdevelopment, we will agree that one of the most pressing challenges facing our country is the need to strengthen local government.

Our country held the third successful democratic local government elections at the beginning of March this year. Once more, we thank the staff and leadership of the Independent Electoral Commission, the volunteers, all political parties and the millions of those who voted, for helping to deepen our democracy and freedom through these elections.

The millions of voters who voted in these elections have given our elected councillors a clear mandate to accelerate the process towards achieving the goal of a better life for all. In this regard, there are a number of key local government priorities that have to be addressed urgently.

One of these priorities is the matter of the capacity of local government structures. Part of this challenge arises from the absence of people with the necessary skills that are critical for the efficient infrastructure and service delivery to communities. To address this problem, special measures have been put in place, including targeted recruitments and secondments to ensure that our municipalities have people with required skills such as engineers, building inspectors, architects, health workers, accountants and others.

Further, as part of addressing this challenge, a Municipal Leadership Development (MLD) qualification has been developed for councillors and senior local government officials. I therefore urge councillors and municipal officials to use the opportunity presented by this initiative to equip themselves with the skills necessary to build developmental municipalities that are efficient, effective and responsive to the needs of our people.

We have to attend seriously and systematically to this matter because it cannot be that after 12 years of democracy we still have municipalities that cannot deliver basic services because of lack of capacity.

Further, we have to attend to the challenges posed by the former cross-border municipalities. I must emphasise that none of these former cross-border municipalities will in any way be disadvantaged by falling with the boundaries of any of our nine provinces because, among other things, resources allocated to municipalities from the national government will continue, regardless of the provincial location of any municipality.

In this regard, I must warn all those who engage in criminal violence attacking councillors and destroying private and public property will be met with the full force of the law. They must know that they will not succeed to terrorise and intimidate the government and the nation by resorting to crime. The Police Service has a duty to ensure that all those who engage in criminal activities are arrested and brought before our courts.

The national and provincial governments have addressed all matters of capacity and the possible administrative challenges of ending the unsustainable situation of cross-boundary municipalities. On this matter, I would like to mention the fact that already the implementation protocols between all the affected provinces have been concluded so that all transitional matters are attended to and service delivery is not affected.

Indeed, as part of Project Consolidate which is a programme aimed at helping struggling municipalities, there will be focus on the deployment of people with specific skills and expertise to the former cross-border municipalities as well as other specific targeted areas.

All these interventions are focused on ensuring that our municipalities are able to attend effectively to the matter of service delivery in a manner that continues to improve the lives of all our people.

Among others, the municipalities, supported by the other spheres of government, must move faster to address backlogs on water, sanitation and ending the bucket system, electricity and delivery of free basic services.

Led by the Department of Provincial and Local Government a plan has been developed to address capacity to plan and implement infrastructure projects, and ensure full utilisation of funds provided to maintain and improve municipal infrastructure. Professionals have been deployed on a short-term basis to help remove any blockages and support project implementation. In addition, the next group of people with specific skills... the Service Delivery Facilitators linked to Project Consolidate - will be deployed in the relevant municipalities from next month.

Clearly, the matter of service delivery is central to our freedom because we cannot enjoy this freedom while our fellow South Africans have no clean water, have no sanitation and are still using the bucket system. We cannot enjoy this freedom while many among us still have no electricity and other basic services. It is therefore very important that all spheres of government combine their efforts to ensure speedy implementation of programmes around these basic services.

Further, our experience has taught us that one of the challenges facing the sphere of local government is the matter of corruption. Accordingly, we have developed A Local Government Anti-Corruption Strategy with the necessary implementation plan to ensure that we achieve our objectives in this regard, focusing on prevention, detection and investigation.

In this regard, we would like to warn those who think that our municipalities are some cash cows ready to by milked by greedy and corrupt councillors, businesspeople and officials, that the law will deal appropriately with them so that the resources intended for our communities are correctly utilised.

Fellow South Africans,

We have insisted that further to strengthen our democracy, we must ensure meaningful participation of the people in the process of governance. To ensure that The People Shall Govern, we have among other things created a system of Ward Committees to afford local citizens both the opportunity to contribute positively to local development as well as increase their democratic involvement on matters affecting their communities.

During our Imbizo visits before the last local government elections, government was fully briefed about the many and at times difficult challenges facing Ward Committees in the execution of their work.

We are indeed happy that the necessary interventions have been worked out so that the local government system is better able to utilise these committees in the on-going efforts to improve the living conditions of our people.

Again, government has prioritised the important matter of the implementation of the Integrated Development Plans (IDP's). The IDP's are important because they are central to achieving integrated social and economic development in our municipalities. In this regard, we are paying special attention to the IDP's to ensure that, among other things, they include realistic local economic development programmes.

Indeed, because this matter has been a major challenge for a number of years, government has been working hard to help develop credible IDP's in all our municipalities, which has ensured that 80% of the expected IDP drafts had been completed by last month.

As we celebrate the 12 anniversary of our freedom it is vital that we accelerate service delivery especially to poor communities. The national and provincial departments are determined to play their role to support the municipalities and are working out concrete plans in this regard.

The provinces are working on a consolidated province-wide overview of the key actions that will be undertaken by provincial departments to support local government.

The Department of Provincial and Local Government has been tasked to continue to coordinate, facilitate, direct and monitor the hands-on support actions of national government to municipalities.

At the provincial level, the Office of the Premier, working with the provincial departments for local government will assume overall executive accountability for coordinating and monitoring the hands-on support to municipalities in each province.

At the same time, while the challenges around local government are one of the immediate priorities and our efforts for a better life, there are other challenges that we will continue to address.

Among these challenges is crime prevention and public safety. We continue to register important victories against crime and criminals because of the dedication of many police officers and improved integrated law enforcement. As we have said in the past, the fight against crime belongs to all of us and we should continue our close collaboration with the police so that we build safe and secure communities.

Today as we celebrate Freedom Day, we reiterate our resolve to continue the fight for a society based on freedom from unemployment, freedom from fear of crime, freedom from corruption, freedom from those who abuse women and children, freedom from hunger and freedom from poverty.

Fellow South Africans, as we enjoy this magnificent day let us do so keeping in mind the many challenges facing our country. Let us commit ourselves to do whatever is possible, working together, to help bring prosperity to our country and further ensure that all South Africans share in that prosperity.

To all of you gathered in this stadium and all the people of our country wherever they may be, I would like to wish you all a happy and peaceful Freedom Day.

I thank you.


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