Address by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the Freedom Day celebrations, Bisho Stadium, Eastern Cape, 27 April 2007

Renewing our Pledge: A National Partnership to Build a Better Life For All!

Programme Director,
Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan,
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Nosimo Balindlela,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Public representatives from all spheres of government,
Traditional Leaders,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests,
Fellow South Africans:

Once again, our nation has come together, here in Bhisho as well as in different parts of the country on this historic day, 27 April 2007, to hold aloft the banner of freedom that we so fondly cherish because we all fought so hard to achieve it, inspired by the vision of a united, just, democratic, non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous society.

As we celebrate our freedom, we recall and salute the heroism, the sacrifices and the selflessness of our people who made it possible for all of us to live in a strong and vibrant democracy. We remember and salute our brothers and sisters on the African continent and our friends across the world, whose solidarity made it possible for us to defeat apartheid a crime against humanity. All of them, through their determined struggles and efforts, ensured that South Africans today have the possibility to build a just, united and prosperous country.

Accordingly, as a nation, we renew, on this historic day, our pledge to build a better life for all, working in partnership with all sectors of our society. As we renew our pledge on this thirteenth anniversary of our freedom, we also take pride in the progress we have made since 1994, towards a better life for all and a more united society. We renew our pledge knowing that for millions of our people, today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will bring more joy than today.

As we renew this pledge, millions of our people are conscious of the fact that, as their neighbouring villages gets clean water, electricity, clinics and proper roads, as many move from informal to formal houses, their turn will surely come as day follows night. This they know, because they have seen the determined efforts of the democratic government since 1994, to ensure a better life for all.

Indeed, working in partnerships we have helped to restore the dignity of many South Africans through the broadening access to basic services previously denied to them; in the opening doors to education; the economic opportunities that have been created and in the gathering pace of our country economic growth that creates the resources for further advances in improving the lives of communities.

Our constitution and policies are all based on the quest for a non-racial, non-sexist society in which individuals and communities are free to practice their beliefs, traditions and cultures without fear. At the same time, as we renew our pledge for a national partnership to build a better life for all, we do so aware that there is a minority in our country who have made crime their business, who terrorise our communities, robbing our people of their hard-earned valuables, raping women and children and in the process using unimaginable violence on law abiding citizens of our country.

There are those who are engaged in drug-trafficking, targeting our youth to become addicts, destroying the future of this young people while they line their pockets with money from this illicit and criminal act. We are aware of those who steal public and private money, those engaged in corrupt activities and thus deny our people, especially the poor, the possibility of realising a better life sooner rather than later.

As we rededicate ourselves to build a better life for all, we are conscious that the legacy of apartheid and colonialism still disfigure our nation; that we have not wholly removed the cancer of racism in our society; that we have only moved slowly towards building a truly non-racial society; that the majority of South Africans are still excluded and marginalised from the ownership, management and control of the economy of this country; and that millions of our people, especially black people, still live in abject poverty.

These are the challenges that confront us today as we renew our pledge of a national partnership for a better life for all. We therefore call on all South Africans, from all stations in life to rededicate ourselves and work together to address the many, varied and big challenges facing our country so that as today is better than yesterday, tomorrow should bring more joy than today to all the people of our country.

On this important day in our national calendar, we call on our people tore new their pledge for partnerships at community levels the local youth, women, business people, civic bodies, political organisations and the police to form and strengthen partnerships, to join community police forums, to create street and areas committees so that together we can effectively fight crime.

Together let us identify those who steal and sell stolen goods; let us expose those who sell and use drugs; let us expose those who rape and abuse women and children. And then let us report them to the police. If the local police do not act, the community should contact the provincial and even the national police commissioners, the MECs for safety and security liaison and the national Minister of Safety and Security for immediate action.

Let us pledge today that we will not sit on the sidelines when we know that there is a neighbour and even a relative who is engaged in crime, often even shielding them and then blame the police for not doing anything about crime. Let us pledge to work in partnership in our communities, using the same street and area committees to expose corrupt government officials and public representatives who make it difficult for our people to access the services that are due to them. Let us use the same forums to partner government and assist in accelerating development in our areas.

Fellow South Africans,

We need to dedicate ourselves to the building of a socially cohesive nation, always working to create a common identity as South Africans, united in diversity, bound together by the same vision of creating a truly non-racial, non-sexist society based on the values of Ubuntu.

Clearly, all sectors of society should join forces in a national partnership to achieve social cohesion and build national unity. While priding ourselves on the successes we have made since the dawn of freedom, we equally have a duty to reflect on the challenges that we still have to do, especially the eradication of the legacy of our odious past.

Indeed, since the onset of freedom and democracy in our country we have traversed a long and arduous journey of bringing together a nation until then fractured by a deeply entrenched system of institutionalised racism. However, to accelerate our efforts towards a non-racial and non-sexist society and build a better life for all means working in partnerships to fight the legacy of apartheid in all its manifestations.

It means that we must fight racism wherever it appears at the workplaces, in business, at schools, in the media, in the streets, at the dinner tables, in public and private institutions and in every part of our country and society. Further, freedom and democracy gave birth to a culture of human rights in South Africa. At the centre of the new culture of human rights is the promotion of non-sexism and non-racialism. We therefore, call upon all South Africans to work in partnership, especially with institutions such as Commission for Gender Equality, Human Rights Commission and others for the promotion, protection, development and attainment of human rights.

Three years into the second Decade of Freedom, let us renew the pledge we made as a nation as we entered the decade, to build a national partnership to advance faster towards a better life for all. The progress we made in the last thirteen years of freedom laid the foundation for us to move still faster towards a better life for all and to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014.

Let all of us, on this day, the Freedom Day, rededicate ourselves to build a better society in which we can defeat poverty, unemployment, homelessness and economic marginalisation. Together, government, business, traditional leaders, women, youth and workers should help the rural poor with simple yet critical programmes that would alleviate poverty and hunger. Together let us help to set-up and strengthen community gardens, co-operatives, small and medium enterprises and structures aimed at the upliftment of our people in the rural areas.

It means that government's expanded public works programme should be accelerated and services to rural areas radically improved, so as to continue changing for the better the living conditions of the mass of our people in the rural areas, so that they can also feel that while today is better than yesterday, tomorrow will bring more joy than today.

In this regard, all of us as South Africans business, women, youth and both the public servants and public representatives, should rededicate ourselves to building a caring nation. Today, on the occasion of the celebrations of our freedom, we renew our partnership committed to working with business for a growing economy that benefits all, an economy that creates the resources necessary to push back the frontiers of poverty.

Together, let us ensure that our economy achieves higher rates of growth and that all the people of this country share in this growth; that our businesses re-invest in our economy, in this way helping to create more jobs and thereby fight poverty. Together government, institutions of higher learning and business let us strengthen efforts aimed at addressing the shortage of skills in our country.

Together, we must work hard to tackle the challenges of our second economy and ensure that measures aimed at addressing the specific needs of the millions who subsist in this economy are effective, so that these masses of our people can also become part of the first economy and enjoy its benefits. To work in partnership to build a better life for all means that all of us should be committed to the implementation of policies aimed at bringing black people into the mainstay of the economy and therefore help implement policies on affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE).

Compatriots,

To strengthen our democracy means the emancipation and empowerment of women. This empowerment must happen at home, at school, at work, in business, in the media, in government and in society in general. To achieve this empowerment means women must be prioritised in job-creation, in business development and in the broad-based black economic empowerment.

As government, we will continue to work with our social partners to promote the economic empowerment of women in terms of access to finance, fast-tracking of skills development at all levels and in government procurement. We will strengthen our capacity to focus on the challenge of making it easy for women to access the opportunities created by the policies and programmes in place.

In whatever we do we should ensure that the role of women in the consolidation our freedom and democracy is high on the national agenda. Equally, we call on all our youth across the spectrum of society to ensure that they work hard to consolidate the advances that we are making as a nation, advances that they, themselves, will proudly inherit.

We reiterate our call for our youth to act as a vanguard against crime, against drug abuse, against woman and child abuse; to set their sights on education and obtain scarce skills that our country require. Our youth should take advantage of opportunities presented by government and working with the National Youth Commission, cultivate a spirit, culture and ethos of working among our people, of dedication and service to the people. They should also use Umsombovu to become real entrepreneurs that are much needed in the economic sphere of our country.

Three years into the second Decade of Freedom, let us renew the pledge we made as a nation as we entered the decade, to build a national partnership to advance faster towards a better life for all. In this regard, the transformation of the public service has brought progress in creating a government that serves all the people. Yet, our public representatives and civil servants must take it upon themselves to better serve all South Africans efficiently and with dedication and pride, in the spirit of Batho Pele, doing so in the full knowledge that they are fulfilling the critical role of helping create a caring and better society.

Fellow South Africans,

Freedom Day is an important day in our national life. It symbolises the dawn of freedom and democracy. It represents a call to sustain the national effort that brought about freedom, which is critical in consolidating our democracy and promoting non-sexism and non-racialism. It enjoins us to fight and defeat crime and corruption. It calls on all South Africans to unite and defeat poverty and underdevelopment. It calls on all of us to work in partnership for a better future.

Let us therefore renew our pledge of a national partnership to build a better life for all. Wherever you are, I wish you a happy Freedom Day.

Thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
27 April 2007


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