New Year’s Message of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki: 31 December 2007

Fellow South Africans:

As we bid farewell to the year 2007 and welcome the year 2008, I would like, on behalf of our government, to wish you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

At this time of the year many of us adopt New Year resolutions in anticipation of the challenges of the New Year. Equally, the birth of a new year also offers all of us together the possibility to recommit ourselves to work for a better future for all our people.

This passing year, 2007, saw many gains on many fronts as we continued to work for the consolidation of a united, just and democratic society, marked by economic prosperity and the eradication of poverty.

Let us begin the New Year committed to the objective of national unity, with renewed confidence in our collective strength to ensure that our democracy will continue to serve all our citizens, determined to accelerate our progress towards the realisation of the goal of a better life for all South Africans.

I would like to thank everybody in our country, whether in government, civil society, business and patriotic individuals for the work they did this year to ensure that our country becomes the success we all want it to be.

This important work has impacted on all elements of our national life, including the strengthening of our democracy, the further expansion of our economy, the further opening of the doors of learning and of culture, the improvement of the safety and security of all our citizens, and increasing our capacity to meet our international responsibilities to our Continent and the rest of the world.

In 2007 our economy grew from strength to strength, consolidating the gains it had made the previous year. Government and its social partners continued to work towards eliminating poverty and reducing racial and gender inequality in our society.

However, the critical challenge of reducing poverty and inequality still persists. Accordingly, during 2008 government must redouble its efforts vigorously to increase the tempo of economic growth and job creation, to raise the floor of prosperity that must go with our democracy.

We will also have to work to ensure that we improve the effectiveness of all our other interventions directed at accelerating our advance towards the achievement of a better life for all our people.

The year that ends today, taken together with the preceding period since we gained our freedom, has laid a firm foundation for us to realise all these
objectives.

Our economy faces some important challenges. These include a higher inflation rate than we would wish for, driven by high crude oil and food prices. This has led to higher interest rates than we desire. All this has also been accompanied by a sustained deficit in the balance of trade, reflecting that we are importing more than we are exporting.

Despite these challenges, we have to continue to pursue the goal of a higher rate of economic growth, driven by increased investments and improvements in productivity. At the same time, we must continue to strive to ensure that this growth also results in the creation of new job opportunities. Among other things, this means that we must sustain our focus on the challenge of raising the skills levels among our working people.

Similarly, we must use the foundations we have laid further to accelerate the access especially of the poor to adequate housing, accessible and affordable health care, free basic services, education, water and sanitation, electricity and so on.

At the same time, within the context of a properly targeted anti-poverty strategy, we must continue to attend to the task of ensuring that our system of social grants reaches the people most in need, to provide the necessary cushion to protect as many people as possible from falling into abject poverty.

Among other things, this means that we will have to continue to attend to the related task further to improve the performance of our government in all three spheres, with special emphasis on local government. In this regard, we will have to ensure that our system of government truly respects the now long-established principle of *batho pele* – people first!

Further, I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the young people who passed their Matriculation examinations, bearing in mind the fact that this year the largest ever number of candidates sat for the examination and passed.

We must also pay special tribute to the young people of Khutsong as well as the North West and National Departments of Education for the good work they did to ensure that these learners achieve a credible success rate.

Necessarily, once again we must draw the relevant lessons from the Matric results to ensure that we continue to work in a focused manner to improve the entirety of our system of education.

Fellow South Africans:

The number of road accidents in our country and the resultant fatalities and injuries continue to be matters of grave concern. Once more we call on all road users, including pedestrians, to listen and respond to all the important messages communicated through the Arrive Alive Campaign.

Similarly, we must continue to act in unity to combat crime, and thus further improve the safety and security of all our people.

Of course, even as we attend to our domestic challenges, as we must, we cannot forget our international obligations.

In this context I would like to reiterate our sense of outrage at the murder of the prominent Pakistani political leader, Benazir Bhutto. We sincerely hope that the government and people of Pakistan will find the strength and wisdom in themselves successfully to respond to the crisis created by the assassination of Ms Bhutto in the interest of peace and a stable democracy in their country and region.

We also hope that the process of negotiations intended to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, initiated at the Annapolis Conference in the United States, will proceed vigorously to meet the 2008 deadline agreed by the leaders of Palestine and Israel.

We remain confident that the leaders of the people of Zimbabwe will conclude their negotiations successfully, leading to the holding of free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary elections and the creation of a firm base for this sister country to address its socio-economic challenges in unity.

Similarly, we extend our best wishes to the Governments and peoples of Burundi, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan as they work to resolve the challenges they face.

We also reiterate our appeal to the United Nations to do everything in its power to resolve the long-standing conflict over the future of Western Sahara, in keeping with the resolutions of the UN Security Council.

The year ahead will present our country with new tasks and challenges arising from decisions adopted at the recent 52nd National Conference of the ruling party, the ANC. We must respond to all these bearing in mind the national goal our country has set itself – the goal of ensuring that our democracy remains unwavering in the pursuit of the objective of a better life for all our people.

Before I close, on behalf of our government and people, I wish our national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, success in the African Cup of Nations tournament which kicks off in Ghana in a few weeks. Our entire nation is confident that Bafana Bafana will emulate the example set by the Springboks who only recently won the Rugby World Cup.

Once again, on behalf of our government and in my own name I wish you, fellow South Africans, a happy and successful 2008.

Thank you.

Inquiries: Mukoni Ratshitanga: 082 300 3447

ISSUED BY THE PRESIDENCY
31 DECEMBER 2007

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