Address by President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the 2014 Freedom Day Celebrations, Union Buildings, Pretoria, 27 April 2014

His Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of the Republic of Namibia and Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security,
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe
Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces
Premier of Gauteng Province
The Minister of Arts and Culture and other Ministers,
Premiers, Deputy Ministers, MECs,
Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures,
The Executive Mayor of the City of Tshwane and other Mayors,
Leaders of political parties
Traditional leaders,
Religious leaders,
Leaders of Civil Society formations
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Our Honoured Guests,
Fellow South Africans:

Sanibonani, molweni, dumelang, good day, goeie dag!

Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to our guest of honour, His Excellency President Pohamba.

We are truly honoured that you took time off your very busy schedule to celebrate this historic day with us today, Your Excellency.

Today marks exactly twenty years since the dawn of freedom and democracy in our country.

The first and historic democratic elections that were held on 27 April 1994, decisively marked the end of over three hundred years of colonial and white minority rule.

South Africans came out in their millions, forming long queues in villages, townships and suburbs, to cast their votes for the first time.

After casting his vote for the first time at the age of 75, former President Nelson Mandela proclaimed simple but very profound words, at the grave of the founding President of the African National Congress Dr John Langalibalele Dube in Inanda, Durban.

He said; “Mr President, I have come to report to you that South Africa is free today”.

Indeed we were free at last! We gained equal citizenship in the land of our birth. Soon thereafter a new Constitution came into being after hard work by South Africans represented by various parties. We gained the rights to life, equality, freedom of movement, speech and association, worker rights, children’s rights and women’s rights.

Our people gained socio-economic rights such as the right to water, electricity, housing, health, education, social security and others.

Most importantly, 1994 ushered in a new era of hope for all South Africans - a hope that the lives of the people would improve and that South Africa would be a better country than it had ever been.

And indeed, that has happened. South Africa is a much better place to live in.

In 1994, under the leadership of President Mandela, we had set out to achieve the following goals:

• The building of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society.

  • The deepening of our democracy and promotion of the culture of human rights and people´s participation in changing 
their lives for the better.
  • Meeting basic needs and developing human resources.
  • Building the economy and creating jobs.
  • Combating crime and corruption.
  • Transforming the state.
  • Building a better Africa and a better world.

We have done well on all these pillars in the past 20 years. We have moved closer to our cherished dream of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

As we celebrate these achievements, we remember those in our country who sacrificed for this freedom.

We are indebted to the generations of Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Oliver Reginald Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Lillian Ngoyi, Walter Sisulu, Dorothy Nyembe, Ruth First, Govan Mbeki, Yusuf Dadoo, Peter Mokaba and a host of other leaders who sacrificed life’s comforts for liberation and democracy.

We pay homage to those who perished in massacres and hit squad attacks perpetrated by the apartheid regime in Sharpeville, Langa, KwaNobuhle, Pietermaritzburg, Boipatong, Trustfeed, Shobashobane, kwaMashu, Thokoza, Kathlehong, Vosloorus or beyond our borders in Lesotho, Botswana and in other continents.

We pay tribute to those who were brutally executed by the apartheid regime here in Pretoria - from Vuyisile Mini to Solomon Mahlangu.

We remember the political prisoners who served time on Robben Island and many other prisons and those who were detained and persecuted for their beliefs in freedom, justice, equality and human dignity.

All these painful incidents remind us that our freedom was not free. It came about through blood, sweat and tears. That is why we must defend it at all cost.


This freedom would not have come about if the masses of our people did not make apartheid unworkable every single day.

We pay tribute to the South African masses who organised themselves into various formations, defying the might of the apartheid state.

We recall the fighting spirit of the more than 600 organisations that were part of the United Democratic Front (UDF) during the 1980s, the last decade before freedom.

The UDF emphasized the unique non-racial nature of our struggle.

We recall organisations such as the End Conscription Campaign, which fought against the recruitment of white youth into the apartheid South African Defence Force. They were determined that white youth should not be used to terrorise their black compatriots.

We remember the Black Sash, Detainees Parents Support Groups and many other progressive groups that helped to ease the pain inflicted by the apartheid state by supporting affected families.

We acknowledge the struggles waged by cultural, sporting, academic and other formations.

Memorable slogans such as that there can be no “normal sport in an abnormal society” remind us of the determination of our people to take the struggle to every arena.

We acknowledge the religious fraternity which maintained as vocal a voice against racial discrimination and oppression.

Through the South African Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, Diakonia and other formations, our belief that human rights and dignity are sacrosanct, was reinforced.

We recognise the sterling contribution of the legal fraternity through legal resources centres, National Association of Democratic Lawyers, Lawyers for Human Rights and others formations.

We acknowledge the contribution of progressive journalists who defied repressive censorship laws and police harassment as they exposed the atrocities and racism perpetrated by the apartheid state.


We salute the workers for their sterling contribution in the struggle for liberation.

The unification of the democratic trade union movement under the banner of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was one of the most significant developments in our history.

COSATU became a powerful and unstoppable force for change inside the country alongside the UDF and other formations.

Today we celebrate the hard-won rights of workers, including workplace organising, collective bargaining, equal pay for equal work, health and safety, skills development, minimum wages for workers in vulnerable sectors, the right to strike, and the right to peaceful protest.

More still needs to be done to promote the rights of vulnerable workers.

Together as government, organized labour and business, we will find solutions.


Let us celebrate the role of women, who since 1913, have been at the forefront of the liberation struggle.

Many women added life to the Defiance Campaign in the 1950s, including through their historic anti-pass march to this very Union Buildings in 1956. Many women ended up in prisons or in exile.

Today we celebrate the institutional mechanisms that have been established to protect women’s rights and dignity.

Progress in meeting basic needs such as housing and access to water has especially benefited women, redressing past inequalities.

We are celebrating the fact that more girls are in school and tertiary education than ever before, meaning that we are making progress in breaking the cycle of marginalisation.

Women continue to benefit from economic empowerment programmes. They are also the major beneficiaries of the social security programme, one of the key poverty alleviation mechanisms in our country.

More women are in senior positions in parliament, cabinet, provincial legislatures as well as in provincial and local government.

All of this is not surprising. Women fought for freedom.

Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi! Ayilwela kanzima lenkululeko.


Today we also celebrate the contribution of the youth in the struggle for liberation in our country. Generations of South African youth worked tirelessly to dismantle apartheid colonialism.

Inspired by the commitment of our youth to building a prosperous future, we have committed ourselves to invest in education and the empowerment of our young people and to improve their lives.

President Mandela introduced free health care for pregnant women as part of ensuring that South African children are born healthy, as one of the benefits of freedom.

We are carrying on his legacy by continuing to invest in children and we now begin investing in their education from birth.

Government spends 1.3 billion rand on Early childhood Development centres, subsidising these centres which are commonly known as crèches, and also subsidising fees of children from poor households.

Government pays R15 per day per child from poor households to prepare them for primary education and for the rest of the schooling years.

We are determined that children will not be disadvantaged by poverty from accessing education.

To further promote universal access to education, eight million children do not pay school fees.

In addition, nine million children receive meals at school so that hunger does not impair their performance.

More than 11 million orphans and vulnerable children benefit from social grants, to ensure that poverty in their homes does not disadvantage them and destroy their future.

In fact, our plan is that by 2030, South Africa should have a comprehensive system of social protection that includes social security grants, mandatory retirement savings, risk benefits (such as unemployment, death and disability benefits) and voluntary retirement savings.

We are happy with progress at primary and secondary education levels. Systematic improvements have led to an improvement of the matric pass rate from 61% in 2009 to 78% in 2013.

Our investment in higher education has expanded enrolments phenomenally.

Since 2009, we have spent more than one hundred and fifteen billion rand (R115 billion) on higher education and training, including more than eighteen point six billion rand (R18.6 billion) on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

We have also revitalised the National Youth Development Agency. It now focuses on both education and empowering the youth for economic participation.

The signing of the youth employment accord by government, business, labour and youth formations last year was a practical demonstration that this country takes youth development and the future of this country seriously.


I am sure you all agree with me that working together in the past 20 years and the past five years, we have made South Africa a much better place to live in.

We should congratulate ourselves for all this hard work.

We must not deny or downplay these achievements, regardless of our political differences or contestation at any given time, including the election period.

Our country has done well. We all have a good story to tell.

We have built a democratic state founded on the values of human dignity, non-racialism, non-sexism, the rule of law and universal adult suffrage as enshrined in the Constitution.

We have built strong institutions that continue to support our constitutional democracy.

Without fail, every five years, we continue to have regular elections, thus bringing to life the Freedom Charter declaration that no government can justly claim authority unless it was based on the will of the people.

We are succeeding to heal the wounds of our brutal and divided past.

We are gradually making progress in building a common national identity, built on respect for one another and the love of our country.

Step by step, we are building the South Africa that our selfless and committed freedom fighters fought for. We are making tremendous progress each year.

As indicated in our Twenty Year Review Report, we have made considerable progress building a better life for all.

Over the past 20 years employment, both formal and informal, has grown by around 5,6 million people, which is far faster than it was the case previously.

More work however still needs to be done to expand the capacity of our economy to absorb more people, especially the youth.

Building on the foundation laid by Madiba, we have registered significant improvements in access to health care.

More than 1 500 new health facilities including clinics have been built while others have been refurbished.

Most clinics are now open 24 hours a day and people do not pay to receive health care.

Our HIV and AIDS programmes have yielded dramatic results. There is increased life expectancy and thousands of children have been saved due to improved mother to child HIV transmission prevention programme.

Thousands more people are receiving treatment, and more than 20 million have boldly taken the HIV test following the launch of the testing campaign in 2011.

We want to urge our people not to become complacent just because our treatment programmes are effective and easily accessible now.

We must still follow the prevention messages and ensure that there are zero new HIV infections each day in our country.

We have a good story to tell in expanding access to basic services as well.

In 2012, 83% of households had access to proper sanitation compared to 50% in 1994.

Access to water has increased from 60% in 1994 to over 95% in 2012. Around 86% of households now have access to electricity compared to 50% in 1994.

As part of developing sustainable rural communities, we have distributed 9,4 million hectares of land, benefitting almost a quarter of a million people.

Over the past twenty years, close to 3 million houses were built and over 800 000 serviced sites were delivered. Fifty six percent of all subsidies allocated have been given to women headed households.

We are continuing to build new non-racial settlements and to ensure that more South Africans live closer to economic and employment opportunities.

South Africans have a good story to tell regarding the fight against crime as well, thanks to hard work by our police service assisted by communities.

Since 1994, the levels of serious crime and property crime have declined. But we are not complacent. Work continues to build even safer communities.

We are concerned that crime levels, particularly crimes against vulnerable groups such as women and children, remain of serious concern. This area will continue to receive our priority attention.

More progress made is in the area of improving access to justice, especially for those who were previously marginalised.

This has been done through the establishment of more police stations and courts as well as through the increased provision of legal aid.


I would like to congratulate the South African National Defence Force which also celebrates 20 years of existence.

The SANDF has been transformed from a force that used to terrorise our people in the townships and beyond our borders in the then Frontline states, to a force for peace, stability and development.

We have seen our soldiers saving our people in disaster areas. We have seen them undertaking peacekeeping duties with dedication and commitment in the continent.

We saw them working hard to give our beloved Madiba a dignified send-off in December last year. Indeed, we are very proud of our defence force.

The progress made by the SANDF indicates that we are succeeding not only in building a nation at peace with itself but also a nation at peace with the rest of the world.

Indeed, our country continues to contribute to building a better Africa and a better world, building on Madiba’s legacy.

Later today, we will be conferring National Orders; our country’s highest honours, to South Africans and foreign nationals who have made a difference in various aspects of our lives.

We take this opportunity to thank the international community for solidarity during our struggle for national liberation. Most importantly we thank SADC and Africa in general for the solidarity provided during our hour of need.

His Excellency President Pohamba represents a region that suffered immensely for our freedom.

He also represents a country, Namibia, with which we shared the trenches fighting for our freedom, against the same enemy. The ruling liberation movements in the two countries, SWAPO and the ANC, share a strong bond, which has translated to stronger relations between the two nations.


We have done a lot in 20 years, but we still have some way to go to eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Fortunately, we have a plan.

One of the key achievements of the past five years has been the development of the National Development Plan which has been endorsed by all political parties in parliament.

The Plan aims to eradicate poverty, create jobs and reduce inequality by 2030.

The next decade of freedom must be one in which we work together to advance economic transformation.

We will continue to work with the business sector to advance broad-based black economic empowerment and affirmative action, in order to change the ownership, control and management of the economy.

Already the Broad-Based Black Empowerment Act and the Employment Equity Acts have been amended to improve implementation and impact and advance economic transformation.

We will also, working together, continue to focus on making improvements in five priorities - job creation, health, education, rural development and land reform as well as the fight against crime and corruption.

We will also continue to expand access to housing and basic services.

There is a lot of work to be done, but we will succeed if we work together.


The precious right to vote was gained through relentless struggles and sacrifices.

Therefore, on the 7th of May, let us go out in our millions to vote and celebrate our hard won freedom and democracy. Let us vote to consolidate democracy and all the achievements of our young nation.

And, as we did in 1994 and in subsequent elections, let us deliver peaceful, free and fair elections.


Siyajabula kakhulu namhlanje ngoba iNingizimu Afrika esiphila kuyo isingcono kakhulu kunaleyo yangesikhathi sobandlululo.

Ukutholakala kwamalungelo abantu, ilungelo lokuvota, izindlu, ugesi, amanzi nokunye okuningi kuyakhombisa ukuthi inkululeko ize nentuthuko nenqubekela phambili.

Kufanele singakhohlwa ukuthi lenkululeko sayizabalazela, yatholakala ngegazi nangezinyembezi. Yatholakala ngezithukuthuku zabantu balelizwe. Kufanele siyivikele futhi senze isiqiniseko sokuthi akekho ongasiphuca yona.

Yingakho nje ivoti lethu libaluleke kangaka. Ilona eliyisikhali esivikela ngaso inkululeko yethu.

Ilona ivoti futhi esisheshisa ngalo intuthuko nenguquko ezweni lakithi. Makuphume nesidolo ngo May 7, siyovotela intuthuko nenqubekela phambili.

Sinifisela usuku lwenkululeko oluhle olunempumelelo, kanye nolumnandi nolugcwele injabulo.

Happy 20th birthday free South Africa! Happy freedom day to all!

God Bless Africa. God bless South Africa

I Thank You.

Enquiries: Mac Maharaj 0798793203 /

Issued by The Presidency





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