Address by President Jacob Zuma during the Freedom Day Celebrations at the Union Buildings, Pretoria, 27 April 2015

The Premier of Gauteng and all Premiers present,
The Minister of Arts and Culture and all Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Acting Executive Mayor of Tshwane and all Mayors present,
Former Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity, Excellency Mr Amara Essy,
Members of Parliament and provincial legislatures,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps and all international guests,
Fellow South Africans,

Dumelang, sanibonani, molweni, good morning to you all.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you on this important day in the history of our beautiful country.

On this day, 27 April 1994, we held our first democratic elections, signaling the end of racist apartheid rule.

Today we remember that historic moment. We are celebrating our triumph over institutionalized racism, repression, state-sponsored violence and the enforced division of our people based on race or ethnicity.

Namhlanje sikhumbula usuku olubaluleke kakhulu emlandweni wezwe lakithi.

Usuku lolu lapho savota khona okokuqala ngqa, lapho esanqoba khona inqubo yobandlululo kwangena inkululeko nohulumeni wombuso wentando yeningi. 

Izindimbane zabantu balelizwe zakhetha ukufulathela ukucwasana ngebala nodlame, zakhetha ukuthula nobumbano nenqubekela phambili.

Under the leadership of former President Nelson Mandela, we demonstrated to the world that a new nation can rise from the ashes of racial intolerance and ethnic polarization. 

On Freedom Day we also recall the solidarity and friendship of many peace-loving nations and peoples from Africa and the world during the struggle for liberation.

President Nelson Mandela emphasised African solidarity at the Organisation of African Unity Summit in Tunis on 13 June 1994, when he said:

“When the history of our struggle is written…. It will tell a moving story of the sacrifices that the people of our continent made, to ensure that intolerable insult to human dignity, the apartheid crime against humanity, became a thing of the past”. 

Indeed, we shall never forget the solidarity, sacrifice and selfless support we received from our brothers and sisters in Africa in particular and from freedom loving nations outside of Africa. 

We had a successful transition in 1994 and began building a new united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. 

We developed a model Constitution which includes a Bill of Rights. The Constitution also incorporates socio-economic rights to promote access to basic services such as water, quality education, health, housing, social security and others.

It also enables the establishment institutions that promote democracy and the rights of citizens, the Chapter 9 institutions.

Our Constitution also establishes three arms of the state - the executive, judiciary and parliament - which function well together to strengthen the advance to a better life for all our people.

This year, we also celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter, which underpins our country’s democratic constitution.

Like the Freedom Charter, the Constitution emphasizes that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, thereby promoting a common citizenship, a common future and a common destiny for all.

The Freedom Charter adds that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people. 

Indeed, our people go to the polls every five years to elect a government of their choice.

On Freedom Day we also reflect on progress made in extending basic services to our people.

All reviews that have been undertaken, such as the 20 year review, Census 2011 and the reviews done by the private sector and some nongovernmental institutions, point to the fact that South Africa is a much better place to live in than before April 1994.

Millions of people now have access to water, healthcare, education, housing and many other basic needs which they did not have before 1994. Work is continuing to reach more people each year.

We have launched programmes to improve health care provision such as Operation Phakisa for ideal clinics. We want people to be treated with dignity and compassion when they are ill or visiting relatives who are sick in health facilities.

We continue to explore ways of improving the quality of education. We conduct special annual national assessments of our learners and continue to build new schools and refurbish existing ones because we want the best education for our children.

We continue to implement programmes designed to achieve economic freedom, because political freedom alone is inadequate.

With our massive industrialisation and infrastructure programmes, we consciously include black people, women, the youth and persons with disability to enable them to participate in the economy. 

To further expand black economic empowerment, we are on course to grow a new crop of black industrialists.

Working with business and labour, we keep looking for innovative ways of expanding the economy so that our people can get jobs. 

Programmes such as Operation Phakisa for the Ocean Economy, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, or the renewed investment in agriculture are designed to explore opportunities of boosting employment creating growth.

We are also working harder to further promote trade and economic relations with nations within the African continent.

Africa is crucial to our economic growth and development. It is trade with our continent among others that helped cushion South Africa’s economy during the difficult times of recession from 2008.  

Many South African companies have established themselves successfully in the continent and have been warmly received. 

We welcome their contribution to the economic development of our continent.

Compatriots and friends,

Today we congratulate ourselves as South Africans for the achievement we have scored, working together.

As we enter the third decade of our freedom, we recommit ourselves to the vision of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

The National Development Plan which is the country’s socio-economic development blueprint which is being implemented by government, outlines the type of society we want to be in 2030.

The National Planning Commission which produced the National Development Plan, had diagnosed some of the following challenges in our country;

  • Too few people work.
  • The quality of school education for black people is poor.
  • Infrastructure is poorly located, inadequate and under-maintained.
  • The public health system could not meet the demand of our people or sustain quality.
  • Public services were uneven and often of poor quality.
  • Crime and corruption levels were high.
  • South Africa remained a divided society.

Our country then produced the National Development Plan to help us reverse these challenges.

Informed by this Plan, we are working to build a future where every citizen of our country lives in a community with proper infrastructure, be it a road, school, clinic, recreational facilities, a community hall, electricity, water and sanitation.

We are building communities that have effective and responsive police stations and community policing forums, and where the people and the police work together to fight crime. 

We must also unite in building a public service and a private sector that are free of corruption which undermine the developmental goals of the country.

In the quest for economic freedom, the National Development Plan enjoins us to reduce the unemployment rate to six percent by 2030 which would create an additional 11 million jobs. This would help us tackle youth and women unemployment.

This is a difficult goal but it is achievable if we set our sights to it, and transform and de-racialise the economy to enable it to perform in a manner that will enable growth and job creation.

The last Census of 2011 confirmed that South Africa is essentially a nation of young people. Just over a third of the population is under the age of 15.

Given this reality, we can and should make our economy receptive to employing young people and to enable the youth to create their own jobs through becoming entrepreneurs. 

We urge the business sector and labour to work with government further, to implement the youth employment accord and to provide opportunities for our young people. 

We want to end the feeling of hopelessness and frustration among the youth, particularly in the townships and rural villages. 

It is such frustration which makes some of our youth prone to being used by criminal elements for their ends or to end up abusing alcohol and drugs.

Today we have some students from Tshwane University of Technology and Botho Socio-Psychology skills development centre in Soshanguve here in Tshwane as our special guests. 

They will later visit Freedom Park as they want to appreciate where their country comes from and where we are going.

Like all young people, they want a better future. Our responsibility is to ensure that we do not disappoint them and millions of young people in our country. 

We recommit ourselves as government to ensure that all policies and plans that we develop and implement, build a better future for our children and the youth.

Fellow South Africans and friends,

As we mark Freedom Day, we do so against the background of a difficult period for our country.   

Seven people were killed during horrific attacks that were directed at foreign nationals in Durban and Johannesburg. The figure includes three South Africans.

The South Africans who died in the conflict in Durban are:

1. Ayanda Dlamini, 22 years old.

2. Thabo Mzobe, 14 years old and 

3. Msawenkosi Dlamini, 29 years old.

Among the foreign nationals who died during the same week is the Mozambican citizen Manuel Jossias, who was identified by the media as Emmanuel Sithole. He was killed during a callous robbery in Alexandra township. 

Reports indicate that he used a false name to avoid detection by authorities as he was an illegal immigrant.

The authorities are working hard with affected embassies to ensure that all the foreign-born victims of the violence are positively identified. We extend our deepest condolences to all the families and compatriots of the deceased.

The police have been instructed to work tirelessly to bring the killers of all to book.

We strongly condemn these attacks. They have no place in a democracy where people are free to express their unhappiness about any issue. We also urge our communities to isolate criminal elements who perpetuate such horrendous crimes against fellow human beings. They should be reported to the police. 

We thank members of the public who have already provided information to the police about some of the incidents.

We applaud South Africans for coming out in their thousands in the past week to register their condemnation of the violence directed at foreign nationals. 

The marches have demonstrated that we are peace loving people who believe in human dignity, human rights and Ubuntu, and that South Africans are opposed to xenophobia, racism and all related intolerances.

Abantu baseNingizimu Afrika baphume ngobuningi babo kulelisonto eledlule, bezwakalisa ukungahambisani kwabo nodlame obelubhekiswe ebantwini bokufika kuleli. 

Loku kukhombise umhlaba wonke ukuthi akulona iqiniso ukuthi thina bantu baseNingizimu Afrika, siyabazonda abantu bokufika.

We thank the United Nations, the African Union and all sister nations in the continent who have expressed their support and encouragement during this challenging period. 

The latest outbreak of violence necessitates more comprehensive action from all of us to ensure that there is no recurrence.

We have to address the underlying causes of the violence and tensions, which is the legacy of poverty, unemployment and inequality in our country and our continent and the competition for limited resources.

The Freedom Charter says there should be peace and friendship in our relations with other countries in the continent and beyond and especially with our brothers and sisters in the continent. 

We are therefore called upon to find a constructive solution to the challenge of migration, working with representatives of the foreign nationals and governments of the countries from which they come and our communities.

I have established a committee of 14 Ministers to find solutions and to help us deal with the underlying causes.

We have spent the past week consulting stakeholders from various sectors. I also met with leaders of organisations representing foreign nationals. It was a very informative and constructive meeting.

Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Premiers have also been holding izimbizo with communities nationwide to hear their concerns and views.

Government will take into account the issues raised in the izimbizo and the stakeholder consultations as we work to find lasting solutions to this challenge.

We also applaud Parliament for going into recess this coming week to enable Members to attend to this critical issue that is affecting our communities and foreign nationals.

Let me emphasise that we have noted the complaints raised by South Africans and these will be attended to.  

These include that the number of illegal and undocumented migrants is increasing, that they take their jobs as some employers prefer workers who are prepared to accept lower wages.

There are also complaints that foreign nationals benefit from free government services, and that they run businesses illegally. 

There is also an accusation that undocumented foreign nationals commit crimes in the country.

We reiterate that none of these complaints can justify attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops. 

We condemn the violence strongly. It is also important to emphasise that not all foreign nationals are in the country illegally. Many live here legally and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country. It is also not true that all foreign nationals are involved in criminal activities.  

The Inter-Ministerial Committee has been directed to deal with all issues, including ensuring the respect for the laws of the land by all and ensuring that no persons live in the country illegally or run businesses illegally.  

Government will also work with stakeholders such as business so that they can support the process and adhere to the laws that prohibit the employment of illegal immigrants. This will also protect foreign nationals from exploitation.

Government will also work with communities to ensure that support is provided to refugees and asylum seekers residing in our country, in accordance with international law and Ubuntu.

Government has already announced measures to improve security at the border posts including deploying the army in seven provinces recently to patrol border posts.

Members of the SANDF will also be deployed as immigration officers to improve the capacity of the Department of Home Affairs at the border posts.

In the long-term, the Department of Home Affairs is developing a new International Migration Green Paper, to be released for public comment in early 2016. The new policy will take into account the recent experiences.

It is our firm belief that the efforts of the African Union to promote peace, stability and democracy in every corner of the continent will in the long run reduce the need for people to migrate towards the South. 

The promotion of intra-Africa trade, regional integration, infrastructure and other economic interventions is also designed to improve the economic situation in sister countries. 

The end result will be that brothers and sisters will eventually no longer need to leave their countries in search of a better life.

We are preparing a formal report for SADC, African Union and the United Nations on the matter.


We also need to come to terms with the fact that there is a lot of anger in our society and a propensity to use violence, which results from years of apartheid dehumanisation.

We need to do more to promote healing and tolerance amongst all our people. Linked to this, is the need to also continue efforts to fight racism which also continues to be a challenge in our country.  

Therefore, our nation building and healing efforts require more enthusiasm and the involvement of every sector of society.

Fellow South Africans,

Our country will celebrate Africa month in May through various activities. We should participate in the activities throughout the country to promote our African identity and culture.

Compatriots and friends,

As we celebrate Freedom Day today, our hearts go out to the families of the hundreds of Africans who perished in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to migrate into Europe in search for a better life.

It is a painful tragedy which puts the spotlight on the conditions that force Africans to undertake dangerous journeys to build a better future for themselves and their families.

Allow me also to extend our condolences to the people of Nepal where a shattering earthquake has claimed the lives of more than 2 000 people.

We also extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of our celebrated football star, John “Shoes’’ Moshoeu who is being laid to rest today. His contribution to soccer and the promotion of national unity in our country will always be remembered.

Fellow South Africans,

We are Africans and we are proud of our African identity. 

We must continue to live in peace and harmony with our brothers and sisters from the continent. 

Where problems arise, they must be resolved peacefully and constructively.

Let us also continue to embrace unity among ourselves as South Africans, and work together to build a better South Africa, as we enter the third decade of freedom and democracy.

I wish all South Africans a very happy Freedom Day!

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency





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