President Cyril Ramaphosa says government has made great progress towards realising the rights of people and advancing human dignity.
“Today we have a country where all enjoy human rights and freedoms,” the President said.
Speaking at this year’s Freedom Day celebration in Botshabelo in the Free State, President Ramaphosa said the country has a Constitution that is a shield and a protection for all.
“And yet, even as we have lived in a democratic country for the past 27 years, we know that across many parts of South Africa, the promise of 1994 has not yet been fulfilled. Millions of South Africans still live in conditions of poverty and deprivation,” President Ramaphosa said.
He said for those who continue to suffer from a lack of basic of services like running water, for those living in fear every day from violence and crime and for those who have no jobs to support themselves and their families, true freedom remains elusive.
“As we celebrate this Freedom Day, we can point to the great progress we have made in confronting the apartheid legacy, from the provision of water and electricity to millions, to opening the doors of learning to the children of the poor, to the provision of health care, to lifting millions of people out of poverty.
“But we cannot celebrate Freedom Day without acknowledging how much further we still need to go,” he said.
It cannot be, he said, that 27 years into democracy people are being deprived of even the most basic services like water and sanitation because of poor planning, incompetence, mismanagement or corruption.
“It cannot be that access to housing, education and decent health care is being undermined because those tasked with service delivery do not care enough,” President Ramaphosa said.
He used the occasion to remind people to cast their votes in October’s local government elections.
“Our vote is the most potent weapon through which we can improve our lives and transform our communities. Whether you are in a village, a town, a city, a metro or a farm – I call on you to exercise your right in the upcoming local government elections.
“I call on you to decide who among the many candidates has the ability and the determination to work tirelessly on your behalf. I call on you to determine the future of your family and your community by putting your confidence in those parties that have the best policies and the will and the means to implement them.
“I call on you to demonstrate, with your vote, your intolerance for corruption, theft and mismanagement of the funds that are meant for the benefit of you, the citizen,” the President said.
President Ramaphosa said the elections are an opportunity for people to make their voices heard and to be part of the change they want to see.
With regard to protests, he urged community members not to destroy property while exercising their rights.
“When we resort to violent demonstrations, burning, looting and the destruction of property, we are undermining the very cause we seek to advance. Exercising our right to vote is by far the most powerful form of protest,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa also called on South Africans to take a firm stand on violence against women and children.
“We must speak out and report any instances of gender-based violence, even if the perpetrators are close to us. As a country we must say no to homophobia and all forms of intolerance against members of the LGBTQI+ community,” President Ramaphosa said.
Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said the work required to reconstruct and build a nation, which is united in its diversity, and address deep socio-economic equality needs radical impetus.
“As we celebrate our 25th year of constitutionalism, we are increasingly coming to terms with the reality that society does not consist merely of the law or the state, it has also, a more informal aspect, comprised of its cultural institutions, conventions, moral rules and moral sanctions.
“In order for society to fully flourish, it must be just in its informal as well as in its formal aspects,” Ntshavheni said.
This year’s Freedom Day celebrations were held under the theme: ‘The year of Charlotte Maxeke: The meaning of freedom under COVID-19’. The commemoration marks 27 years of freedom and democracy since South Africa’s first non-racial democratic elections in 1994.
The elections marked the advent of democracy after nearly four centuries of colonialism and apartheid.
The President’s programme commenced with the official opening and a tour of the Charlotte Maxeke Treatment Centre.