Happy Sweet 16th South Africa

Jacob Zuma led Freedom Day Celebrations today in South Africa, 16 years since the country held its first non-racial democratic elections in 1994.

Some of the highlights of the South African Presidents speech were:

  1. As taught by our icon President Nelson Mandela, we must remain steadfast in our determination that never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.
  2. …sixty years ago, the apartheid government introduced the Group Areas Act…Sixty years later, and nearly 20 years after it was repealed, our people still have to daily confront the impact of that law. Many still live in areas once designated for black people on the periphery of our towns, far away from economic opportunity and civic services. The cost of transport alone takes a heavy toll on the lives of the poor. This is only one example among many of the work we still need to do… These [apartheid] laws may have disappeared from the statute books, but their effects are still felt across the country.
  3. We must note that despite numerous challenges and backlog, South Africa has provided over 2.8 million housing opportunities since 1994. We are currently on target in terms of delivery of new housing stock in the various provinces.
  4. South Africa has passed the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without sustainable water.
  5. As of March 2009, more than 10 million households had access to sanitation compared to about 5 million in 1994.
  6. We do not deny that there is still much more to be done, but a lot has also been achieved already.
  7. If we are to make a difference in the lives of future generations, we must pay special attention on the development of our youth. According to Stats SA, nearly 70% of all South Africans are under the age of 35, making South Africa a youthful country.
  8. More South Africans are being educated, and that is because South Africa has one of the highest rates of government investment in education in the world.
  9. We reiterate that a defining feature of this administration will be its closeness to the people it serves. As you are aware, I established the Presidential Hotline last year. It has opened our world to a host of issues that are affecting our people. I know that thousands of South Africans have battled to get through to the hotline due to the high volume of calls…We are working hard to improve the service….We will make formal announcements soon on how to improve your access to the Hotline, and how to ensure quicker responses from government departments, nationally and provincially.
  10. South African President Zuma dances during the launch of a massive HIV counselling and testing campaign at Katlehong township
  11. Earlier this week we launched our new upscaled HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment plan [see image on right at Katlehong township on 25 April]…I urge all of you to heed prevention messages, and to get tested for HIV…Together we must eradicate the silence and the shame that is associated with HIV and AIDS. This epidemic can be beaten if we all decide to play our part and work hard.
  12. In February this year, I indicated that there was a need for us to have a dialogue to remind ourselves why our country‚Äôs founding fathers and mothers declared us one nation united in diversity. I suggested at the time that we needed to reach out to all South Africans across the class, racial, ethnic, gender, religious and political divides. I said we must engage in a conversation about the true values that underpin our common identity and destiny. My suggestion was motivated by my deep belief and conviction that as a nation, we should yet again draw on the collective South African wisdom to understand one another. I think such a dialogue would help us to live better with one another as South Africans…It will enable us to arrive at a common perspective around the following amongst others:
    – The changing of certain geographical names.
    – The transformation in the workplace and in sport.
    – The songs we sing and the symbols we embrace.
    – Our desire to determine language policy at our schools and universities.
    – The slaughtering of animals to appease an ancestor which is practiced in some cultures.
    …This national dialogue will capture the attention of all our people. Like the 2010 FIFA Soccer World, you will feel it! We will share further information once the initial consultation phase has been concluded.
  13. We are just 44 days away from hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We have been offered a significant opportunity to share our humanity, heritage and the beauty of this country with the world…We do not spend enough time celebrating our country, and this is an opportunity to show off.
  14. Our country boasts eight world heritage sites, and we must familiarize ourselves with them so that we can all become ambassadors and effective tour guides during the World Cup! These are:
    iSimangaliso Wetland Park
    Robben Island.
    Cradle of Humankind.
    uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park.
    Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape.
    Cape Floral Region.
    Vredefort Dome.
    Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape.
    These sites are a source of pride and identity that should unite all of us. Let us make the 2010 World Cup a memorable event. Let us rally behind Bafana Bafana. Let us celebrate our national symbols; and let us show the world that we are one nation, united in our colourful diversity.
  15. We extend a special happy Freedom Day to the families of four South African peacekeepers who were released after being held captive in Sudan. They are in good health and good spirit.