18th Anniversary of Freedom Day Celebrations

Speech by the Acting Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Grizelda Cjiekella, on the occation of the 18th anniversary of Freedom Day Celebrations, 27 April 2012, in Postmasburg Northern Cape Province

Programme Director

Members of the Executive Council

Mayors of District and Local Municipalities

Members of the various faith-based organisations

Distinguished Guests

Members of the Community

Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to say, right from the outset, that I feel greatly privileged that so many of you made and took time to travel from all parts of our province, to Tsantsabane, here in Postmasburg, to lend importance and dignity to this occasion.

I thank you most sincerely, on behalf of our recovering Premier and the entire Provincial government, for your presence here today, which in itself, constitutes a profound statement of hope that the people of our province and our country, are determined to expand the frontiers of freedom and democracy.

For all of us, as South Africans and as the people of the Northern Cape, the 27th April is a day on which we pause annually and reflect on our past and map out our future!

It is a day on which we pride ourselves on our achievements and equally acknowledge our challenges but over and above, it is a day of celebration for a country that was pulled out of doldrums of despair and placed on the pedestal of hope!

Despite some difficulties and weaknesses associated with a newly democratic state, that we acknowledge, and problems which we share with much of the developing world, like crime, corruption, unemployment and disease, ours is a country and a province that are truly basking in the Age of Hope.

Accordingly, we have the common responsibility to always mark the milestones and events that led to the dawn of democracy in our country, so that the bravery and sacrifices of our heroes and heroines who dedicated their lives to the struggle for our freedom and equality in should not be forgotten.

Today, we celebrate the 18th Anniversary of the attainment of our nationhood –the achievement of our democracy. As we gather here today, we recall the inspiring events of that historic day on 27 April 1994, when we hoisted our flag of freedom and sovereignty for the first time.

We remember how millions of South Africans queued patiently for very long hours to cast their votes and how we celebrated the lowering of the apartheid flag of oppression, in the knowledge that it would never again fly as a symbol of authority over our country.

This day also serves as a reminder of the struggle for a free, just and democratic South Africa. It is an occasion where, as a nation, we reflect deeply on our transition from apartheid to an inclusive democracy, which has been internationally acclaimed.

On this day we recommit ourselves to heal the divisions of the past and firmly establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and respect for fundamental human rights.

To this end, we salute our forebears for sacrificing their lives in order for us to enjoy our fundamental human rights today. These brave pioneers of our freedom struggle were ready to give up their lives in pursuit of the freedom of the majority of our people. They understood what it was to be independent and free and were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice and pay with their lives for our freedom.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the peace and political stability that our country has enjoyed over the years is one of our major achievements, and a fitting tribute to the fallen heroes and heroines of our revolution whose blood has nourished the tree that bore the fruits of freedom. Freedom Day seeks to honour all those who have lost their lives fighting for democracy.

These heroes and heroines held the beacon of freedom and liberty high in the face of a long and bitter struggle. Their sacrifices have not been in vain. We will always remember them.

Programme Director, we are celebrating the 2012 Freedom Day under the theme: “Working Together to Build Unity and Prosperity for All”.

This day highlights the fact that freedom and human rights are for all human beings, regardless of "race, colour, sex, language, religion, political affiliation or other opinion; regardless of national or social origin, property ownership, birth or other status". This day reaffirms our freedom and ensures that the violation of such rights never occurs again!

We all have a responsibility to ensure that our democracy and freedom is maintained and strengthened for future generations.

We commemorate our Freedom Day, to reinforce our commitment to the Bill of Rights as enshrined in our Constitution. These rights include:

Equality, where everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law;
Human dignity, where everyone has inherent dignity that must respected and protected;
Freedom of movement and residence, where everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country; and
Language and culture where everyone has the right to use the language of their choice and to participate in cultural life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your presence here is proof that you are dedicated to contributing to the creation of a better society and a better South Africa.

We are meeting here today to reaffirm that we are one people with one destiny, committed to the achievement of the goals that define us as a people - in keeping with the spirit of unity and nationhood!

Ladies and Gentlemen, freedom would be meaningless if our people do not have access to basic amenities such as shelter, portable water, food, health care, education and human security.

It is therefore our duty as your elected representatives in Parliament and in Provincial Legislatures to ensure improved living standards through provision of affordable housing, electricity, clean water, equitable and quality education, affordable medical services and other basic services which governments all over the world are tasked to provide to their citizens.

Although we must acknowledge the presence of men and women who are still without electricity and have to walk long distances to get water, commendable strides have been made to ensure that the majority of our people, regardless of race or creed, have access to these basic services and equal opportunities, including respect for their basic human rights as set out and protected by our Constitution.

In building a democratic South Africa, we have steered clear of expedient quick fixes in favour of laying a solid, well thought-out foundation that will deliver the promise of freedom to future generations.

In this regard, we can also look back with pride at the many successes that were achieved after the attainment of our freedom in many areas of social and economic development.

Government has identified key priorities and put in place appropriate interventions and mechanisms to ensure that national and provincial government, together with municipalities, work hand in hand to ensure a better life for all South Africans.

Government programmes have ensured that backlogs are addressed and that access to basic services is improved.

In 1994, only 62% of households had access to running water; by 2011, 94.5% of households had access to running water.
In 1994, only 50% of households had access to decent sanitation; by 2011, 82% of households had access to decent sanitation.
In 1994, only 51% of households had access to electricity; by 2011, 75.8% of households had access to electricity
Access to education has been expanded in all parts of the country. Literacy and numeracy levels are increasing. More South Africans have access to health care as the number of clinics; hospitals and health centres have been built throughout the length and breadth of our province and country. Housing projects have been implemented in our urban centres as well as rural settlements; and
New roads have been built to facilitate economic activities, and to ensure safer movement of people and goods.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can, therefore, proudly say that, despite the challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty that still affect a large number of our people, South Africans have many reasons to be proud of on this occasion of the 18th Anniversary of our country’s freedom.

We will continue to implement projects and programmes to facilitate economic growth and improve the living conditions of our people.

This year, during the State of the Nation Address, President Zuma outlined his vision for the future with the announcement of a massive infrastructural development programme which is designed to grow the economy and create much needed job opportunities for our people.

The President said and I quote that “We want to have a country where millions more South Africans have decent employment opportunities, which has a modern infrastructure and vibrant economy and where the quality of life is high”.

The improved infrastructure will undoubtedly increase the production capacity of the economy. We must mobilise the much-needed resources in order to overcome the challenges of poverty, hunger, disease and under-development.

Freedom has in many ways unleashed the potential of our people who have taken advantage of their liberty to make tangible contributions to the development of our country.

Many of those who were denied opportunities by the apartheid tyranny are today contributing meaningfully in shaping a better and brighter future for the country.

To our youth, we are making a special appeal to you to focus with all your strength and energy on your education and acquire the necessary skills in meeting the demands of a modern and growing economy.

We will, therefore, continue to place education and training of the youth at the top of the agenda for the development of our Province and country.

To the business community, I would like to thank them for their continued collaboration in key areas of development.

Their business activities should not only bring in much-needed revenue for national sustenance and development, but also employment and income to our workers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must continue to invest in the latest technology which has the potential to stimulate economic growth and development. Technology has undoubtedly become an indispensable tool to unlock the economic potential of our country.

We will continue to rely on faith-based religious organisations and spiritual leaders for looking after the spiritual side of our existence.

On our part as government, we will always call on them for advice and support in our effort to maintain peace, stability and security and to promote reconciliation and social justice, built on co-operation, mutual understanding and trust.

Equally important is the need to redouble our efforts in our individual and collective fight against HIV/AIDS. The scourge of HIV/AIDS is a serious socio-economic problem with a devastating effect on the social fabric of our country.

The rate at which the disease is spreading is alarming and the increasing numbers of people affected by HIV/AIDS puts a heavy burden on our health and financial resources. We will continue working tirelessly to reduce HIV/AIDS infections.

Programme Director, as we celebrate our 18th Anniversary of freedom, we must never forget that it was the people’s liberation movement that brought about the peace, democracy and development that we are enjoying today.

I am proud to belong to this gigantic and glorious movement, the oldest liberation movement in Africa that is celebrating one hundred years of selfless struggle this year – the African National Congress!

Comrades and friends, we should continue to promote national unity and ignore the vices of tribalism, factionalism, regionalism, ethnicity, racial discrimination, sexism and corruption.

Reconciliation requires that all democratic institutions and South Africans themselves address the inequalities and gross atrocities of the past, through the use of various tools such as race-conscious policies in moving South Africa closer to a non-racial society.

Of critical importance, we have to continue following in the footsteps of ‘u-Tata’ uMandela’ in his endeavours towards advocating the spirit of peace and reconciliation among all South Africans.

Therefore, we cannot and will not falter in our pursuit of this noble course. Collectively, we have to ensure that anarchy does not find space in our democracy.

To many South Africans, former President Nelson Mandela is held in high esteem and will forever be regarded as one of the greatest sons of Africa who contributed immensely to the liberation of our Motherland.

For this, we say, once again, thank you very much Tata for what he has done for the people of South Africa. May God continue to bless him!

We call on all our citizens to continue to maintain and promote peace, security and stability. We should cherish and work around the clock to ensure all-round development for all our people.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must always be mindful that together with freedom and individual rights, we as citizens must exercise responsibility in all our actions.

Our democracy is based on treating everyone equally, irrespective of race or colour. This is a fundamental objective expressed in the Constitution aimed at the transformation of our country into a non-racial, non-sexist democratic state.

Now is the time to unite and forge ahead with the sustainable and systematic development of the country we fought for, and whose liberation was achieved with the blood of our fallen and brave countrymen and women.

Therefore let our daily actions continue to give full expression to the wise words of one of the foremost martyrs of our struggle, Oliver Reginald Tambo, when he said:

“It is our responsibility to break down the barriers of division and create a country where there will be neither whites nor blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity!”

I thank you

 

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