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South Africans have tasted the fruits of freedom, says Ramaphosa

27 April 2022 - 15:12
President Cyril Ramaphosa receives a warm welcome in Middelburg, Mpumalanga before his Freedom Day address.
President Cyril Ramaphosa receives a warm welcome in Middelburg, Mpumalanga before his Freedom Day address.
Image: Alaister Russell/ Sunday Times

Twenty-eight years into democracy, the people of SA have tasted the fruits of freedom, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

He was addressing scores of people in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, where he led the national celebration of Freedom Day under the theme “Consolidate our democratic gains” to mark the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy.      

The president used his speech to highlight significant strides made by the ANC-led government since 1994, saying among other things, the quality of life for citizens had improved.

“In democratic SA, 81% of people live in formal housing. Nine out of 10 South Africans have access to clean water and more than 85% have access to electricity. In democratic SA, basic education and health care is no longer the privilege of a few, but available to all.

“Ninety-six per cent of children of school-going age are in school. Two-thirds of these learners attend no-fee schools. Free tertiary education is being provided to young South Africans to study, a dream that was denied their forebears,” said Ramaphosa.

The president said Mpumalanga, like many parts of the country, was a site of the struggle and one of the darkest reminders of the country’s divisive past.

“We recount this history on Freedom Day not to hold on to the past. We recount them as a reminder that we are a nation that looks forward and that moves forward. Today, in the province of Mpumalanga and across our beautiful land, the people have tasted the fruits of freedom,” he said.

Ramaphosa also used his speech to decry the scourge of gender based-violence, crime and corruption.  

“Gender-based violence, substance abuse and other societal ills have become rampant in our communities.

“Crime and violence is eating away at our society. We can only defeat crime if we work together, as families, as communities and community leaders, as faith communities and leaders, and as individuals,” he said.

The president also weighed in on the “deeply troubling” anti-foreigner crisis which has led to violent and deadly protests in several areas.  

“We are confronting a new menace, of violence against our brothers and sisters from other African countries. We have seen it in many parts of the country in recent weeks, and it is deeply troubling.”

He admitted there was no doubt that issues of illegal immigration and its impact on the economy and society need to be addressed urgently.

“But there will never be any justification for violence.

“For those who seek refuge from persecution and have legitimate grounds, for any who have entered our country legally and have the legal right to be here, they will find SA a welcoming place,” he said.

Crowds gather to catch a glimpse of President Cyril Ramaphosa, 27 April 2022, at the Kees Taljaard Stadium in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, where the official presidential commemoration of Freedom day was observed.
Crowds gather to catch a glimpse of President Cyril Ramaphosa, 27 April 2022, at the Kees Taljaard Stadium in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, where the official presidential commemoration of Freedom day was observed.
Image: Alaister Russell

Overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality was at the forefront of the government’s agenda, he said. 

Quoting former president Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa said there was no easy road to freedom. 

He also cautioned that the country was not yet out of the woods in terms of Covid-19 and called for those who were not yet vaccinated to do so urgently.

“With the winter months approaching, let us take particular care of ourselves and those around us by getting vaccinated, getting our booster shots if needed, and by observing the public health protocols.

“The task of nation-building and national reconciliation is ongoing,” he said. 

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