27 April 1994 will remain indelible in the collective memories of all South Africans. The day reminds us of our collective past and our common destiny as South Africans. It marked a watershed moment in the history of our country and our liberation struggle. Indeed, the 1994 breakthrough presented the nation with an opportunity to make a decisive break with our colonial and apartheid past and to accelerate the national democratic revolution and build a truly national democratic society.
South Africans appreciate the significance of this day and the countless sacrifices, struggles and the supreme price that many of our country’s citizens had to pay in order for us to attain this freedom. Indeed, freedom and democracy did not come cheap. Many people lost their youth, others were tortured and imprisoned, many were maimed, while others were forced into exile, while thousands paid the supreme price. We have a collective duty never to take our freedom for granted. Our path to freedom was paved by the blood, tears and sweat of our people.
South Africans must be proud of the significant progress we made as a nation over the last twenty-seven years. Today, we can say with confidence that out of the womb of an unjust and inhuman society has emerged a new society based on the values of justice, freedom and democracy. All the people of South Africa can now claim pride of place and walk tall alongside the rest of humanity.
As we look back at what the democratic government has done since 1994, we do so with some sense of satisfaction. Throughout the length and breadth of our country, our people are experiencing a gradual, step by step improvement in the quality of their lives.
Over the past 27 years, the lives of the people of South Africa have changed for the better. Millions of people have houses, electricity and access to clean drinking water. Children from poor communities have access to free education. In the past five years the number of HIV positive people on antiretroviral treatment has doubled while the overall rate of new infections is decreasing. Over 17,5 million of our most vulnerable citizens receive social grants. We advanced the cause and rights of workers to organise, collectively bargain, refuse dangerous work and to strike. A National Minimum Wage has come into effect, improving the lives of over six million workers.
We have made progress in building a united and democratic South Africa. Our constitution is embraced by all South Africans, advancing the individual and collective rights of our people. Our robust Chapter Nine institutions, judiciary and parliament are critical safeguards to protect these rights. We have improved the representation and empowerment of women in the public and private sectors through our constitutional commitment to non-sexism and gender equality.
Consistent with the values of our movement, we continue to build and insist on ethical leadership. We have declared war against corruption and abuse of power to advance personal interests. The ANC will remain harsh and uncompromising in dealing with those among its ranks who steal from the poor. Corruption is inconsistent with freedom and democracy.
Our collective achievements, while commendable, must never lull us into a false sense of comfort and complacency. We remain painfully aware that far too many of our people are yet to taste the fruits of our freedom and democracy. The ANC will never consider freedom achieved until we have defeated the scourge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
As we confront the challenges of tomorrow, we draw inspiration from Mama Charlotte Maxeke. The ANC has declared its 2021 theme as: “The Year of Unity, Renewal and Reconstruction in the Year of Charlotte Maxeke.” Mama Maxeke personifies the war against oppression and patriarchy. She remains an inspiration for those who are leading the war against racial oppression and patriarchy.
The ANC pays homage to this giant of our revolution and continues to draw inspiration from her sacrifices and unwavering dedication to the liberation struggle. Mama Maxeke’s name will forever be inscribed in history as one of the most fierce and uncompromising pioneers against oppression and injustice, and an architect of the new democratic South Africa.
In her name and in honour of her legacy, the ANC has a duty to ensure that we overcome the remaining challenges that impede the progress of all South Africa’s people, including women and the most vulnerable in our society. Oppression, exploitation and discrimination, gender-based violence, persistent sexist mindset and patriarchy must be confronted wherever they rear their ugly heads.
Her legacy inspires us to intensify the struggle for gender equality, women empowerment and socio-economic emancipation. In her name and honour, we pledge to defeat racism, patriarchy, poverty and inequality in our lifetime.
As we commemorate Freedom Day, we dare not forget those whose relentless struggle and love for freedom made Freedom Day possible. We salute the warriors led by Dingaan, Bambatha, Hintsa and Sekhukhune and other heroic leaders of our people who fought bitter wars in defence of the land of their birth. We salute the brave sons and daughters of our country who swelled the ranks of the liberation movement in an effort to confront the might of the apartheid state on all fronts. We must make a solemn commitment never to betray the cause for which they paid the supreme sacrifice.
ISSUED BY THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
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