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Source: The Presidency
Title: Mbeki: Freedom Day celebrations
Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the
occasion of the Freedom Day celebration, at the ABSA Stadium,
Director of Ceremonies, Mike Mabuyakhulu,
Your Majesty, King Goodwill Zwelithini,
Honourable Minister of Arts and Culture, Pallo Jordan,
Honourable Minister in the Presidency, Essop Pahad,
Honourable Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, S'bu Ndebele
Your Worship, Executive Mayor of eThekwini, Obed Mlaba,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Fellow South Africans:
I am very pleased to address, you, fellow South Africans, on the
occasion of our Freedom Day celebrations. I am happy that we have
so many people from different districts across KwaZulu-Natal as
well as from other parts of our country. Welcome to all of
Today's celebrations take place as we begin the Second Year of the
Second Decade of Freedom. It also takes place on the 50th
anniversary of the Freedom Charter, which was adopted at the
Congress of the People in 1955.
I mention the fact that it is the beginning of the Second Year of
the Second Decade of Freedom as well as the golden jubilee of the
Freedom Charter, because when we won our freedom we based our
constitution on the vision contained in the Freedom Charter,
including the correct assertion on the basic and fundamental
characteristic of our society: South Africa belongs to all its
people united in their diversity! The challenge for all of us in
the Second Decade of Freedom is to make certain that we build this
kind of South Africa.
During this new decade, we should ask ourselves as to what we have
done, as individuals and communities, to translate into reality the
vision that South Africa belongs to all her people. We should ask
ourselves whether through our actions we have contributed to the
transformation of our country or, whether we have blocked its
advance away from our apartheid past. We should ask ourselves
whether we have worked towards the goal of a country whose citizens
are equal or, whether we have sought to entrench the inequalities
of the past.
Indeed, we are happy that there are many in our society who have
worked hard to ensure that South Africans march forward towards a
unified nation - a nation that shares the same values and the same
aspirations, driven by the same vision of a transformed society
that is united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic, enjoying a
We are blessed that there are many who are striving for the
collective objective of all South Africans - that all our people
should and must enjoy a better life - and through practical
actions, are themselves daily pushing back the frontiers of
Working together we continue to improve the harsh conditions under
which many of our people live. Indeed, in the first 11 years of
freedom we managed to give hope where there was hopelessness; we
brought back dignity where indignity prevailed, through among
others, land restitution, housing delivery, provision of clean
water, electricity, social grants, better access to education and
an improved economy. In this way, millions of South Africans know
and feel that South Africa truly belongs to all of us.
Together we have brought to a stop the unnecessary violent
conflicts that characterised some parts of country, especially this
province of KwaZulu-Natal. During our years of freedom, South
Africa has steadily become a country that belongs to all because,
in part, where there could have been serious racial conflicts
because of our unfortunate past, our people, particularly those who
were oppressed, have offered the hand of friendship and forgiven
those who were responsible for their untold suffering.
Yet, the challenges of the Second Decade of Freedom are many and
big. They are many and big because the legacy of colonialism and
apartheid runs very deep. They are many and big because we have
limited resources which cannot address all these challenges at the
Even though all of us know that these challenges are many and big,
some among us think that it is solely the responsibility of
government to address them. These include those who do not take the
initiative to do something about their circumstances but always
complain that government is not doing anything for them. These
people, to whom South Africa also belongs, usually fold their arms
when their compatriots engage in self-reliance programmes in the
spirit of Vuk'uzenzele.
In this Second Decade of Freedom let us work together to mobilise
all our people and continue to engage in the programmes of Letsema
and Vuku'zenzele so that we do not hear stories about some of our
children, some of the poor and the elderly in our communities being
neglected, being hungry and destitute when our African culture
tells us that 'umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye'. In this way, we will
ensure that all our people feel that in reality, South Africa
belongs to all of us.
Furthermore, through the work that we have done, some who were
better-off before 1994 are even more prosperous today. As we build
a South Africa that belongs to all, we would appeal to these
compatriots to use their better positions in society to help
improve the living conditions of the poor in our country.
It cannot be that while government creates conditions for their own
advancement and prosperity, these South Africans should continue to
demand that it should be the responsibility only of the government
to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment.
Indeed, in the past decade we have successfully worked with many of
our businesses in Public-Private Partnerships to accelerate the
pace of development in our country.
Yet, more can be done if all the social partners work together
especially with local communities, and use their expertise and
resources to help the transformation of our country. This is
critical because the creation of a South Africa that truly belongs
to all is the responsibility of every sector and echelon of society
in our country.
This Second Decade of Freedom should also see us continuing to
improve the system of government. The central challenge in this
regard, is the sphere of local government. This is important
because more than any sphere of government, local government
impacts immediately and directly on our people.
In response to this, our government has announced programmes to
improve the capacity of local government. Work has already started
in this regard. Accordingly, it is important that all of us work
together with councillors, ward committees and other relevant
structures, to help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our
municipalities, so that we are better able to improve the living
conditions of our people.
Again, during this Second Decade of Freedom, let us bury for ever
the apartheid scandal of denying millions of our people such
fundamental services as clean water, sewerage, electricity,
recreation facilities as well as access to health, education,
housing, land and jobs.
Clearly, our freedom will mean nothing as long as our people in the
rural areas continue to live in abject poverty and
underdevelopment. In this regard, there is no doubt that in the
last 11 years we have made important progress in our efforts to
defeat poverty and underdevelopment in the rural areas.
But, because for centuries the black rural areas were deliberately
condemned to poverty, disease, hunger and underdevelopment, it is
impossible fully to address this challenge in a mere ten years.
However, working together we can and will, in time, bring better
services, infrastructure and development to all our people in these
In this regard, we will continue to work with our traditional
leaders, always seeking better ways to improve the institution of
traditional leadership to improve its effectiveness as an agent for
development. This includes the critical challenge of defending our
cultures, languages and histories.
Of course, we should all engage in this work. As we celebrate our
freedom, we would like to ask our intelligentsia, especially our
historians and cultural workers to pay special attention to this
challenge of cultivating our languages, culture and identity.
Undoubtedly, their work will be made easier if all of us as a
people support their efforts to promote our languages and cultures
through books, poetry, songs, theatre and other forms of
Indeed, it is critical that the mass media becomes part of this
important project of protecting and promoting our African identity,
working with our traditional leaders, cultural workers and
intellectuals, to reclaim our unique identity.
On the occasion of this Freedom Day, we would also like to ask our
children and our youth to study hard so as to be better prepared
for the challenges of a future South Africa. As a country, we are
determined to ensure that our youth enjoys a better future. These
young people are our principal asset. Through them, we must take
the development of our country to higher levels. Education and
training, and life long learning must become the mainstay of our
We need to do all these and other things because many people
sacrificed their lives for our freedom. They died so that we can
all have equal opportunities to succeed. They died so that we can
all use our god-given talents to improve our life-circumstances and
those of our communities and our country. These heroes and heroines
died so that we work together to defeat poverty and
underdevelopment. Accordingly, all of us have a duty to contribute
to the development of our country.
The vision and ethos of the Freedom Charter remain an important
foundation of our national effort to build a secure future
The last eleven years of our history have seen a radical overhaul
of all institutions in our country. The Constitution established
Parliament, the implementation agencies and the institutions of
democracy and in doing so provided us with essential agencies to
help us achieve our stated objectives.
While being justifiably proud of our national parliament, our
provincial legislatures and local councils, we must continue to
engage these institutions, and help to drive them to ensure that
not only do the people govern, but that our system of governance is
informed by the imperative to serve the people.
The people of KwaZulu-Natal have been victims of violent conflict
for far too long. As a result, in the past ten years we have worked
together, as government and different political parties, to ensure
that there is peace and stability in this province.
However, recently there have been some reports of violence in a few
areas. We have to unite and defeat those who want to take us back
to the days of violence and conflict. These are people who do not
belong to a democratic South Africa.
We all know very well that where there is violence there cannot be
development; where there is violence there cannot be progress;
where there is violence there cannot be a better life.
On this Freedom Day, as South Africans, let us join hands and work
together so that we can accelerate the process that will ensure
that South Africa becomes a fully developed and prosperous country
that belongs to all. I wish you all a happy Freedom Day.
Issued by: The Presidency
27 April 2005