Apartheid laws, like the group areas act, may have disappeared from the statute books but its effects lingered, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
“Our people still have to daily confront the impact of the law,” Zuma said in Pretoria.
Addressing thousands of people gathered at the Union Buildings for Freedom Day celebrations, he said the act — which marked the institutionalising of racial partitioning of cities and towns — was still in existence 20 years after it was repealed.
“Many still live in areas once designated for black people… away from economic opportunities and civic services,” he said.
Heavy toll on poor
“Freedom imposes on us a responsibility to work together in the process of changing such conditions.”
Zuma highlighted that the cost of transport alone took a heavy toll on the lives of the poor.
This was one example among many others which Zuma said needed to be addressed to ensure that people “enjoy[ed] the fruits of freedom”.
In just four years, South Africa would have been free for 20 years.
Government will have no sympathy for any reasons advanced, to explain the failure to make a difference in people’s lives, said Zuma.
Millenium development goal
For this reason, government was working on increasing the pace and quality of delivery.
Zuma emphasised that the country has passed the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people without sustainable water.
As of March 2009, over 10 million households had access to sanitation compared to five million in 1994.
“We don’t deny that there is still much to be done, but a lot has also been achieved already,” he said.
In putting a stop to shoddy housing development, Zuma will hold a special presidential Coordinating Council meeting with all nine provincial ministers on May 18.
Presidential hotline problems
“There is a need for habitable human settlements throughout the country.”
He acknowledged problems surrounding the Presidential Hotline, saying government was working hard to deal with them.
Zuma reiterated the need for South Africans across racial lines and political divides to engage on the issues of heritage and culture.
This would help to reach a common understanding on the changing of certain geographical names, the singing of struggle songs and the slaughtering of animals to appease ancestors which is practised in some cultures.
The crowd broke into song as Zuma started delivering his speech, singing Umshini Wam in the hope that the president would join in.
Sitting just behind Zuma was Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile, who signalled to try and quieten the crowd.
The mood was jubilant at the Union Buildings, where a huge stage was set up surrounded by white tents for radio personalities and VIPs.
Although Mashatile announced that this year’s event would see a lot of whites attending, the crowd was predominantly black.
A group of tourists from England stood just behind the crowd, watching the performances on stage.
Hayley Thorpe, who had only good things to say about South Africans and the Freedom day celebrations, said she will always keep a part of South Africa when she returned home.
“We were invited and we [are] having a great time, this is a great country and the people are marvellous,” she said.
The crowd waved South African flags and blew vuvuzelas in celebration.
Enjoying their freedom
Some had flags draped around their necks. Dimpho Mopedi, 19 and her friend Tshidi Khoali were among thousands who braved the cold and rain to be part of the experience.
Mopedi said they now enjoyed certain freedoms which their parents were not able to at their age, “thanks to all the hard work of our freedom fighters”.
“We are now able to go to multiracial schools and have white friends, but most importantly, enjoy the same benefits,” she said.
However, some people were more disappointed about the free bottled water that was handed out as they were expecting something “more filling to the stomach”.
Prominent South African artists performed on stage, including Maskandi artists, Phuzekhemisi and Ihashi Elimhlophe.
More people were on Tuesday afternoon still making their way through cordoned off streets leading to the Union Buildings.
A large police contingency was monitoring areas in and around the venue. — Sapa