/ 24 April 2014

Freedom is the door to the future

Freedom Is The Door To The Future
We are able to achieve meaningful social change better, and faster, if we act together

We must continue working to build a South Africa where all of us will feel at home, comfortable and safe

It is a few days before the 20th anniversary of freedom and democracy, an occasion on which we reflect deeply on our transition from apartheid to an inclusive democracy.

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.

Freedom Day creates awareness that freedom and human rights are for all human beings, regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. This day reaffirms our freedom and ensures that the violation of such rights never occurs again in our beautiful country.

Most importantly, Freedom Day reminds us to celebrate what we have achieved as a nation – 20 years of a successful transition from apartheid to an inclusive democracy – and reflect on the achievements we have made as a nation.

It provides an opportunity for all South Africans to reaffirm who we are as a nation and what we stand for. I am underlining these points because all of us must celebrate Freedom Day. When we look back at the divisions and hatred that we left behind, we realise that what unites us is far stronger than what seeks to divide us.

We are one nation, regardless of colour or creed. We are one unique nation in Africa, made up of diverse people who are united by their love for their country and the desire for it to succeed.

We thank many people from the Afrikaner community who over many years cherished and believed in a democratic and equal society and inspired others to follow.

We remember people like Bram Fischer, Beyers Naude and many others who believed in the equality that we advocated as the ANC.

We still admire the foresight of leaders such as Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, who reached out to the ANC in exile for talks, which destroyed divisive stereotypes.

He will be honoured with a national order this weekend for his contribution to the change that has made this country a better place to live in.

South Africa is indeed a better place to live in since 1994 and all of us have contributed to that success, South Africans from all walks of life.

We should always remember the powerful clause in the Freedom Charter and Constitution, which states that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

Addressing the South African Congress of Democrats in Johannes­burg in 1958, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, president general of the ANC, emphasised that we have a common destiny.

The launch of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown (Mayibuye archive)

He said: “I am not prepared to concern myself with such questions as ‘Where have you come from?’ ‘Do you come from the north? ‘Did you come from Europe?’ It is not important. What is important for our situation is that we are all here. And since we are all here, we must seek a way whereby we can realise democracy so that we can live in peace and harmony in this land of ours.”

I am saying this to emphasise the ANC’s historical position on non-racialism. We are one nation.

I know that there are some issues that are of concern to you.

One of these is land.

This is a fundamental issue in our country that needs us all to work together to handle it responsibly and constructively.

Our [election] manifesto makes it clear: we will accelerate the settlement of remaining land claims submitted before the cut-off date of 1998.

We will reopen the period for the lodgement of claims for restitution of land for a period of five years, commencing in 2014. We have also stated that we will codify the exceptions to the 1913 cut-off date for the descendants of the Khoi and San, and identify affected heritage sites and historical landmarks.

I want to emphasise that our land reform process is properly regulated; it has been done according to the law and the Constitution.

Another important point is to take forward transformation in a constructive manner.

One of the instruments in this regard is employment equity law, including affirmative action – a necessary and a well-monitored tool to reverse inequalities.

The employment equity figures do not look good at all. Although progress has been made to deracialise the ownership, management and control of the economy, we are far from closing the gap.

For obvious historical reasons, income distribution and growth is also racially skewed.

The income of the average white household remains six times that of the average African household. The annual income of the average African household is R6 613, whereas that of white households stands at R365 164.

We should work together constructively to address this inequality as part of the ongoing transformation of our country.

Also of concern to us all is the need to fight corruption in society, in both the private and public sectors. Our manifesto shows that we are serious about fighting corruption, both in the public and private sectors, as well as with good governance.

This is why we plan to further close the leakages in our procurement processes. We want to stop public servants from being involved in business with government.

Among other provisions we mention in our manifesto are the following:

  • A centralised process, with stakeholder representation, will be established to adjudicate on major tenders in all spheres of government. It will work with the chief procurement officer, whose main functions will be to check on pricing and cost effectiveness, and ensure transparency, adherence to procedures and fairness;
  • all corrupt officials will be made individually liable for all losses incurred as a result of their corrupt actions; and
  • any ANC member or ANC public representative found guilty by a court of law will be expected to step down from any leadership position in the ANC, government and society. Where this has not happened, the ANC will take firm action in line with the provisions of the ANC constitution.

We have also stated that the capacity of corruption fighting agencies will be further enhanced and public education will be part of the mandate of the anti-corruption agencies.

Twenty years ago, Nelson Mandela said, in his first State of the Nation address: “My government’s commitment to create a people-centred society of liberty that binds us to the pursuit of the goals of freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation, freedom from ignorance, freedom from suppression and freedom from fear.”

This is still our preoccupation as the ANC.

Poverty, unemployment and inequality affect us all, which is why we prioritised them.  

We have gone far in building our country together. We must continue working together to build a South Africa where all of us will feel at home, comfortable and safe.

We must build a country where all our children can prosper and follow their dreams, in a nonracial, non-sexist, united and prosperous South Africa.

That South Africa is outlined in the National Development Plan, which acknowledges first and foremost, as the Freedom Charter indicated in 1955, that South Africa belongs to all – an inclusive avowal that always subjects the ANC to derision.

But we know that we are one nation, which we should never allow to fragment.

This is an edited version of an address given by President Jacob Zuma at the Voortrekker Monument on April 23 at a meeting of the ANC diversity group