While strides have been made to better the lives of ordinary South Africans, the road ahead to true freedom and an inclusive economy that serves all the people is still long, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Speaking on Friday at government’s official Freedom Day celebrations at Dr Petrus Molemela stadium in Bloemfontein in the Free State, the President said the challenge of hunger and unemployment still remains.
Twenty-four years into democracy, the huge gaps in wealth and opportunity between white and black and men and women persist and continue to widen.
“Our people cannot be truly free if they do not have jobs, an education and livelihoods,” President Ramaphosa said.
He acknowledged that democracy did not automatically heal the divisions of the past and that the country must work resolutely to remove the obstacles that still divide it.
The President used his address at the packed stadium to affirm government’s determination to intensify the struggle for economic freedom for all.
He said if the country is to end poverty, the economy must grow to create decent work.
“We need to attract investment on a much greater scale and we need to improve the education and skills of our people. At the same time, we need to transform the ownership, control and management of the economy so that black South Africans and women are fully represented and equally benefit.
“In short, we need to intensify radical economic transformation,” President Ramaphosa said.
Government has already begun a new investment drive that aims to draw local and international investors into parts of the economy that have the greatest potential for job creation. These include the appointment of four special envoys on investment to engage both domestic and foreign investors around economic opportunities in South Africa.
These envoys are mandated to attract investment in a focused and cost effective manner and will culminate in a major Investment Conference towards the end of the year to raise more than R1 trillion in new investments over five years.
President Ramaphosa said government is also working to make the South African economy more competitive and attractive to investors by sustaining investment in infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railway lines and ports, as well as schools, hospitals, colleges and clinics.
“We are fixing our State-owned enterprises, ensuring that they can meet essential social and economic needs more efficiently and cost effectively. We are using industrial incentives, special economic zones and local procurement requirements to expand our manufacturing capacity.”
Government is also working to deracialise the economy by strengthening broad-based black economic empowerment policies, investing in black industrialists, opening up markets for new black entrants through more effective competition policies, and using the buying power of the State to support black business.
Year of Nelson Mandela
Freedom Day was held under the theme ‘The year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Towards the full realisation of our freedom through radical socio-economic transformation’.
The event was complete with a full military parade, including a national salute, guard of honour by the National Ceremonial Guard, 21-gun salute and a salute flight by three A109 Agusta helicopters.
President Ramaphosa described the first democratic election on 27 April as the culmination of a dream for which many in the country, the continent and across the entire world sacrificed.
“We remain grateful for the solidarity and assistance that we received from the international community and are determined that we ourselves should be champions of democracy, peace and human rights across the world,” said the President.
Looking ahead, President Ramaphosa said government has an opportunity to make remarkable strides in advancing the country.
“Our duty, as custodians of this democracy, is to direct all our resources to conquer poverty, joblessness, racial hatred, anarchy, violence and lawlessness, illiteracy and idleness and place our country on a path of growth, development and lasting freedom.”