With every passing day since 1994 South Africa has undoubtedly become a better place and we have much to celebrate. Through working together we have accomplished a great deal, particularly given the immense socio-economic challenges that we had inherited from apartheid.
President Jacob Zuma, in his 2014 State of the Nation Address, said: “As a country we have scored many successes. South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994.”
The country we inherited from apartheid was riddled with gross inequalities and skewed resources in favour of a small minority. Basic needs of the majority were not met which resulted in poor living conditions, hunger, malnutrition, and poor education, especially in rural areas.
Black South Africans were treated as second class citizens and prevented from any active participation in the economy.
Today we have created a thriving constitutional democracy with democratic institutions that ensure our basic rights and freedoms are upheld. We are on track to structurally transform the economy and address our many socio-economic challenges.
However, our critics bemoan the pace of change. Efforts to transform our country are still at an early stage as we endeavour to undo the deep seated structural problems inherited from apartheid.
Government is the first to admit that there are many challenges and more still needs to be done. But when our gains over the last 20 years are deliberately ignored it damages our country.
Over the last five years we have built on the foundations laid by the each successive administration since the start of democracy. Government has been at the forefront of the change that is transforming South Africa into a better place to live.
All government’s work is now tracked and measured through our performance monitoring and evaluation function which ensures that we are accountable to the people of South Africa.
We have introduced a long term planning function under the National Planning Commission which charts our way over the next 20 years through our landmark National Development Plan.
Through our R1 trillion public infrastructure investment over the last five years we are building an industrialised economy to tackle the challenges of unemployment and support higher economic growth.
We have created a more inclusive economy to address the needs of all 51 million South Africans. There are now 15 million people with jobs in the country, the highest ever in our history.
More than 650 000 jobs were created last year and 3,7 million work opportunities over the past five years through our Expanded Public Works Programme and the Community Work Programme.
Our Automotive Investment Scheme has supported 160 investment projects which has sustained more than 50 000 jobs. In the past two years more than 20 000 minibus taxis and 330 buses were assembled locally.
Speaking to the nation, President Zuma said that “we have a good story to tell”. It rests upon every South African, as we prepare to celebrate 20 Years of Freedom, to share our story. How together we have overcome the evil system of apartheid, worked to grow the economy, provided basic services, created better healthcare, education and a safer country.
President Zuma said: “Over the past 20 years, remarkable achievements have been made in increasing access to services such as water, sanitation and electricity.” Government has replaced nearly 500 informal settlements with quality housing and basic services over the past five years.
On the education front our initiatives have ensured that more learners attend and succeed in school. The number of children attending Grade R has more than doubled to 700 000 between 2003 and 2011. We are also providing our learners with schools that are conducive to learning by delivering 370 new schools to replace mud schools and other unsuitable structures.
On a tertiary level two new universities, Sol Plaatje in the Northern Cape and the University of Mpumalanga have been established. We will also build 12 new Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape.
South Africans are now living longer as life expectancy is firmly on an upward trend. Over the last five years we have turned the corner in the fight against HIV and AIDS and today we are used as a model country by UNAIDS.
Furthermore, 300 new health facilities have been built, including 160 new clinics. Ten new hospitals have been built or refurbished around the country.
In creating safer communities we have more police office on our streets than ever before. Through the concerted effort of all stakeholders we have decreased the overall crime rate by 21 per cent since 2002.
Government has furthermore adopted a zero tolerance approach to the fight against corruption and calls on citizens to do the same.
Through our National Anti-Corruption Hotline we are investigating over 13 000 cases of corruption and maladministration. To prevent corruption in the supply chain system, governm
ent has decided to establish a central tender board to adjudicate all tenders.
The President used all these facts to urge South Africans to look at the big picture and see that South Africa is indeed a better place than it was in 1994. His speech also demonstrated the continuum between those who fought apartheid and the last four administrations in this democracy. He reassured South Africans that we are on the same path: we have not deviated. And if we continue to do the right things life will continue to get better.
Making South Africa a better place cannot be government responsibility alone. We all have a role to play in creating the country we want to live in today and for future generations to inherit.
SOURCE: SA NEWS