Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma says South Africans are better off since the country marked its first democratic elections in 1994.
Zuma addressed scores of people who had descended on the lawns of the Union Buildings in Pretoria to mark this year’s Freedom Day celebrations.
Earlier, Tshwane Mayor Sputla Ramokgopa opened the celebrations calling on South Africans to remember 1994 as a year that marked the beginning of a just and prosperous South Africa.
“Ours was indeed a long journey to April 27 1994…the journey opened with the struggle of our people against the scourge of colonialism, as we celebrate the success of our democracy lets us do so with a clear understanding of the challenges ahead,” Ramokgopa said.
Now that South Africa has gained its freedom, it was upon the new generation to work on the ongoing reconstruction and development of the new South Africa, he added.
Also in attendance were representatives of different political parties.
The President said 27 April was a significant day of “reflection and celebration” for all the people of South Africa, Africa and the world. “On this day we celebrate the attainment of freedom, democracy, national reconciliation, unity and the restoration of human dignity. We have done exceptionally well against all odds in just 17 years,” he said.
He noted that in 1994, only 62 percent of households had access to clean drinking water and this had changed as 93 percent of household accessed the services in 2010. More than 77 percent of the households also had access to decent sanitation while electricity reached 84 percent of the country’s population.
“We continue to expand access to education, through building and renovating schools, the training of teachers and principals and declaring no fee schools for children of the poor”.
The government’s extensive social security system also continued to be the “most effective” poverty alleviation programme. By 2010, close to 15 million people were receiving social grants, mostly orphans and vulnerable children, older persons, veterans as well as people living with disability. In addition, more than eight million children at primary and secondary schools benefit from school feeding schemes across the country.
But on Wednesday, Zuma conceded that much still needed to be done to fix local government and make it work for communities. “We know that many more South Africans still need water, electricity, sanitation, jobs and other basic services. That is why we must continue working together to expand access to services and reverse the legacy of apartheid and colonial oppression,” he said.
He added that the national government will continue to provide direct support to municipalities that were not coping and undertaking to ensure the appointment of qualified and experienced personnel in key local government positions. – Chris Bathembu, BuaNews
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