The University of Cape Town on Tuesday morning confirmed reports that “four cars were set alight at .
At this time of the year many of us adopt New Year resolutions in anticipation of the challenges of a new year. Equally, the birth of a new year also offers all of us together the possibility to recommit ourselves to work for a better future for all our people.
This passing year, 2007, saw many gains on many fronts as we continued to work for the consolidation of a united, just and democratic society, marked by economic prosperity and the eradication of poverty.
Let us begin 2008 committed to the objective of national unity, with renewed confidence in our collective strength to ensure that our democracy will continue to serve all our citizens, determined to accelerate our progress towards the realisation of the goal of a better life for all.
I would like to thank everybody in our country, whether in government, civil society, business and also all patriotic individuals for the work they did this year to ensure that our country becomes the success we all want it to be.
This work has impacted on all elements of our national life, including the strengthening of our democracy, the further expansion of our economy, the further opening of the doors of learning and of culture, the improvement of the safety and security of all our citizens, and the increasing of our capacity to meet our international responsibilities to our continent and the rest of the world.
In 2007 our economy grew from strength to strength, consolidating the gains it had made the previous year. Government and its social partners continued to work towards eliminating poverty and reducing racial and gender inequality in our society.
However, the critical challenge of reducing poverty and inequality still persists. Accordingly, during 2008 government must redouble its efforts vigorously to increase the tempo of economic growth and job creation, to raise the floor of prosperity that must go with our democracy. We will also have to work to ensure that we improve the effectiveness of all our other interventions directed at accelerating our advance to achieve a better life for all.
Our economy faces important challenges. These include a higher inflation rate, driven by high crude oil and food prices. This has led to higher interest rates than we desire. All this has also been accompanied by a sustained deficit in the balance of trade, reflecting that we are importing more than we are exporting.
Despite these challenges, we have to continue to pursue the goal of a higher rate of economic growth, driven by increased investments and improvements in productivity. We must continue to strive to ensure that this growth also results in the creation of new jobs. This means that we must sustain our focus on the challenge of raising the skills levels among our working people.
Similarly, we must use the foundations we have laid further to accelerate the access especially of the poor to adequate housing, accessible and affordable healthcare, free basic services, education, water and sanitation, electricity and so on.
Within the context of a properly targeted anti-poverty strategy, we must continue to attend to the task of ensuring that our system of social grants reaches the people most in need, to provide the necessary cushion to protect as many people as possible from falling into abject poverty.
We will have to ensure that our system of government truly respects the principle of Batho Pele - people first.
I would also like to congratulate the young people who passed their matriculation examinations, bearing in mind that this year the largest ever number of candidates sat for the examination and passed.
We must also pay special tribute to the young people of Khutsong as well as the North West and national education departments for the good work they did to ensure that these pupils achieved a credible success rate.
The number of road accidents and the resultant fatalities and injuries continue to be matters of grave concern. Once more we call on all road users, including pedestrians, to listen and respond to all the important messages communicated through the Arrive Alive campaign.
Similarly, we must continue to act in unity to combat crime, and thus further improve the safety and security of all our people.
Even as we attend to our domestic challenges, as we must, we cannot forget our international obligations. I would like to reiterate our sense of outrage at the murder of prominent Pakistani political leader Benazir Bhutto. We hope that the government and people of Pakistan will find the strength and wisdom to respond to the crisis created by the assassination of Bhutto in the interest of peace and a stable democracy in their country.
We also hope that the process of negotiations intended to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, initiated at the Annapolis Conference in the United States, will proceed vigorously to meet the 2008 deadline agreed by the leaders of Palestine and Israel.
We remain confident that the leaders of Zimbabwe will conclude their negotiations successfully, leading to the holding of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and the creation of a firm base for this sister country to address its socioeconomic challenges in unity.
The year ahead will present our country with new tasks and challenges arising from decisions adopted at the recent 52nd ANC national conference. We must respond to all these bearing in mind the national goal our country has set itself - the goal of ensuring that our democracy remains unwavering in the pursuit of the objective of a better life for all our people.
On behalf of our government and people, I wish our national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, success in the African Cup of Nations tournament in Ghana in a few weeks. We are confident that Bafana Bafana will emulate the Springboks who recently won the Rugby World Cup.
Once again, on behalf of our government and in my own name I wish you, fellow South Africans, a happy and successful 2008.