Promise of freedom for all made 26 years ago can no longer be deferred - Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa
Image: Esa Alexander

The inequality and poverty in South Africa 26 years into the democracy are stains on the national conscience, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Delivering the Freedom Day address on Monday, Ramaphosa said that the many gains successfully completed by the government since the 1994 elections were stained by inequalities that have to be addressed.

He said that the triumph in the first democratic elections on April 27 1994 was supposed to have been about levelling the playing field for black and white children so that they both get equal opportunities in life.

He said that although a lot has been done to achieve this such as building schools, homes, hospitals and universities, the government still lagged behind as 26 years later one's place of birth still determined one’s future in the country.

Ramaphosa said that a child born to parents with means meant that they were sheltered and received a good education while the direct opposite was the reality of a child born in poverty.

“Even now, after all the progress we have made, the circumstances of one’s birth largely determines where and how we live, where we study, where we work and where we are cared for when we are sick. It is the greatest form of injustice. It is a stain on our national conscience,” Ramaphosa said.

“The triumph of 1994 was about much more than being able to vote. It was about setting right the wrongs of the past, about redress, restitution and restoration. It was about levelling the field for the black child and the white child, and making sure they each have an equal chance in life. The promise we made on the 27th of April 1994 can no longer be deferred.”

He said that the pace of social and economic transformation must be changed by ensuring that the rights to healthcare, food, shelter, water, social  security and land are realised.

He said that the delay in realising these inequalities, which has been brought into focus by the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to stay at home, means that no one is actually free in the country as “freedom for some is freedom for none”.

“Though we are certainly all braving the same tide, we have not been impacted in the same way by this pandemic. Some people have been able to endure the coronavirus lockdown in a comfortable home with a fully stocked fridge, with private medical care and online learning for their children.

“For millions of others, this has been a month of misery, of breadwinners not working, of families struggling to survive and of children going to bed and waking up hungry.

“The social relief measures announced last week that are now being implemented are therefore as much about narrowing the gulf of inequality as they are about supporting vulnerable citizens through this trying time,” Ramaphosa said.​


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