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The past 25 years have seen a lot of positives - President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Simphiwe NKwali

South Africa has made a lot of strides in the past 25 years – from ensuring there is a non-racial society to access to basic services and improving people’s lives through the economy. This, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, is to be celebrated as it made sure that black people are included in the economy.

He was addressing a 25 Years of Democracy Conference at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“Substantial investment we have made in economic and social infrastructure, in providing houses, water and electricity, in expanding access to education and healthcare, has undoubtedly improved people’s lives,” he said.“There are several indicators of social progress, from the growth in size of middle-class to an improvement in education attainment, from a massive improvement in access to basic services to a decline in levels of poverty.”

He said, however, that these milestones were threatened by corruption in the recent years, which gave rise to multiple inquiries including the state capture commission, the PIC inquiry, and probe into the South African Revenue Service, among others.

Ramaphosa told attendees that the slow economic growth is also not helping matters.

“corruption has steadily eroded the state’s capacity to meet people’s needs, and is worsening a trust deficit between government and the citizenry,” he said.

He said that he was not oblivious to the fact that democracy does not just mean people’s ability to have free and fair election. He said it goes beyond that into ensuring that people are able to get jobs and participate in the economy, especially blacks.

“… although we have exceeded expectations insofar as democratic consolidation is concerned, we have yet to transform the economic patterns that exclude millions from the economy’s benefits, and the cultural patterns that preserve the power relationships created by colonialisation. So long as they are not remedied, poverty and inequality will continue to deepen. It is our actions now that will determine the path the country takes. If democracy is to mean more than just securing franchise, if It is to make a material difference in people’s lives, we have to arrest the decline.”

He said that although unemployment has risen recently, the past 25 years have seen a lot of positives in the economic sector where “millions more of our people” have been “brought back into the economy” through various policies including the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, employment equity and the Black Industrialists Programme.

“However, crucial policy missteps have taken place. There are instances where we failed to implement coherent policy or delayed doing so,” he said. “That is why we have decided to re-establish a policy unit in the presidency to ensure that policy coordination across the government is aligned.”

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