Deputy President Paul Mashatile reflected on some of the challenges, including load shedding, that many communities face during the breaking of the fast in Ramadan, also known as Iftaar, at the Gatesville Mosque in Cape Town.
“We are the first to admit that while we have made strides to change the country for the better, we have also made mistakes. We, therefore, look forward to hearing the specific concerns of the people about the government because we are genuinely committed to solving the problems of the people,” he said on Saturday.
The Masjidul-Quds Institute invited the Deputy President to break bread with the Muslim community that is observing a month-long period of fasting, which occurs in the Holy Month of Ramadan.
The Deputy President highlighted a wide range of issues that still plague communities such as unemployment, crime, kidnapping, extortion, vandalising of infrastructure, and the lack of visible policing and response time.
He also touched on poor government support for small businesses, especially during load shedding, housing and backyard dwelling in communities, poor public transport and the Western Cape’s proud tradition of the liberation struggle.
“I have tasked my office to engage formally with you in a solution-oriented dialogue about these and other issues,” he said.
The Deputy President’s engagement is part of his delegated function of promoting social cohesion initiatives and nation-building across all sectors of South African society.
He also took the opportunity, on behalf of government and South Africans, to wish local Muslims and those across the globe a blessed month of Ramadan.
He described Iftaar as a day of celebration, reflection and rededication.
“It is also the beginning of the celebration of Freedom Month, during which we celebrate our hard-earned freedom and democracy.”
Mashatile recalled the difficult journey travelled as a nation to “cross the turbulent ocean of apartheid into the promising shores of democratic South Africa”.
He also paid tribute to struggle liberators such as Abdul Burns, Dr Alan Boesak and Imam Hassan Solomon, who led protest marches “armed with the Bible and the Quran in hand”.
He also remembered travelling to Cape Town in August 1983 to attend the historic meeting of the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF), which took place at the Rocklands Community Hall in Mitchell's Plain.
“As in the Battle of Badr, the people demonstrated that nothing could defeat a united and resolute people.
“I am grateful to start this year’s Freedom Month in celebration of the breaking of the fast of Ramadan because it once again places the non-racial teachings of the Prophet Muhammad firmly on our country’s agenda, 40 years after the formation of a UDF which embraced his teachings at the risk of life and limb.”
Mashatile stressed the importance of using Iftaar to begin the process of dialogue aimed at restoring the unity of purpose.
“This is also why this day provides us with an opportunity to rededicate and recommit ourselves to peace, human solidarity and to the values of a non-racial, non-sexist, free, democratic and prosperous society, united in its diversity, as enshrined in our Constitution, which… some of you… helped to bring about.”
Ramadan, he believes, brings to the fore the spirit of sharing and Ubuntu – the idea that “I am because you are”.
“We must keep this spirit alive throughout because this is who we are as a people, and we should promote this spirit in every nook and cranny of our lives.”
He also applauded the fact that the event is an interfaith celebration and not just an event for Muslims.
“You are building bridges across our different religions and communities and in so doing, helping to build an inclusive South Africa that our Constitution envisages.”
He told the delegates that his Office, as delegated by President Cyril Ramaphosa, stands ready to assist in addressing issues to which they have committed themselves.
“Like the warriors of the Battle of Badr and the heroic activists who gathered in Mitchell's Plain to form the UDF 40 years ago, we will succeed.”
He said he hopes the engagement will drive them to improve the conditions of the people.
“We all hope to live in a country where people are more connected to one another and work together to solve problems.”
Source: South African Government News Agency