SA counts democratic gains of the last 30 years

Despite an uphill battle over the last three decades, South Africa has successfully stayed the course of building a democratic society since the end of apartheid, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The President made these remarks while delivering the sixth State of the Nation Address of the current administration in Cape Town, on Thursday.

“We have cast off the tyranny of apartheid and built a democratic State based on the will of the people,’ President Ramaphosa said, acknowledging that the country has established strong institutions to protect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all people.

‘We have transformed the lives of millions of South Africans, providing the necessities of life and creating opportunities that never existed before.”

Government, he said, has enabled the creation of a diverse economy whose minerals, agricultural products and manufactured goods reach every corner of the world, while creating jobs in South Africa.

‘As a country, we have returned to the community of nations, ex
tending a hand of peace and friendship to all countries and all peoples.

‘We have endured times of great difficulty, when the strength of our constitutional democracy has been severely tested. There have been times when events beyond our borders have held back our progress.

‘The global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 brought to an end a decade of strong growth and faster job creation,’ President Ramaphosa said.

The President said South Africa’s policies and programmes have, over the course of 30 years, lifted millions of people out of dire poverty.

“Today, fewer South Africans go hungry and fewer live in poverty. In 1993, South Africa faced a significant poverty challenge, with 71.1% of its population living in poverty. However, under the democratic government, there has been a consistent decline in these numbers.

“By 2010, the poverty rate had dropped to 60.9%, and it continued to decrease, reaching 55.5% in 2020, as reported by the World Bank. This progress has been made possible by extensive support
to those in society who need it most,” the President said.

Five years ago, government introduced a further measure to tackle poverty by introducing the National Minimum Wage.

“The decision by key role players, being business and labour and communities, to introduce the minimum wage immediately raised the wages of over six million workers.”

Social support

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, government introduced the special social relief of distress (SRD) Grant, which currently reaches some nine million unemployed people every month.

“We have seen the benefits of this grant and will extend it and improve it as the next step towards income support for the unemployed. These grants and subsidies do much more than give people what they need to live. They are an investment in the future.

“Social assistance has been shown to increase school enrolment and attendance, lower drop-out rates, and improve the pass rate. South Africans are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy has increased from 54 years in
2003 to 65 years in 2023.

“Maternal and infant deaths have declined dramatically. We have built more hospitals and clinics, especially in poor areas, providing better quality care to more South Africans.

“Today, 95% of persons diagnosed with HIV know their status; 79% of those receive antiretroviral treatment, and 93% of those are virally suppressed. New HIV infections among young people have declined significantly,” the President said.

He acknowledged efforts to improve access to quality health care through the National Health Insurance (NHI).

“The NHI will provide free health care at the point of care for all South Africans, whether in public or private health facilities. We plan to incrementally implement the NHI, dealing with issues like health system financing, the health workforce, medical products, vaccines and technologies, and health information systems.”

One of the most impactful achievements in the first three decades of freedom has been in providing homes to the people.

“Today, nearly nine o
ut of every 10 households live in a formal dwelling. Where there were once shacks and mud houses, there are now homes of brick and mortar. These are homes with water to drink and to wash with, homes with electricity for lighting and cooking.

“At the end of apartheid, only six out of 10 people had access to clean drinking water. Today, that figure has increased to nearly nine out of 10 South Africans. We are working to ensure that subsidised housing is located close to work, education and services,” said the President.

Source: South African Government News Agency