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2015: A year for greater positive change for SA

As Vuk’uzenzele returns to our homes and streets at the start of a new year, I am pleased to extend, on behalf of government and my family, my best wishes to all our readers for 2015.

As a nation, we can be proud of the many achievements we recorded during 2014, including the fact that we have produced another generation of young South Africans who have completed secondary education and are geared for further education and training, or the world of work.

However given the economic climate, there will be many young people who will face difficulty with regard to finding employment or other challenges in their lives while their families, communities and government do all we can to support them. However, those young people and those supporting them should never give up hope or stop giving and sharing. Ours is an economy and a society where we should never lose hope or, as a songwriter once said, let hope lose us.

When we hope in South Africa, we are not doing so in vain.

Our National Development Plan is a plan for dealing with unemployment, inequality and poverty. It is a plan that is rooted in the Freedom Charter that lives on in our Constitution today, 60 years since the Charter was adopted at a Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto.

Inspired by the Freedom Charter of 1955, we have, as democratic administrations since 1994, taken various bold steps to move South Africa forward.

As a result, the overwhelming majority of our people live in conditions which are vastly different from what it was, even 10 years ago.

Many more South Africans now have access to better housing and access to basic services.More people have access to housing and better and more equal access to basic services. More households have been electrified; healthcare and education has improved, and economic opportunities have been opened to the people.

We have invested in public transport to make sure that people can move between home and places of work more freely and safely.

We are supporting farmers, big and small, and are taking steps to ensure that people return to land from which they were forced or barred under apartheid.

Government has restored nearly 3,2 million hectares of land to South Africans and paid out more than R18 billion between 1995 and November 2014 to people who chose financial compensation instead. In this process, nearly 1,8 million people have benefited.

These achievements show what is possible if we all work together to move our country forward.

These achievements inspire us to do more and they inspire us to focus on the good that is being created in our country every day, even though headlines and talk shows would like us to believe differently.

As President, I am looking forward to 2015 as a year for even greater positive change in our country. On Thursday, February 12, I will deliver the State of the Nation Address which will set out how our country’s leadership and I see South Africa moving forward in this year.

The State of the Nation Address is an opportunity for all South Africans to learn first-hand how we view the current state of the country and how we plan to deal with the challenges that face us.

The State of the Nation Address gives all South Africans a chance not just to learn what government is planning, but to think about what each of us can do to make South Africa an even better place.

The Address to Parliament is an occasion on which we express our nation’s diversity and unity as people from all walks of life, political backgrounds and social and economic sectors come together to focus on those things we need to do as a nation to create opportunity for all South Africans and to build a united nation.

I look forward to the State of the Nation Address as an occasion that gets the nation talking and thinking about the things that are truly important to the majority of us – especially those of us who are committed to building a better future and a better life in our own country and in our region, continent and the world.

Mostly, I look forward to the Address as an occasion for the nation to take action that will change our country. 2015 is a year for unity in action to secure economic freedom for the majority of South Africans.

2015 is a year for stepping up our efforts to improve the lives of the poorest South Africans and turning into reality the many rights our Constitution affirms for citizens.

2015 is a year for lifting people out of poverty and adding to the thousands of opportunities that exist today and which apartheid denied most us for decades.

2015 should be a year during which all of us work daily and work hard to realise our shared vision of a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.

As positive-minded South Africans, we should in 2015 drown out the voices of cynicism and complaint that ridicule our achievements and that wish failure and disaster upon us.

As a government of the people, we will always work in the best interest of the nation, consulting people on their needs and their solutions to address those needs.

We will work with those in the private and community sectors who are committed to a better South Africa and we will humbly address mistakes we may make along the way.

I look forward to 2015 as a year in which I will visit many communities and projects to address challenges facing us and to celebrate initiatives by government, the private sector and communities to build the South Africa our Constitution calls for.

Our national call to action, Together We Move South Africa Forward, speaks of unity in action. It speaks of partnership and sharing of ideas and resources. And it suggests that we never stand still; that we are always on the move, facing in the right direction.

As we face the future, 2015 also reminds us of many important milestones in our history and development as a nation, from the Congress of the People in 1955, to the Sharpeville Massacre 55 years ago and the Trojan Horse Massacre in Athlone, Cape Town, in 1985.

There are many others that remind us of the high price paid by previous generations to secure the free and democratic South Africa in which we live today.

Let us honour our heritage by investing our best will and energy into the future.