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Celebrating SA’s freedom

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
South Africa celebrated an important milestone recently, when the country marked Freedom Day on 27 April.

The day commemorated the occasion in 1994 when for the first time, South Africans of all races exercised their democratic right to vote.

The theme for this year’s celebration was: “Mobilising Society Towards Consolidating Democracy and Freedom”.

Government has made major strides in keeping the spirit of democracy alive in the country.

One of the symbolic moments in South Africa’s history was doing away with the old and raising a new flag in 1994.

Another came on Freedom Day in 2000 when the new Coat of Arms was unveiled.

Over the years, the country has come a long way in reclaiming its freedom, not only focusing on changing laws but also ensuring that the country’s citizens live in better conditions than they did under the previous government.

The results of Census 2011 paint the picture of a country where income levels have increased, the rollout of basic services has improved and education levels have risen.

Compared to before 1994, the country can now be proud of the fact that millions of people now have water, electricity, sanitation and housing.

However, many more are still waiting for these basic services.

To ensure that the lives of all South Africans improve, government has made the National Development Plan (NDP) the country’s roadmap for the future.

The NDP outlines the type of society the country is striving for by 2030, where no one is hungry, everyone is able to go to school and further their studies if they wish, work is available and all South Africans c a n m a k e a contribution because they have been provided with the necessary skills to realise full their potential.

However, government alone cannot build such a society. The involvement of all South Africans is critical to the success of the NDP.

Citizens must know their rights and responsibilities and actively participate in building the country.

The 2013 celebrations for Freedom Day and month took on special significance as the nation prepares to commemorate 20 years of freedom.

Some of government’s achievements over this period include providing the following services to South Africans:

Healthcare

  • Interventions made to improve the quality of life are yielding results. The overall life expectancy of South Africans has improved significantly between 2009 and 2011 to 62 years.
  • The tide is turning in the fight against HIV/AIDS. By March 2012, more than 20.2 million people had undergone testing since the HIV Counselling and Testing campaign started in April 2010.
  • South Africa has discovered a candidate drug to treat malaria. It has the potential to become part of a single-dose cure for all strains of malaria and may be able to block transmission of the parasite.
Rural development and land reform

  • Through government’s Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, people living in rural communities have been given the opportunity to overcome poverty.
  • Since 2009, 1 306 346 hectares of land have been acquired and redistributed benefitting 1 942 789 people.
  • The number of youth who served their communities through participation in the National Youth Service Programme stands at 138 990.
Job creation

  • Employment grew by 327 000 (or 2.5 per cent) by the last quarter of 2012. Since the first quarter of 2011, employment has grown for seven consecutive quarters.
  • Employment in the informal sector increased by 112 000, while formal sector jobs increased by 92 000 and jobs in the agricultural sector by 23 000 in the third quarter of 2012.
Access to basic services
  • Households with access to water services increased from 92 percent to 94.7 percent.
  • Households with access to sanitation services from 64 percent to 84 percent.
  • Households with access to refuse removal services from 64 percent to 72 percent.
  • South Africa’s social assistance programme (grants) has expanded from benefitting only 2.7 million people in 1994 to more than 16 million in 2012.
  • The average time taken to issue an identity document has been reduced from about 150 days to about 30 days, while the average time taken to process an application for a social grant decreased from 30 days in 2010 to 21 days in 2012.