I would like to extend to Vuk’uzenzele readers my best wishes for 2017 as a year in which our country must take serious steps to reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.
As learners and workers settle in behind their desks, factory equipment, steering wheels and mining drills, we greet 2017 with the determination that this must be a year in which we transform South Africans.
It is a sad fact that many South Africans will not be behind desks, factory equipment, steering wheels or mining drills because they do not have the skills or the jobs to be in those positions.
These compatriots must be the focus in 2017 of all our efforts to improve social and economic conditions in our country.
We have every reason to be proud of our nation’s achievements in 2016. It was a year in which we made progress in extending services to our people including housing, water, electricity, accessible education, health care, roads, transport, social grants and in fighting hunger through public employment schemes and other programmes.
In 2016, government, business and labour worked together closely to support our economy and ward off the risk of South Africa being downgraded by international ratings agencies.
We have every reason to congratulate the matric Class of 2016 on attaining their passage into the world of work or into tertiary education, but we know too well that there are tens of thousands of recently qualified matriculants who have simply been added to worrying numbers of South Africans who are already unemployed.
2017 is a year in which South Africans must be united in working together to create a better life for all. Building South Africa will require compromise and sacrifice from every single one of us.
We call on all South Africans to contribute, each according to his or her ability. We call on the private sector to work with government and organised labour to increase their contribution in areas such as manufacturing and construction.
This will create more jobs. We call on artists, athletes, academia, the faith-based sector and other civil society formations to do what they can within their sectors to strengthen and build our nation.
This is a year in which government would like to see more South Africans taking up the wide range of opportunities that have been created over a number of years to ensure that we have more black South Africans participate in our economy, and to empower women in particular.
I invite all South Africans to visit municipal, provincial and national government offices and websites to find our more about opportunities in education, from student financing to internships; in public employment programmes; in funding for township businesses and rural enterprises; in financial assistance to help small businesses market themselves internationally; in incentives that make it easier for more businesses to employ more people.
I urge all South Africans to make this year of exploring all the opportunities that do exist to make life better for the individual and to improve our economy.
We need to change the commanding heights of the economy, and increase the participation of black people as owners and managers.
We also need to step up our fight against racism.
All institutions and businesses must promote inclusion and non-racialism. Nobody must be excluded on the basis of colour or race, through subtle and unconstitutional means.
While we focus on our national tasks for 2017, we must always remain mindful of our journey through history.
This year, we will celebrate the centenary of His Excellency Oliver Reginald Tambo, the late President of the ANC and national hero who worked tirelessly so that all South Africans can live in peace, freedom and democracy.
Secondly, we will mark the centenary of the sinking of the ship, the Mendi, in which scores of black soldiers died on 21 February 1917.
The two centenaries must be used to unite all our people in appreciation of what the country has achieved against all odds, in building a new society from the ashes of apartheid colonialism.
As we work in 2017 to make this a year of jobs and non-racialism. It must be a year in which we work harder to place land in the hands of black South Africans.
Importantly, it must be the year of unity in action, South Africans working together to move South Africa forward!
Let this be a successful year for all!