From The Union Buildings
It is a time for fresh starts in a number of aspects that affect our lives and for making resolutions to do things better.
It is also a time of hope – hope for a better life for ourselves, and for things to become better for the country that we all love.
2022 has been a difficult year. It is a year during which South Africans continued to endure the hardships that are given rise to by unemployment, poverty and persistent inequality.
On top of all this we have had to deal with the rising cost of living and an energy crisis. We have also been burdened by the loss of loved ones to a number of tragedies.
There have been devastating tragic events that have destroyed both lives and livelihoods.
These events include floods, fatal vehicle crashes, deaths in taverns, dam wall collapses, drownings, fires in informal settlements and most recently, the terrible explosion of a fuel tanker in Boksburg in Gauteng that killed at least 41 people.
A number of young men have lost their lives during the summer initiation season, turning what was meant to be a time of joy and celebration into a time of sorrow.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all the bereaved families. May the Lord embrace and comfort all families who suffered loss as a result of these tragic events.
With all that has happened this past year, we must remain optimistic and have hope. For hope does spring eternal in the human breast.
Much as we are going through a stormy phase in the life of a country, storms do eventually pass.
Two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, I said that we would overcome. And we have.
The COVID-19 pandemic no longer determines how we live our lives. We have been able to shelter society’s most vulnerable from its worst effects.
Our economy is growing again and is now larger than it was before the pandemic.
Over the past year, around 1.5 million new jobs were created.
The Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has provided opportunities to more than a million citizens, is growing and thriving.
We are improving the business operating environment and attracting new investment.
We are undertaking reforms in the operation of our ports and railways, and in our telecommunications, water and electricity sectors.
We are working hard to end the crisis of load shedding. We are increasing the amount of renewable energy on the grid.
The benefits of this work may not be immediately felt, but we should expect that these efforts will steadily reduce the need for load shedding until it is no longer necessary.
Over the last year, there have been milestones in the fight against corruption.
The State Capture Commission handed over its final report and government has set out a plan for the implementation of its recommendations.
There have been several arrests, prosecutions and convictions for corruption and cases related to state capture. Significant amounts of stolen funds have been recovered by state owned companies like Eskom and Transnet.
Just as the new year is a time for a fresh start in our personal lives, so too must it be for the life of our nation.
South Africans want to see our country’s electricity challenges resolved. They want to see tougher action against corruption. They want to lead lives of dignity and to have jobs. They want to live in safety, freedom and peace.
We must build on the important work that has been done this past year to determine our actions in the next. We must intensify the fight against poverty and inequality, unemployment, crime and gender-based violence.
This is what South Africans want and deserve.
Even as we face the challenges of today and tomorrow, the people of South Africa still hold fast to the belief in our nation’s greatness. They are determined to see our country prosper and thrive.
As we look to the year ahead, we pay tribute to the many outstanding South Africans who have served our nation.
We pay tribute to the lifeguards, emergency workers, law-enforcement personnel, fire fighters, nurses, doctors and other health care workers.
We pay tribute to our educators, who have worked so hard to restore our classrooms as places of learning, and to the learners themselves who have given their very best in centres of learning.
We thank the hard working staff, businesses and suppliers who keep our streets clean, who transport commuters, and who provide our homes with various services.
We applaud the farmers and farmworkers who produce our food. We thank those who opened their hearts to victims of tragedy and helped wherever and however they could.
Our humanity and our unity during times of hardship is what makes us who we are.
Let us enter 2023 with the courage and resilience for which we are known. Let us keep going and keep on trying, no matter how difficult it gets.
By working together, we can and will rebuild our country. We can and will improve our economy and improve the lives of our people.
Wherever you are at this time, I wish you a happy, prosperous and peaceful new year.