SA has many rivers to cross

2004-04-22 15:59
Cape Town - Although it's almost ten years after its liberation from white minority rule, South Africa still faces many challenges. Great strides have been made to ensure the "expansion of the frontiers of human fulfilment", President Thabo Mbeki said.

Delivering his state of the nation address at the opening of parliament, he said many were unemployed, and continued to live in poverty.

"Violence against the person in all its forms continues to plague especially those sections of our population that are poor and live in socially-depressed communities."

The burden of disease, including Aids, continued to be a matter of serious concern, as did issues relating to the fact that many people, including many of the country's youth, lacked the education and skills needed in the economy and society.

Many people still lived in shacks, and others had no access to clean water, proper sanitation and electricity.

"Imbalances and inequalities that impact on fellow citizens on the basis of race, gender and geographic dispersal continue to persist," he said.

"However, despite this reality, the answer we have given and will continue to give to the question whether we have made progress with regard to the fundamental tasks of which (former president) Nelson Mandela spoke on the 24th of May, 1994, is a resounding - yes!

"Together with all other objective observers of social development, we have always known that our country's blemishes produced by more than three centuries of colonialism and apartheid could not be removed in one decade.

Great advances made

"Nevertheless, we have no hesitation in saying that we have made great advances to ensure the expansion of the frontiers of human fulfilment, and the continuous extension of the frontiers of the freedom, of which Nelson Mandela spoke almost ten years ago," Mbeki said.

Among other things, about 1.9 million housing subsidies had been provided and 1.6 million houses built for the poor, more than 70% of households had been electrified, 9 million additional people now had access to clean water, and 63% of households had access to sanitation.

Further, an integrated education system had been successfully established, despite a clear need for more resource allocation and capacity building in poor areas. By 2002, secondary school enrolment had reached 85%.

On the economy, Mbeki said that ten years ago, South Africa had been in its 21st year of double digit inflation, and the country had had three years of negative growth - the wealth of the nation was shrinking.

"A decade later, inflation is down to 4%, if you use the CPIX, or less than 1% if you use the CPI index."

The country was experiencing the longest period of consistent positive growth since the GDP was properly recorded in the 1940s, the net open forward position of the South African Reserve Bank rose to $4.7bn in surplus by the end of last year, and public sector debt had come down to less than 50% of GDP, Mbeki said.

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