President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his speech at the IEC Results Centre. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)
Twenty five ago, millions of our people exercised their democratic right to vote for the very first time – and in doing so set our country firmly on a path of freedom and progress.
Their actions represented the fulfilment of a solemn pledge made decades before in the Freedom Charter, which said that: “No government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.” That first vote was a tribute to the heroic struggles waged by successive generations of gallant women and men, to the hardships they endured and to the sacrifices they were prepared to make for our freedom. Today – 25 years later – we are here at the invitation of the Independent Electoral Commission to witness the announcement of the official results of the sixth democratic general election.
Having observed millions of our people casting teir votes patiently, enthusiastically and peacefully three days ago, we now have a greater appreciation of what President Nelson Mandela meant during his inauguration on 10 May 1994 when he said:
“Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.”
This election confirms that freedom does indeed reign in South Africa.
It gives us the assurance that our people are the true custodians of our freedom and democracy.
We pay tribute to the millions who went to the polls to choose the public representatives who will champion their collective interests and help them realise their shared dreams and common aspirations.
Many of our people braved the rain and cold to cast the ballots that will determine the future of our country.
In doing so, they reaffirmed the vibrancy of our democracy in an environment of diverse opinions.
After months of campaigning, where political leaders of all persuasions had their say, this week, the people of South Africa have had their say.
We salute the elderly for coming out in their large numbers to vote as they have done in every election since 1994.
We were deeply saddened by the passing away of two of our elderly compatriots at voting stations on Wednesday.
We send our sincere condolences to the families and friends of Ms Susan Mohanoua Matona from Vanderbijlpark in Sedibeng and Mr Dirk Henry Osche from Elandspoort in Tshwane.
We must honour their memories by deepening our democratic culture and defending, with all we have, the right to vote.
We applaud the young people – especially the first time voters – who participated in the elections and took responsibility for their future and that of our country.
I was encouraged to observe the hive of activity on social networks where young people were encouraging each other to go and vote.
Our people have spoken – and they have done so clearly and emphatically.
They have voted for a united South Africa in which all may realise their potential.
They have voted for a more equal society, free from poverty, hunger and want.
They have voted for a country at peace with itself and the world.
We thank the staff and leadership of the Independent Electoral Commission, who have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of these elections.
Often under difficult conditions, you conducted yourselves professionally, impartially and with the dedication we have come to expect from this valuable institution.
We pay tribute to the men and women of the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force for ensuring peace and stability during voting – and to the Home Affairs staff who ensured that as many voters as possible had their identity documents on election day.
I also wish to extend my most sincere gratitude to the leaders and members of the various political parties that participated in the elections.
In both your conduct and your words, you contributed significantly to the peace and calm which characterised the entire election season.
I wish to thank all the observer teams, both local and international, who gave their time and effort to ensure a free and fair election.
I must also thank the media, which continues to play a vital role in our democracy and which was so important in ensuring that the South African people were well informed as they went to vote.
Lastly, I wish to thank the religious leaders of all faiths who prayed for a peaceful election.
I salute each and every one of you and I thank you for making it possible for this election to be a resounding expression of the will of the people of South Africa.
We can declare with certainty that democracy has emerged victorious.
Our people have given all the leaders of this country a firm mandate to build a better South Africa for all.
Let us now work together – black and white, women and men, young and old – to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it, one which is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous.
Let freedom reign, and let the sun never set on so glorious a human achievement.
I thank you.