Despite the "difficulties" of 2019, South Africa is drawing closer to a better life for all South Africans, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his New Year's message. But he described gender-based violence as a national shame."As the 25th year of our democracy draws to a close, we look back on a year that has been filled with both highs and lows, a year in which we measured great progress, but also encountered several setbacks," Ramaphosa said in a statement released on Tuesday.He said in May, millions of South Africans participated "peacefully and enthusiastically" in the general elections, showing that South Africa has a "robust and vibrant democracy". "We recommitted ourselves [to] build a new society founded on the will of the people, in which all South Africans – black and white – truly belong. And yet, for many South Africans, the hardships endure."He said while the economy created jobs, this has not been enough to curb unemployment and poverty. "Many South Africans' lives have changed for the better, but many others are yet to feel the benefits of the economic reforms and new investment.OPINION | My 2020 advice to President Cyril Ramaphosa: adopt Thatcherism "This has also been a year in which we have had to confront the darkest forces of our nature. As a nation, we have witnessed the brutality perpetrated by men against women and against children," he said."We have seen lives, both young and old, ended with brutal violence. "We have seen fear in our homes, schools and streets." He said the nation "stood as one" to end the crimes perpetrated by "those men who have no respect for the lives, the rights or the dignity of women and children". "An outpouring of grief and anger has incited the nation to action, to undertake an emergency response plan that will turn the tide on this national shame."Better life for all"Despite the difficulties of this past year, day by day, we draw closer to our ambition of a better life for all South Africans. "Day by day, we are drawing closer to our goal of providing quality healthcare to all South Africans and redistributing land to all those who work it and all those who need it." Politics 2019: From Zuma spy claims to Maimane saying goodbye"We are making progress towards our aim to provide free higher education to all students from poor and middle-class families and to ensure all children benefit from early childhood development. "Each day, we draw closer to our target of R1.2tn in new investment in the factories, mines, refineries, shops that will drive our economic renewal." "Steadily, we are rebuilding the public institutions that are so vital to our democracy, restoring our law enforcement agencies, and taking forward the fight against state capture and corruption." A new decadeRamaphosa said he was entering the new decade, encouraged by the progress made under difficult circumstances and "knowing that we still have many mountains to climb, and many treacherous rivers to cross". He said from January, South Africa will chair the African Union and seek to work with other African countries to realise an Africa Free Trade Area."We know only too well the enormity of the challenges that confront us, but we are united in the knowledge that we have the means and the determination to overcome them," Ramaphosa said."Just as the strongest steel is forged in fire, just as diamonds are forged deep inside the earth's crust under the most extreme pressure, let us turn adversity into opportunity. "In doing so, let us each play our part: for upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all. "By working together towards the South Africa that we all want, sparing neither strength nor courage, we will progress and we will succeed."He wished everyone a successful and peaceful 2020.