Ramaphosa tells South Africans that energy is a basic human right and current crisis will pass

2019-03-21 14:49

The country will overcome the energy crisis, corruption, poverty and unemployment if we join hands and work together, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.

Ramaphosa was speaking at this year's commemoration of the Sharpeville massacre during national Human Rights Day. 

He said government had made great strides since the dawn of democracy to ensure that eight in 10 South Africans are afforded electricity in their homes. This achievement has however been tainted by the energy crisis the country is currently facing with a severe impact on the economy and people.

An urgent priority for government, he said, was the restoration of energy supply with an affordable model.

"We have confronted difficulties before, challenges that have seemed insurmountable. We have also confronted what many people thought was the most intractable challenges and problems and we have always prevailed. We have always prevailed and this we have done when we have been able to work together and never giving up.

"We will overcome this electricity crisis that is engulfing our country at this moment. We will overcome it just as we overcame the apartheid challenge, just as we will overcome unemployment, just as we will overcome poverty, crime and corruption."

The country has been experiencing Stage 4 load shedding for the past week with reports that Eskom could possibly implement Stage 5 and 6 in the coming weeks.

"The energy crisis that we are going through now, will pass."

To counter the effects of load shedding, government was also on an ambitious drive to industrialise and attract investment thus creating employment. He said government was determined to ensure that the economy is "on a more firm path of growth and recovery".

"The right to work is an important right that we would like to see fulfilled for our people and we are working day and night to ensure this right, this very important right is fulfilled. So long as one section of the population enjoys some or all of these rights while others remain unfulfilled, we will never be a society that is fulfilled we will always be a restless society."

Commitment to human rights

He said government's commitment to human rights required that it confront socio-challenges which were a consequence of both the apartheid regime as well as the current government.

"Things like energy, housing, water and healthcare are human rights issues, our people have a basic human right when it comes to all these matters... It may not be mentioned in the Bill of Rights but it is fundamental... to the dignity, safety, health and well-being of our people."

Ramaphosa also touched on gender-based violence and the abuse of disabled people. He said gender-based violence was a stain which was spreading in the country like "wildfire". 

Disabled people were subjected to discrimination in the workplace, which led them to being vulnerable to abuse. 

He said he was shocked that people with Albinism were living in fear for their lives.

"We cannot have a South Africa were other people are hunted down for the way they look and are being killed for their body parts. This must come to an end."

'We want the truth'

Families of Sharpeville massacre victims attended the event wearing T-shirts that read "we want the truth".

The Sharpeville and Langa massacres, where scores of people were shot and killed by apartheid police, came to symbolise the moral superiority of the anti-apartheid cause, Ramaphosa told attendees.

"Though lacking the guns of their oppressors, they were determined to stand up for what was right, no matter the cost. The regime had no regard for even the most basic of human rights, the right to protest freely. But try as they might, they could not extinguish the torch of liberty carried by the brave men and women who came before us."

As part of this year's commemoration, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said 100 houses of victims and families would become national monuments. 

Human Rights Day was celebrated under the banner of celebrating the promotion of indigenous languages.

In this respect, the president said a proposal had been submitted to Parliament to elevate South African Sign Language to the status of an official language. 

The Nama language was also being celebrated as it was now being taught in schools in the Northern Cape. A language rule book was also being finalised by the Pan South African Language Board, he said.

"It is said that when a language dies, a way of understanding the world dies with it. The aim of this year's celebration therefore is to highlight efforts to conserve languages that are in danger of becoming extinct."

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Read more on:    eskom  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  johannesburg  |  load shedding
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