“The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it always has been.”
These are the words expressed by the late former president Nelson Mandela shortly after his release from prison 30 years ago on Tuesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a message to the nation on Monday, said these words still resonated with him and that unity was vital in confronting the challenges faced today.
“Our history tells us that we can overcome even the most intractable of problems only when we work together,” he said.
“Inequality, especially as defined by race and gender, remains among the highest in the world. Unemployment is deepening and poverty is widespread. Violence, including the violence that men perpetrate against women, continues to ravage our communities,” Ramaphosa added.
He went on to say that the release of Madiba in 1990, “like the end of apartheid itself, was achieved through united and sustained action. It was achieved by putting aside differences to pursue a common goal.”
These included talks between then president FW de Klerk and several other stakeholders that saw the unbanning of the ANC, South African Communist Party, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and other political organisations of the liberation movement in South Africa.
“As we mark this joyous anniversary, we share a common goal of an equal, just and prosperous South Africa, where all may experience an improving quality of life, and all may be able to realise their potential,” Ramaphosa said.
“We all seek a growing, inclusive economy that creates jobs,” he said, adding that: “We seek a capable developmental state that provides affordable services efficiently. We seek education, health, homes and safety for all.”
The president said he was certain that these goals were achievable for the country, “but it will require much closer collaboration among all parts of society – government, unions, business, community structures, traditional leaders, students, faith-based organisations, academics and others.”
“It requires that every organisation and every individual brings whatever resources and capabilities they have to the table. It also requires trust and respect, and a willingness to accommodate views and positions of others.”
Ramaphosa – who officially assumed his role as the chair of the African Union on the weekend – said in his weekly newsletter that such partnerships already existed in the country and were currently working to solve common problems.
“From the social partners that meet every month at Nedlac to tackle unemployment and job losses to the public-private growth initiative, which is working on catalytic projects to boost growth, from the organisations that are working with government to tackle gender-based violence to the religious bodies that are working together to address social ills, various social compacts are in action,” he said.
“The task we have now is to deepen those partnerships, to make sure they have greater impact and to ensure that they are more inclusive. These are the practical actions around which we should unite.”
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