President Jacob Zuma today spoke of how proud he was at the “substantial progress” South Africa has made since 1994 in comparison to other countries that deteriorated after liberation.
“We have done exceptionally well against all odds, in only 17 years,” Zuma said at Freedom Day celebrations at the Union Buildings.
He spoke of the importance of Chapter 9 institutions like the office of the public protector and the Human Rights Commission, which formed part of available mechanisms to ensure that apartheid never recurred.
He urged South Africans to not allow anyone or any grouping in society to reverse the gains of the country’s hard-won democracy.
This day, he said, marked the celebration of a freedom and democracy obtained through the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices of scores of freedom fighters and ordinary South Africans.
“We must therefore commit ourselves to not allow anyone or any grouping or structure in our society, to trivialise our freedom or to reverse the gains of our hard-won democracy.”
He recalled how a few years ago, people lived in a country whose system of government was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations.
He also spoke of the pain caused by the legacy of apartheid that stripped away the dignity of millions of South Africans.
Referring to the Group Areas Act of 1950 which designated residential areas according to race, Zuma said the scars caused by forced removals remain to this day.
The government was attempting to reverse the effect, he said.
“Thousands more still bear the psychological scars of being bundled into Bantustans or so-called homelands.”