South Africa has always been at its strongest when we are united and when we rally around a common cause. Now more than ever we need to reignite the spark of hope by focusing on greater social cohesion and nation building, writes Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya.
Over the past few years, South Africa has faced what at times has felt like insurmountable challenges.
The silent cancer of state capture took hold of many of our public institutions, setback our development and poisoned the public life of our country.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa took office, he set out to rebuild, to drive investment and to foster a greater sense of social cohesion and nation-building. He reached out to our social partners, and together we set about changing the trajectory of our nation.
A palpable feeling of change and renewal was evident during this period, only for it all to be upended by the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic. Overnight, we were forced to reprioritise resources and shift our focus toward fighting the deadliest global pandemic in over 100 years. For almost two years, our focus was on saving lives and livelihoods.
Many expected our country to fail in what was an unprecedented challenge. Yet we succeeded in slowing the spread of infections, in strengthening our health system, in providing support to the most vulnerable and, ultimately, undertaking the largest vaccine programme in our history.
At the height of our vaccine drive we were administering more than 240,000 vaccines daily. It was a massive undertaking that encompassed encouraging eligible people to vaccinate while also ensuring a constant supply of vaccines, along with reinforcing that vaccines reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalisation and death.
Over 37 million vaccine doses have now been administered, and we achieved this through the resilience of our health system and by building partnerships across society that proved crucial in saving lives and livelihoods.
As the threat of the pandemic slowly began to wane, we faced further upheaval due to the looting and anarchy in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. This coordinated attack on our democracy failed as good people in our communities stood up to defend our country, our freedom and our democratic way of life.
In fact, time and time again, we have seen people stand up to help their fellow citizens, and this was the case following the devastating floods in KZN earlier this year. The flood waters destroyed all in its path but could not destroy the spirit of our people.
The resilience of our public institutions also came to the fore during this period, starting with the rescue of people trapped by the flooding. Subsequently, we witnessed how all three spheres of government rallied together to provide assistance to those left destitute. The central thread of hope and active citizens determined to help build a better tomorrow has permeated this period in our lives.
South Africa faces monumental challenges on various fronts, including energy insecurity and the economic effects of the pandemic.
People are sick of hearing excuses for inefficient delivery. South Africans are right to demand change and action that will improve their daily lives.
Through their efforts, through the resilience both of our people and our institutions, change is happening. For a long time, it seemed impossible that anyone would ever be held accountable for state capture. Yet in the last few weeks and months, several high-profile corruption cases have been brought to court. Millions of rands of stolen money has been recovered. This has been made possible by the determined efforts to rebuild our law enforcement agencies and provide them with the resources and the means to pursue corruption cases.
Institutional foundations remain sound
State capture may have shaken the very core of our democracy but our institutional foundations remain sound and our constitutional democracy remains strong.
Faced with a barrage of challenges we often forget that dedicated public servants continue to work daily to ensure a better life for all.
Everyday criminals are caught and prosecuted, often away from the public eye. Work to keep communities functioning takes place through the provision of clean water, electricity, infrastructure and services. Our commitment to providing social assistance through grants to poor and vulnerable South Africans has also never wavered.
Our social assistance programme is at the heart of government’s poverty alleviation programme and central to restoring the dignity of our people. Through it, we continue to improve the living conditions of poor, vulnerable and underprivileged South Africans.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, massive levels of unemployment and extensive structural constraints to growth, our economy too is showing signs of resilience. After the loss of around two million jobs through Covid-19, the number of employed people in South Africa grew by more than a million in the first half of this year.
While modest, these gains show that our efforts to grow the economy and create jobs with our social partners are beginning to bear fruit. Even at the height of the latest round of devastating load shedding what stood out was the determination of South Africans to keep going.
To put an end to the crippling effects of power shortages on businesses and livelihoods, government has embarked on several decisive actions to rapidly increase generating capacity. At this time of global uncertainty, it sometimes feels that we take one step forward and two steps back. Yet what is indisputable is the desire of South Africans to see our nation succeed and thrive.
South Africa has always been at its strongest when we are united and when we rally around a common cause. Now more than ever we need to reignite the spark of hope by focusing on greater social cohesion and nation building.
The building blocks for our recovery are in place in the form of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. The overarching goal of the plan is to create a sustainable, resilient and inclusive economy through ensuring energy security, mass public employment and infrastructure development.
The social partners continue work to agree on a social compact for growth and employment. To make this work, every South African should do whatever they can in their sphere of influence to make a difference. This is our nation and the power to ensure hope for a better tomorrow resides in our hands.
- Vincent Magwenya is the Presidency spokesperson
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