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President Cyril Ramaphosa: Address ahead of 2024 elections

Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa ahead of the 2024 elections

Fellow South Africans,

I wish to address you on two matters this evening.

Firstly, I wish to speak to you about the country’s readiness for the forthcoming elections.

Secondly, as this sixth democratic administration draws to a close, I wish to speak to you about the path we have travelled together over the last 5 years.  

Tomorrow morning at 9am, in voting stations and homes across the country, South Africans who have registered for special votes will begin to cast their ballots.

Thousands of South Africans living abroad have already voted.

And this Wednesday, the 29th of May, millions more South Africans will exercise this most important of democratic rights.

This will be the seventh time that South Africans of all races, from all walks of life, from all corners of our country, will go to vote for national and provincial government.

We will once again assert the fundamental principle, articulated in the Freedom Charter, that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.

In the days to come, we will be doing much more than exercising our Constitutional right to vote.

We will be determining the direction that our country takes. We will be taking responsibility for our future, the future of our families, our communities, and our nation.

As we cast our votes, we will be vindicating the struggles and sacrifices of the generations before us who fought for this democracy.

As in every election that we have held since 1994, we expect this election to be held in conditions of peace and stability, to be free and to be fair.

We commend the Independent Electoral Commission for the impressive work they have undertaken in preparation for these elections.

As a country, we have once again witnessed the capabilities of the IEC – in the successful voter registration weekends, in the registration of parties and candidates, in the preparation of ballot papers, in the organisation of overseas voting, and in the diligent application of our electoral laws.

We convey our thanks and best wishes to the IEC commissioners, to the IEC staff and to the thousands of election workers as they deliver on this most important responsibility in the coming days.

One of the defining features of all our elections since 1994 has been their integrity.

This has been made possible not only by the work and conduct of the IEC, but also by the presence of party agents and independent observers.

The involvement of party agents gives people confidence that there is effective oversight of all aspects of the electoral process.

Through the presence of local and international observers we are able to satisfy ourselves that our elections conform not only to our own laws, but also to internationally-accepted standards of freeness and fairness.

We thank all the party agents and the election observers for the work they are doing, and reiterate that they must be allowed to do their work without any hindrance.

As in previous elections, our law enforcement agencies and security services have made extensive preparations to ensure that these elections are peaceful and that all South Africans can freely exercise their right to vote.

They have been deployed throughout the country to ensure that there are no disturbances or disruptions to the election process.

We thank them for their professionalism, their dedication and their vigilance.

Over the course of the last few months, many different parties and candidates have vigorously and enthusiastically campaigned for votes.

While the contestation has been robust and has, at times, become heated, campaigning has been peaceful and free of intimidation.

We commend all parties that have upheld the Electoral Code of Conduct and that have ensured that their supporters adhere to the democratic principles that have long characterised our elections.

We should all be concerned at reports that came out today about the obstruction of election activities, including unlawful entry at IEC storage sites in KwaZulu-Natal.

We once again call upon all parties, candidates, supporters and every South African to refrain from any action that could interfere with the due electoral process.

Regardless of the outcome, let this election further entrench our democracy and strengthen our commitment to uphold it.

My Fellow South Africans,

This election brings to a close the sixth administration of our democracy.

When this administration took office in 2019, our country stood at a turning point.

We had endured a decade of corruption and state capture, of weak economic growth and the erosion of our public institutions.

Today, we have put that era behind us.

We have placed South Africa on a new trajectory of recovery and laid a strong foundation for future growth.

We have taken significant steps to reform our economy by implementing a number of reforms that affect various sectors of the economy.

In tackling crime and corruption we have introduced a number of initiatives and measures to reposition our criminal justice system.

We have faced many challenges along the way, which have tested our resilience and our resolve.

Yet, in each instance, we have confronted these challenges together. We have remained united. We have worked in partnership and in solidarity.

Together, as a nation, we brought state capture to an end.

We dislodged the criminal networks that had stolen billions from our people, that had eroded our public institutions and that had undermined the rule of law.

Together, we worked to rebuild our law enforcement agencies, our security services, our state-owned companies and a number of other public bodies.

Through the work of institutions like the NPA’s Investigating Directorate, the Hawks and the SIU, several state capture and corruption cases have been brought to court and billions of rands in stolen funds have been recovered.

On Friday, I signed into law legislation that will establish the NPA’s Investigating Directorate against Corruption as a permanent entity.

There is still much that we need to do to end corruption.

However, as a country, we have sent a clear message to the corrupt that they can no longer expect to get away with their crimes with impunity and without consequence.

One of the developments that defined the last five years was the COVID pandemic, which was the worst global health crisis in over a century.

Our country and our people were not spared the devastation of the pandemic.

More than 100,000 South Africans lost their lives to the illness. More than 2 million jobs were lost, and many businesses were forced to close.

And yet, the damage could have been far, far worse.

As a country, we came together when it was most needed.

We took extraordinary measures to keep ourselves and each other safe.

We lowered the rate of infection, and ensured that every person received the care that they needed.

We introduced a massive package of social and economic support to protect vulnerable businesses, workers and households from the destructive effects of the pandemic.

More than 5.7 million workers received wage support through the special UIF scheme.

Through the introduction of the special SRD grant, we provided relief to more than 11 million unemployed people at the height of the pandemic.

Working together, we succeeded in administering more than 39 million COVID vaccine doses.

Even during the worst moments of the pandemic, we endured and we overcame.

This is how we are as South Africans. We confront even the greatest of challenges with determination and courage.

When, in July 2021, it looked like our country would go up in flames, the people of South Africa stood firm against those who wanted to incite an insurrection.

We proved that our democracy remains strong, and our commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law resolute.

When, in April 2022, catastrophic flooding struck parts of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and North West, South Africans came together to provide material assistance to those affected and to rebuild what was destroyed.

And as we worked to rebuild our economy, South Africans came together in social partnerships to drive investment, to build infrastructure and to remove the obstacles to inclusive growth.

Our economy has returned to pre-COVID levels and we have recovered the jobs lost to the pandemic.

As we confronted a debilitating electricity crisis, we came together as social partners.

Through a concerted and focused effort, we achieved a sustained reduction in the severity of load shedding.

Together, we supported Eskom’s efforts to improve the performance of its power stations. We enabled investment in new electricity generation capacity on a scale that is unprecedented in our history.

Working with financial institutions, development agencies, business and professional associations, we revitalised investment in infrastructure.

The value of projects currently in construction is over R230 billion, including energy, water infrastructure and rural roads projects.

Together, we mobilised more than R1.5 trillion in new investment commitments. This has led to the opening of new factories, mines, data centres and production lines.

Master plans have been finalised in eight industries, including clothing, poultry, sugar, automotive, furniture, steel, tourism and forestry.

We have provided support to more than 1,000 black industrialists over the last five years. And today, more than half a million workers own shares in the companies they work for.

We have made this progress by working in partnership and building consensus.

We came together to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment.

Working with private sector partners, we established the Youth Employment Service, which has created over 144,000 work experiences for young people.

We have worked across government and with NGOs to implement the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has created more than 1.9 million work and livelihood opportunities for unemployed South Africans.

And as the country confronted the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide, South Africans rallied together in defence of the lives and the safety of the women of this country.

A National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence was developed, together with civil society, as a whole-of-society response to this national emergency.

New laws were introduced to strengthen the response of the criminal justice system and centres established to provide support to survivors of gender-based violence.

On Friday, I signed into law the establishment of a National Council on GBV and Femicide, which will lead and coordinate our national response.

We have worked together to rebuild community policing forums and to provide them with the resources they need to be more effective in the fight against crime.

We have increased the number of police on the street by 20,000 over the last two years and established specialised task teams in the police to tackle illegal mining, cable theft, cash-in-transit heists, gangsterism and other economic crimes.

This work is producing results. Arrests are being made. Perpetrators are being sent to jail. And in many areas, the incidence of such crimes is being reduced.

Even under difficult conditions, over the last five years we have made progress together in tackling poverty and improving people’s lives.

We worked together to implement the National Minimum Wage, which has increased the wages of more than 6 million workers, including farm workers and domestic workers.

Last year, South Africa achieved its highest matric pass rate ever.

Significantly, learners from no-fee paying schools accounted for around two-thirds of the total bachelor passes obtained.

These achievements are the result of a collective effort by the learners, their teachers, education officials, parents and communities.

They are also the result of programmes to support children from poor families, including the child support grant, the school feeding programme and the increase in no-fee schools.

Working together, we have substantially increased financial support for students from poor and working class families.

We have doubled the number of students receiving support from NSFAS over the last five years to well over a million in the last academic year.

And we have reasserted our country’s presence on the global stage, providing a strong voice for the developing world and for the oppressed and powerless everywhere.

We have worked towards silencing the guns throughout our continent, including through diplomacy and the deployment of SANDF personnel as peace keepers.

Just a few days ago, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces concluded the work of the sixth Parliament.

Over the course of five years, Members of Parliament from all parties represented in Parliament have worked diligently to implement a clear electoral mandate to transform our country.

They have worked alongside South Africans to consider and pass several transformative laws. They have convened public hearings in every part of the country, received thousands of submissions on every bill and conducted their proceedings in an open and transparent manner.

From strengthening the laws against gender-based violence to making South African Sign Language our twelfth official language, from ensuring transparency and accountability in political party funding to introducing the National Health Insurance, this Parliament has drawn on the views and the wishes of the people of South Africa.

As the work of Parliament has come to an end, we thank all the Members of this Sixth Parliament for their hard work and dedication over the last five years.

We thank the Presiding Officers, the leaders of all the political parties, the Committee Chairs, the Whips and all the Parliamentary staff.

Fellow South Africans,

The last five years have been a time of rebuilding and recovery.

It has been about working together not only to meet the challenges of the moment, but to put in place firm foundations for a better future.

As this sixth administration draws to a close, and as we prepare for the seventh administration, let us build on the progress that we have made.

At this moment in our path to renewal, we cannot afford to turn back.

There is more work to be done.

Let us draw strength and encouragement from the difficulties we have overcome together.

I call upon all South Africans to go cast their votes. 
    
We are a diverse people, but a united nation.

Let us be united in our commitment to our democracy.

Let us work together to build a better country.

May God bless South Africa and protect its people.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso. 
God seen Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika.
Hosi katekisa Afrika.

I thank you

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