BBC news online right to reply

27 May 2013

Phumla WilliamsThe South African Government is dismayed by BBC correspondent John Simpson’s lopsided view of reality as expressed in his report “Is there a future for whites in South Africa?” His views do not reflect the true picture of race relations in our country.

His assertion that white people in South Africa have been abandoned by the Government is false. Since the birth of democracy in 1994, we have strived to build a society based on the values of unity and togetherness. Our peaceful transition to democracy stunned the world, naysayers had predicted that the country would be plunged into a race fuelled civil war, they were proved wrong. South Africans, black and white, joined hands, and together built a country which still remains a shining example of reconciliation to the world.

Our founding fathers were determined to prevent race from ever being a divisive factor in our new nation. The vision of an all-inclusive society was inspired by the famous words from the Freedom Charter - that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. The preamble of our Constitution states that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

We are a non-racial country, we continually strive to break down social and racial barriers in our unending quest to ensure a better life for all. All our programmes are directed at advancing equality. We will not allow a flawed analysis to shift us from the vision of a non-sexist, non-racist, prosperous South Africa.

It is hard to find any semblance of reality in Mr Simpson’s report, he prefaces his argument by dramatically stating: “The question I have come to South Africa to answer is whether white people genuinely have a future here. The answer, as with so many similar existential questions, is ’Yes – but’…"

In fact the answer to his question is very simple; there is a future for all South Africans. The journey from pariah state to a thriving democracy has not been easy and we remain resolute in our determination to ensure a better life for all South Africans.

Government is working tirelessly to ensure that all our citizens are safe and secure, including the vulnerable members of society. At the same time we are dedicated to growing our economy to fight the triple scourge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The fight against crime remains one of our top priorities. Serious crime levels have been decreasing since 1994. The South African Police Service (SAPS), with the participation of all sectors of society, is turning the tide against crime.

Although we have made steady progress, we are aware that we must do more. It is unfortunate that Mr Simpson chooses only to focus on how crime affects one sector of society. Such unashamedly biased reporting gives a narrow and incomplete view of a much bigger picture. Crime affects everyone in our country across class, gender, religion and colour. It is our common enemy, and collectively we shall defeat this scourge.

Tackling unemployment, poverty and inequality is another priority of this Government. We have rolled out a massive infrastructure build programme throughout the country to transform the economic landscape while creating a significant number of new jobs and strengthening the delivery of basic services. Our investment in developing large-scale infrastructure also presents new opportunities for business to invest and grow. The Government has committed R827 billion over the next three years through the fiscus and state enterprises to infrastructure development.

President Jacob Zuma said: “The massive investment in infrastructure must leave more than just power stations, rail-lines, dams and roads. It must industrialise the country, generate skills and boost much-needed job creation.”

Investment in infrastructure and people is vitally important if we are to reach our long term vision for South Africa, as encapsulated in our National Development Plan (NDP) which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. The NDP is our vision for the future that will set South Africa on a new economic trajectory, bringing about faster economic growth, higher investment and more jobs.

Our government attaches great value to all our citizens. Social spending in support of poorer households accounts for 60 percent of our total expenditure. The national budget provides social grants to almost a third of the population, pays for free services at public healthcare facilities and makes provision for water and electricity in poor communities. In addition, poorer learners in the country have access to quality education without having to pay school fees.

Therefore the assertion that there is no social security for certain sectors of society is false. In his rush to be provocative, Mr Simpson has missed the bigger picture of life in South Africa.

We remain a society still deeply scarred by the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, but we have not allowed our past to define us. The growth and prosperity of all South Africans is inexorably linked.

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected President of South Africa in 1994 he said. “We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

The dream of our first democratically elected President is very much alive. South Africans remain steadfast in their commitment to building a shared future and a better life for all.

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)