On 18 July 2013 the world joined South Africans in celebrating the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela and Mandela Day. As we reflected on his life and legacy we again came to the realisation that every day he remains among us should be cherished.
For South Africans and most of the international community, the tall man with the beautiful smile awakens within us the aspiration to be better and to do good. This was again visible when individuals, communities, government departments and the business community gave 67 minutes of their time last week in the spirit of Madiba’s legacy. By doing so, we filled various empty tummies; put a smile on the faces of those less fortunate; and left schools, clinics and hospitals with a new sparkle.
It truly takes an extraordinary leader to move a nation to continue building onto his legacy. In 1994 when former President Mandela became the first democratic president of South Africa, he inherited a country which was racially divided; without human rights; and offered few South Africans basic services.
During his five year term he met and worked with South Africans from all walks of life in the spirit of reconciliation and endeavoured to create a better South African society.
His vision to restore human rights was made real when the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa took effect on 4 February 1997. It laid the basis for the construction of a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and the inalienable human rights of all.
At the signing of the Constitution, former President Mandela said: “As we close a chapter of exclusion and a chapter of heroic struggle, we reaffirm our determination to build a society of which each of us can be proud, as South Africans, as Africans, and as citizens of the world.”
Since then the country has moved steadily forward, building a new culture of human rights and a respect for dignity, which has become part of the fabric of the South African society.
Through the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), former President Mandela aimed to address the enormous shortfalls in social services created by apartheid. In 1999, at the end of his term, Madiba often spoke with great pride of the achievements of his administration.
Supply of clean and accessible water increased from 700 thousand to 1,3 million South Africans. Five hundred clinics were built and upgraded. The newly introduced Primary School Feeding Scheme reached 4,9 million children. Additionally, South Africa reached a 58 per cent electrification level. Moreover, close to 400 thousand subsidised houses were either completed or under construction and about 700 thousand subsidies were allocated.
Former President Mandela spoke humbly about these achievements, saying: “There is no magic in numbers as such. But we are proud that, through these and many other projects, our programmes are impacting on the lives of particularly the poor.”
With the groundwork in place, the following three administrations continued to build on these accomplishments to improve the lives of South Africans.
The Census 2011 results reinforced how far South Africa has come since former President Mandela took over the reins in 1994. Census 2011 stated that the households that used electricity for lighting increased from 58,2 per cent in 1996 to 84,7 per cent in 2011. There was a substantial increase in households that had access to piped water from 80,3 per cent in 1996 to 91,2 per cent in 2011.
Moreover, by June this year, 16 million people were eligible for social grants, compared to 2,5 million in 1998. Additionally, the 2012 Midterm Review Report indicates that between 1994 and 2011 Government has created approximately 2,8 million subsidised housing opportunities.
Madiba’s passion for education lives on in government programmes. The school feeding scheme now provides 8,8 million children with a nutritious meal on each school day, while over eight million children in more than 82 per cent of public schools received free education.
Census 2011 also indicated that enrolment of six-year-olds now stands at 92,7 per cent compared to 49,1 per cent in 2011, while for the seven-year-old group it was at 73,1 per cent in 1996 and 96,1 per cent in 2011.
Although great advances have been made, more hard work lies ahead to ensure that every South African has access to electricity; clean water; decent housing; good medical care; modern schools and a job.
Our Vision 2030 known as the National Development Plan (NDP) builds on Madiba’s Reconstruction and Development Programme and aims to reddress the remaining imbalances.
Outlining the importance of the NDP, President Jacob Zuma stated: “The Plan outlines the type of society we are striving for in 2030, where no one is hungry, where everyone is able to go to school and further their studies, where work is available, where everyone is making a contribution because each person has been provided with what they need to live their full potential.”
This plan however demands that all South Africans unite to make our 2030 Vision a reality so that we all can prosper together. In the spirit of Madiba’s legacy, let us work together to implement the NDP and see how we make everyday a Mandela Day by volunteering our time to reach South Africa’s 2030 Vision.
As Madiba stated: “Together we can speed up delivery and reach those whose needs must still be met.”
Government would like to express its appreciation to the people of South Africa and the international community for their immense contribution in recognition of our icon on Mandela Day. Phumla Williams is acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)