Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the Day of Reconciliation 2018, Walter Sisulu University of Technology, Mthatha
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr Phumulo Masualle,
Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Ministers, Deputy Ministers and MECs,
Executive Mayor of the OR Tambo District Municipality, Councillor
Executive Mayor of the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality,
Councillor Dumani Zozo,
Members of the community,
Fellow South Africans,
It is most fitting that this year we commemorate the Day of Reconciliation in the Eastern Cape, the birthplace of two of South Africa’s greatest leaders, Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu.
It was here that they were born 100 years ago and here that they spent their formative years, where their spirits were nourished, and where the seeds of their political conscience were sown.
It is five years almost to the day since we laid Madiba to rest in nearby Qunu.
The people of this great province should take great pride in counting these two giants of the struggle for our liberation as their own.
Tata Mandela and Mama Sisulu joined the liberation struggle to advance the cause of the oppressed black majority, but they were committed to the ideal of a united nation with equal rights for all.
They were activists and fighters; but they were also peacemakers, unifiers and bridge-builders between the races.Mama Sisulu was part of the drafting team of the Freedom Charter that was adopted in Kliptown in 1955.On this Day of Reconciliation, we recall the opening words of the Freedom Charter:
“We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.”
In observing this day we do not look only to our apartheid past, but to the legacy of centuries of historical injustice.
In doing so, we also acknowledge that this day has in the past held different meanings for different South Africans.
To some, the Battle of Blood River – which took place exactly 180 years ago, in 1838 – was a triumph, and a confirmation of God’s special protection of the Voortrekkers.
To others, the killing of over 3,000 Zulu warriors at Ncome represents a dark day when the native people of South Africa were brutally crushed and their land taken by the barrel of a gun.
It was also the day in 1961 on which the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the People’s Army, was announced. With the dawn of democracy, the Day of the Vow to some and Heroes Day to others became the Day of Reconciliation for all of us. It was not only a change of name. It reflected the acceptance by all South Africans of the values and the principles that define our democracy.
Instead of war, we chose peace.
Instead of discord, we chose unity.
Instead of domination, we chose compromise.
And above all, instead of revenge, we chose reconciliation.
We knew that if we were to build a new nation, we could not go down the dark and destructive path of vengeance and retribution. We also knew that without redress, there can be no equality. We know that without justice there can be no peace. So long as millions of our people are burdened by poverty and underdevelopment, stunting their chances and prospects for a better life, we will not have achieved our goal.
The Day of Reconciliation must therefore be a day on which we reaffirm our commitment to eradicate poverty, hunger, homelessness and unemployment. We cannot be a reconciled nation for as long as the majority of our people continue to suffer from the injustices of the past. This means that we all need to be part of the effort to promote investment, achieve inclusive growth, improve the conditions of the poor and create employment on a massive scale.
We all need to be committed to fundamental economic transformation and work, in whatever we can, wherever we are, to achieve it. We need to pursue with greater effort an inclusive economy by improving the skills of our young people. We are working to improve the quality of education in our schools. We have massively expanding early childhood development.
We are investing significantly in vocational training and are working to ensure that students from poor families can access higher education.
Reconciliation means that all young South Africans need to have equal opportunities to pursue their chosen course of study, to live where they please, to find meaningful employment and to live in conditions of comfort and safety.
One of the other areas that is crucial to reconciliation is the just and equitable resolution of the land question.
It was the battle for control over land that saw the two armies square off at Ncome nearly two centuries ago.
It is land that has fuelled colonial conquests across the world, and it continues to play a role in many modern conflicts.
The equitable distribution of land has been a consistent call of the overwhelming majority of South Africans. Access to land is a fundamental right of citizenship. It doesn’t just empower communities and workers. It enhances food security, especially for the rural poor.
It enables people to gain and develop productive assets, and to participate more meaningfully in the economy. Land reform is inextricably tied to nation building.
It is key to furthering reconciliation in our country and is central to eliminating inequality in our society.Far from being a measure that will fuel tensions or set race relations back, accelerated land reform has the potential to improve goodwill between the races in South Africa.
Despite a comprehensive land reform programme, we have not made sufficient progress in addressing this issue. Most of the country’s land remains in the hands of the few.
On this day that we have dedicated to reconciliation, we must consider that failure to resolve the land issue in a just and equitable manner threatens the stability of our democratic nation. As we intensify this work, we can nevertheless point to several areas of progress. There are examples which show that when implemented correctly, and with the provision of the right support to new landowners, land restitution has significant social and economic benefits.
Earlier today I visited an example of a successful land reform project. The Rural Agro-Industries and Finance Initiative in the OR Tambo District Municipality has secured international investment to enable black farmers to build successful commercial enterprises using a cooperative model.
There have been examples of private landowners giving long-term labour tenants title deeds to the land on which they live and work; and others of organised agriculture committing to hand over parts of their land to workers.
It is this spirit that we seek to harness; a sense of responsibility to do what is right and what is just without waiting to be compelled to do so by law.
Our Constitution places an obligation on the State to take reasonable measures to enable citizens to access land on an equitable basis. We will continue working with all South Africans, in a consultative and inclusive manner, to fulfil that obligation. We call on all stakeholders – be they organised agriculture, private landowners, workers, business, community organisations, traditional leaders or political parties – to play a constructive role.
By decisively bringing an end to the era of arrogance, entitlement and privilege we will foster true reconciliation. While most South Africans are working together to build a united, non-racial and non-sexist country, there are a few people who want to take us backwards. We should stand as one in condemning those who use all manner of vile names to describe black South Africans or who threaten to kill whites, or who insult others because of the faith, culture or language.
We should stand as one in preventing violence against women and children and condemning discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Fellow South Africans,
We are entering an election year, in which the people of South Africa will exercise their hard-won right to elect a government of their choosing. In the State of the Nation Address in February, we called for an active citizenry to join us as government to be part of the change we want to see in South Africa. A new era is upon us – an era of accountability, of renewal and of progress.
I once again call on all our citizens to register to vote and to make sure that their details on the voters roll are correct. It is only through exercising the fundamental right to vote that you can truly be part of the way in which our country is governed. We have many challenges, but they are not insurmountable if we work together.
It was unity that prevented South Africa from descending into war and chaos as apartheid crumbled. It was unity that enabled us to adopt a democratic and progressive Constitution. Let us unite to bridge the divides that still exist between us. Let us unite to build a society founded on justice, on equality and on prosperity for all.
On this day, let us recommit ourselves once more to the ideal of a South Africa united, indivisible and free.
I thank you.