Cyril Ramaphosa lockdown level 3

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: PresidencyZA / Twitter

Ramaphosa’s Freedom Day speech: ‘We have known worse and prevailed’

In his brief address, a weary looking president called for solidarity and the advent of a new, more compassionate society.

Cyril Ramaphosa lockdown level 3

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo: PresidencyZA / Twitter

Delivering his Freedom Day address at a time when freedom is very much a compromised feature of South Africa’s young democracy, President Cyril Ramaphosa gave a stirring call to action for South Africans to unite and overcome the COVID-19 crisis we face. 

He called for social solidarity and togetherness now more than ever, and offered a frank assessment of our nation’s challenges of poverty, hunger and inequality which exist in spite of the current crisis. 

He highlighted the good that could come from the collective trauma we are facing, and vowed that together, we will overcome. 

“We have known worse and we have prevailed,” he said. “Keep our arms locked together in a column of defence against this pandemic, as a united people. Use it to reaffirm our resolve to fundamentally change how our society functions and emerge a better, more equal country.”

‘Social equality must prevail’

He said that South Africa still faces widespread social challenges despite the advent of democracy in 1994, but added that there is much to be proud of. 

“On this day 26 days ago, a new nation was born in Africa,” he said. “South Africa emerged from the dark veil of oppression to stand in the light of freedom. They declared that South Africa belonged to all who live in it.”

“We have made great progress in building a common future in which all South Africans are a part. 

“We have expanded access to health and education. We have been hard at work to rebuild our economy and give strength to our institutions.

He said that the pledge to redistribute wealth and land remained an aspiration that government would continue to persevere with and achieve. He said that while the country 

“We have accelerated programmes to give our people access to land and return it to those who were forcibly removed from their ancestral land. We are supporting vulnerable families with social grants. Our young democracy has much to be proud of” 

He said the gulf of inequality needs to be urgently narrowed. 

“The devastating legacy of our past runs so deep that we have sometimes been found wanting in addressing the suffering it has subjected our people to. Poverty and inequality continues to stalk our land.”

“A child born to parents of means has a comfortable home, is fed and sheltered, receives a good education and has prospects for a prosperous life. For a poor child, every day can be a struggle for shelter, food and for opportunity.”

“The promise we made in 1994 can no longer be deferred. We must ensure the right of all our people to healthcare, food, shelter water social security and land.”

“This is a time to actively work to build a fair and just country. In the South Africa we all want, no man, woman or child will go hungry.” 

Silver linings  

Continuing with a narrative that has emerged during this pandemic, where Ramaphosa speaks about the opportunity to emerge with a new, better society, he said that we must dig deep to overcome the current crisis. 

“Before the pandemic, we were deepening our efforts to correct inequality. This pandemic could set these efforts back by many years. It will take a great deal of effort and resources for our economy to recover. 

“The challenges we faced before remain, even as we turn the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will still have to confront a contracting economy, unemployment, crime and corruption, a weakened state. We will have to find exceptional and innovative ways to overcome these challenges.” 

Call to action

He warned that the world will never be the same when we ultimately emerge from a dark chapter in human history.

“This has changed the face of human kind. It has reminded us of our mortality, but also how interconnected we all are. If we didn’t realise it before, we know now that our interdependence is key to our very survival as people.”

He concluded with a rousing call to action. 

“This freedom day stand united against their disease, against poverty, inequality and hunger. We can only overcome this crisis and rebuild our shattered economy if we work together.”

“Let the good of this collaborative experience of collective action and unity of purpose continue. Let the generosity of spirit endure. We it to the memories of those who came before us.”

“We are celebrating apart, next year, through our determination and courage, we will once again celebrate freedom day together.”