President Cyril Ramaphosa's Keynote Address at Freedom Day celebrations
ADDRESSBY PRESIDENTCYRIL RAMAPHOSA ON THE OCCASION OFNATIONALFREEDOMDAY
MIKI YILI STADIUM, MAKHANDA
Ministerof Artsand Culture,Mr Nathi Mthethwa,
Premierof the EasternCape,Mr PhumuloMasualle,
Executive Mayorof the Sarah Baartman DistrictMunicipality,MsKhunjuzwaKekana,
MECs andmembersof the Provincial Legislature,
Representativesof variouspolitical formations,
Membersof the media,
We are gatheredhere tocelebrate the daywe wonour freedom.
We are gatheredhere inthe EasternCape – inthe landof heroesandlegends –to recall the battles
that were fought,the setbacksthat were sufferedandthe greatvictoriesachievedalongourmarch
It was here,onthissoil,thatthe so-calledFrontierWarswithEuropeansettlerswere foughtinthe
19th centurybya people determinedtoremainindependentandfree inthe landof their
It was here,200 yearsago that a mightyrebellionagainstthe Britishoccupationtookplace atthe
Battle of Grahamstown.
And soI shall beginbypayingtribute toour ancestorswhoonce livedonthisland,whose
unconquerable spiritsstill dwell amongus.
Had itnot beenfortheircourage,theirsteadfastnessandtheiractsof valour,we wouldnotbe the
free people we are today.
We have inheritedthisfreedomfromiqhawe MakhandakaNxele,the warrior,sangomaand
prophetwho ledthe attack on the Britishgarrisonat Egazini inthe Battle of Grahamstown.
We have inheritedthisfreedomfromiqhawe MangalisoRobertSobukwe,asonof thisprovince,
whofoundedthe PanAfricanistCongresstopushforself-determinationforthe country’smajority
basedon the principle of Africannationalism.
We have inheritedthisfreedomfromiqhawekazi SarahBaartman,wholiesburiedinthe townof
Hankeynotfar from here.
She was a daughterof thisland,takentoEurope and humiliatedtosatisfythe curiosityandcruelty
We have inheritedthisfreedomfromiqhawe BantuStevenBiko,the youngactivistfromKing
William’sTownwhose ideasonblackconsciousnesscontinuetoinfluence generationslongafterhis
We have alsoinheritedthisfreedomfromNomzamoWinnieMadikizela-Mandela,fromAlbertina
fromall the heroesof the EasternCape and beyond – whosparedneithereffortnorstrengthto
We have inheritedthisfreedomfromNelsonRolihlahlaMandelawholedourpeopletodemocracy
and became ourfirstdemocraticallyelectedPresidentof SouthAfrica.
It is theirlegacythatinspiredmanyof ourpeople to continue the struggle.
We pay tribute tothe determinedstudentshere inMakhandawholedamovementtoopenour
universitiestoall SouthAfricans,especiallythe poor.
It was here alsothat studentsledprotestsagainstthe scourge of gender-basedviolence onour
campusesandin our communities.
We salute all these heroesandheroineswhohave departedthislifeandthose still amongus.
On thisday25 yearsago,we foundedanew countrydefinedbythe principlesof equality,unity,non-
Despite the passage of time,itisa day we remembervividly –the exhilarationof seeingnearly20
millionSouthAfricansof all raceswaitingpatientlyatpollingstationsaroundthe countrytocast
For those of a certainage,we rememberthe momentwe placedacrosson a ballotpaperfor the
firsttime inour lives.
I remembervotingatKloof Goldmine inWestonariaamongthe mine workerswhobuiltthe
country’swealth,buthadneverbefore beenaccordedthe mostbasicrightof citizenship.
On thisFreedomDay,as we celebrate thisgreathumanachievement,we mustreflectonhow far we
have travelledoverthe lastquartercentury.
We mustreflectonthe progresswe have made in settingrightthe wrongsof the past, inbringing
developmenttocommunitieswhere therewasonce onlyneglect,inrestoringhumandignitywhere
there wasonce onlycontempt.
Under colonial andapartheidrule,blackSouthAfricanswere reducedtoservitude inthe landof
Theyhad, as the AfricanClaimsremindsus,nofreedomof movement,nofreedomof choice of
employment,norightof choice of residence,and –witha few exceptions –norightto purchase land
By contrast, white SouthAfricansreapedthe benefitsof full citizenship,enjoyingeducational
Havingaccess to land,propertyandotherassetsenabledthemtoaccumulate the material meansto
sustainthemselvesandenable themandtheirchildrentoleadlivesof quality.
Denieddecenteducation,preventedfromseekingemploymentinall buta few occupations,
destinedforalife of misery.
The greattragedyof apartheidwasthat itplacedwithgreatdeliberationSouthAfricansof different
races onopposite endsof the scale of humanendeavoranddevelopment.
More than that, the greattragedyof apartheidwasthe deepdivisionsitsowedamongstus.
We came to regardthose froma differentrace,religion,socialbackground,regionandtribe with
Segregationwasbrutallyenforced,acrossthe hillsandthe valleys,inthe citiesandthe towns,in
parks andon beaches,infactoriesandoffices,onbusesandtrains.
Relationshipsbetweenmenandwomenacrossthe colour line were forbiddenbylaw.
Black childrenwere deniedthe opportunitytolearnandto playalongside whitechildren.
Such was the brutalityof ourhistory,thatmanywonderedif we wouldeverheal the scarsof the
In hispoem‘SeaandSand’, Don Mattera offeredthe followingprayer:
“Blessthe childrenof SouthAfrica
The white children
Andthe black children
But more the black children
Who lostthe sea andsand
That theymay notlose love
For the white children
Whose fathersrapedthe land”
On thisFreedomDay,we have muchto celebrate.
Most prominentamongourachievementshasbeenthe promotionof ournationhoodinaunited,
Our newnationhoodmanifestsitselfinmanyways.Todaythe childrenof ourland,blackand white,
can learninthe same schools,andstudyinthe same universitiesandcolleges.
Whendemocracycame, we didnot sinkintothe abyssof vengeance andretribution.
This place onwhichwe stand wasonce the site of battle betweenanoccupyingpoweranda defiant
Today itis a place where theirdescendants –bothblack andwhite – walkfree fromtyranny. Where
thiscountry’smajorityonce livedlivesof subjugation,todayall SouthAfricansenjoyequal rights
before the law. OurConstitutionisthe mainpillarof ourdemocracy.Itisthe safeguardof our
independenceandthe expressionof ourcommitmenttohumanrights.
It is the workof the strugglesof the massesandembodiesthe aspirationsof millionsof South
Africanswhohada role incraftingit.Itiswhat unitesus.Itis the beaconof ourpeople’saspirations
The Constitutionisanenduringsymbol of ourcommitmenttoheal the riftsthatonce dividedus,and
to put aside the bitternessof the pastto buildacommon future.
Despite the progresswe have made,we are still confrontedbysinisterattemptstoundermine the
unityof our nationthroughacts of racism, throughattacks on foreignnationals,andinthe open
displayof the oldSouthAfricanflag.
Out of respectforour Constitution –and indefence of ourfreedom –we rejectracism, we rejectthe
pledgingof allegiance toaracist pastand its symbols,we rejectattacksonthose whohave sought
refuge inourcountry,and we rejectviolence,insurrectionanddisregardforthe rule of law.
The sacrificesof our forebearerswere toogreat,andthe price theypaidtoohigh,for usto see our
Althoughwe have achievedmuchinthe last25 years,we still have muchfurtherto travel.
Our nationcan onlybe trulyunitedwhenall SouthAfricanshave asharedexperience of livesof
Ours isstill adeeplyunequal country.
There are greatdivisionsbetweenrichandpoor,betweenurbanandrural,betweenmenand
women,betweenthose withjobsandthose whoare unemployed,betweenthose whoownlandand
those whowere deprivedof it.
In the past 25 yearsconsiderable progresshasbeenmade inimprovingthe material conditionsof
Workingtogether,we have builthousingformillionsof SouthAfricans,providedwater,sanitation
and electricitytopoorhouseholdsacrossthe country.
From the dark daysof bantueducation,we have dramaticallyexpandedaccesstoeducation –from
earlychildhooddevelopmentthroughtoschool andto universityandcollege.
More than 9 millionlearnersattendno-fee schools,withanequal amountprovidedwithameal at
SevenintenSouthAfricansmake use of the country’snetworkof primaryhealthcare,clinicand
hospital facilitieseitherentirelyforfree orfora minimal fee.
More than 17 millionsocial grantsare paidtopoor and vulnerableSouthAfricanseachmonth.
Throughour publicemploymentprogrammes,we have providedabasicincome andwork
experience andtrainingopportunitiesformanyof the unemployed.
Overthe last 25 years,the economyhasdoubledinsize andthe numberof people inemployment
has increasedby8 million.
Andyet,despite these remarkableachievements,toomanyof our people stillliveinpoverty,too
manyare unemployed,toomanyare homeless,toomanydonothave the basic necessitiesof life.
As we celebrate 25years of democracy,we needtofocusall our attentionandeffortsonensuring
that all SouthAfricanscan equallyexperience the economicandsocial benefitsof freedom.
We cannotbe a nationof free people whensomanystill live inwant.
We cannotbe a nationof free people whenso manylive withoutenoughfood,withoutproper
shelter,withoutaccesstoqualityhealthcare,withoutameanstoearn a living.
We cannotbe a nationof free people whenthe residentsof placeslikeMakhandahave togo for so
longwithouta reliablesupplyof cleanwater.
We cannotbe a nationof free people whenfundsmeantforthe poorare wasted,lostorstolen.
Andso we enterthe next25 yearsof freedomwithareneweddeterminationtorealiseforall South
Africansthe promise of the democratic breakthroughof 1994.
We entera newphase inthe life of ournationdeterminedtobuildaneconomythatservesall,to
create the jobsthat our people need,todevelopthe skillsandtalentsthatthe future demands,and
to buildstable,safe andthrivingcommunities.
We doso encouragedbythe achievementsof the first25 yearsof democracyand inspiredbythe
strugglesthatour people have wagedovergenerations.
Elevendaysfromnow, onthe 8th of May, millionsof SouthAfricanswillagainexercise theirhard-
wonright to vote.
Like those whowentto the pollsforthe firsttime in1994, theywill holdintheirhandsthe destinyof
Theywill assert,asfree womenandmen,the fundamentalprinciple thatnogovernmentcanjustly
claimauthorityunlessitisbasedonthe will of all the people.
Theywill assertthat,as citizens,we all have aresponsibilitytotake aninterestandplaya role inthe
bettermentof ourselvesandourcommunities –whetheritisas active parentsinour school
governingbodies,incommunitypolicingforums,incampaignsagainstsocial illslike substance abuse
It isup to each one of us to playour part inmakingSouthAfricabetter.
On thisFreedomDayletustherefore resolvethatwe will worktoaddressourchallengestogether.
Boundby a commoncause,we foughtapartheidtogetherandtriumphed.
Togetherwe can overcome the challengesof the present.
Regardlessof race,creed,disability,sexualorientation,religionorsocial standing,we share asa
source of pride the name “South African”.
It belongstoeachand everyone of us,and we wearit withhonour.
Unitedbyour love forfreedomandour commitmenttosee ourgreatnationthrive andprosper,let
us move forwardtogethertowardsachievingastronger,greater,more compassionate,more united