The South Africans celebrated the 25th anniversary of Freedom Day that ended Apartheid rule in 1994 after decades of obnoxious era.
E. Mthembi-Mahanyele, the South African Ambassador to Switzerland in her address at the reception organised by the embassy in Berne to mark the anniversary cited the peaceful general elections held on 08 March 2019 as an evidence of their commitment to democratic form of government.
She said, “We will continue to build and transform [our] society to reach the objectives in the fullest extent of the Non-racial, Non-Sexist democratic society we committed to in 1994.”
The Ambassador echoed the statement of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the national celebration of the milestone anniversary in South Africa stating: “despite the passage of time, it is a day we remember vividly – the exhilaration of seeing nearly 20 million South Africans of all races waiting patiently at polling stations around the country to cast their ballots.” He added “For those of a certain age, we remember the moment we placed a cross on a ballot paper for the first time in our lives”.
She however believes that the President’s “comments capture essence of enduring, intangible value of this watershed day in our history. After decades of struggle, this day represented the first significant step towards the restoration of human dignity so long deprived, and towards freedom. It was a tangible affirmation that the country indeed belongs to all those who live in it and in this way entrenched the cornerstone of a truly sustainable democracy.”
Speaking on the achievements during the 25 years of democracy, she narrated that much had been achieved: “We have built housing for millions of South Africans, provided water, sanitation and electricity to poor households across the country. We have dramatically expanded access to education from early childhood development right through tertiary education levels. Today nine million learners attend no-fee schools and the same number is provided with a meal at school. The role out of primary healthcare facilities increased, access to health services at little or no fee. 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans receive monthly social grants.”
She added that despite the achievements, there still remains much to be done. “Too many of our people continue to live in poverty and many still do not have access to the basic necessities of life. It is true that since 1994, our economy has doubled in size and 8 million more people are in employment. But this growth rate has not been sufficient to dent unemployment and poverty.”
She explained that attracting investment and trade promotion have been, and will remain, a priority for the South African Government in order to grow and transform the country’s economy to become the vehicle for employment, inclusion and poverty reduction.
On this, she reiterated President Ramaphosa’s statement: “We enter a new phase in the life of our nation determined to build an economic that serves all, to create the jobs that our people need, to develop the skills and talents that the future demands, and to build stable, safe and thriving communities”.
At the celebration was Ambassador Anne Lugon-Moulin, representing the Swiss Government, she congratulated South Africa on the anniversary and its recent peaceful elections. She described the country as a leading example in democracy and peaceful elections, saying the result of the elections would determine the future path of “the vibrant and dynamic country”.
Also, she said the bilateral relations between the two countries are excellent, adding that beyond the strong trade and investments ties between the two, fruitful dialogues and partnerships have been established.
“Our yearly high level political consultations allow for exchanges on a vast array of topics – from economic relations to peace and security; human rights and international justice system to science and technology. And lately, we added migration as a new area of common interest.”
Ambassador Lugon-Moulin now posted as Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire hopes the good cooperation between the two countries will not only continue but deepen.