Durban – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday thanked former president Jacob Zuma for working towards unity within the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
"Thank you to the former president for showing a real face of unity that both of us are committed to. This is what John Dube would have wanted. Cadres here are showing a greater sense of purpose and a commitment to restoring the link between the ANC and the people," said Ramaphosa.
Zuma was sitting on stage alongside National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete, ANC KZN chairman Sihle Zikalala and ANC eThekwini chairperson, Zandile Gumede, as Ramaphosa spoke.
The large crowd broke into applause several times as Ramaphosa mentioned Zuma.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the Ohlange Institute, a school based in Inanda, just outside of Durban, as part of the party’s 107th birthday celebrations.
Former president Nelson Mandela cast his vote at the school in April 1994, which was established by John Langalibalele Dube, the first president of the ANC.
Ramaphosa structured his speech as a report back to Dube.
But Ramaphosa also diverted from his speech several times to address the crowd, particularly when speaking about education. He encouraged ANC members to “let go” of their children and ensure they were educated from an early age.
Ramaphosa called South Africa “a nation among nations, a united, non-racial democracy founded on the principle of equal rights for all”.
He lauded the country’s constitution, democratic institutions, independent judiciary, free media and active citizenry.
“Freedom has been unleashed and the darkness and gloom that President John Dube had spoken about have passed,” said Ramaphosa.
“In 1994, only three in every 10 South Africans had electricity. Today, eight out of 10 South Africans have electricity in their homes.
“In 1994, only six out of every 10 South Africans had access to clean drinking water. Today, that has increased to nearly nine out 10 South Africans.”
Over 3.2 million houses had been built for poor families since 1994 he said.
The country had “massively expanded access to education” in the past 25 years, he said. “This year, over 78% of learners passed matric, up from around 50% before 1994.”
“While we hail these achievements, we are keenly aware that much more work is needed to improve the quality of the outcomes of our education.”
He said it was of “grave concern” that many children entering the schooling system did not reach matric and that many foundation phase learners could not read or write properly.
Ramaphosa said that the country’s economy had tripled in the last 25 years, despite economic challenges.
“Seven million more people are employed today than were employed in 1994,” he said, and black people were free to own businesses and enter any profession.
“The black middle class has grown significantly thanks to the ANC’s progressive policies on affirmative action, black industrialisation, broad-based black economic empowerment and gender equality.”
Addressing land reform, Ramaphosa said the country was embarking on a new phase of “accelerated land reform” that would contribute to reducing poverty, growing the agricultural economy and increasing employment.
He said there was no doubt that the ANC had achieved great successes, but also endured periods of “great adversity”.
“It has experienced periods characterised by significant reversals, decline and drift. Yet, each time it has emerged stronger, more united and more determined to pursue the struggle for freedom.
“We find ourselves at another such moment in our history, where we are called upon to restore the movement after a period in which our organisational capacity has been diminished and our revolutionary programme diverted.”
Ramaphosa said the party had heard the voices of “despair and frustration” from amongst citizens about the mistakes the party had made and it was “hard at work” to address the criticism.
The country and ANC had entered an era of renewal since the Nasrec conference, said Ramaphosa. It was at this conference that he was elected ANC president.
“While we have been decisive in several areas, our task is incomplete and the potential for reversal still exists,” he said.
“Where necessary, we have taken measures to deal with cadres who have undermined the integrity of the movement and the ethical standards expected of public representatives and ANC leaders. This is among the most difficult of organisational tasks, but we remain resolute in our efforts to stamp out deviant and abhorrent practices,” he said.