Politics / 15 February 2016, 3:09pm / Gadeeja Abbas
Cape Town - South Africa’s struggling economy was one of the main issues addressed at the second Ubuntu Awards, with President Jacob Zuma announcing a more robust approach to tackling the challenges.
The Ubuntu Awards recognises the country’s industry leaders and eminent people for their distinguished service and contribution to promoting the country’s national interests and values across the world.
After his difficult State of the Nation address in Parliament last week, the president addressed more than 500 guests at the CTICC in Cape Town on Saturday night.
Among them were Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, National Council of Provinces chairwoman Thandi Modise, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela, senior government officials and members of Parliament.
Zuma said the country’s economy has been elevated to a “main priority”.
“South Africa has made the economy an apex priority in this current climate. We have been meeting with the business community in our country so we can move together, so we can put in place measures that could ignite growth and create jobs,” he told an applauding crowd.
Zuma said the government’s aim was to build a “resilient” economy that would enable it to address challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality so the country could see economic growth on the rest of the continent.
“We value co-operation with the rest of the world as we take forward our vision of building a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa.”
He said it was encouraging to see individuals who encompassed values that could lead a nation, as shown by the winners of this year’s Ubuntu Awards.
“These are the values that saw us triumph over the evil system of apartheid and values that have sustained us in the past 22 years of our democratic dispensation. These values have been enshrined in the constitution and will continue to sustain us in the years to come,” he said.
Zuma reminded guests of the three miners trapped in Lily Mine near Barberton, Mpumalanga.
He described it as a “most painful and difficult” time for the families of the miners and asked South Africans to keep them in their prayers.
Ending his speech, Zuma fondly mentioned previous award winner and late South African liberation struggle stalwart and diplomat Ruth Mompati.
The winners in each category were:
* Economic Diplomacy Award (Africa): Standard Bank
* Economic Diplomacy Award (Global): Discovery Health
* Social Responsibility Award: Rescue SA
* Cultural Diplomacy: Rescue SA, Black Coffee and Hugh Masekela
* OR Thambo Lifetime Achievement Award: Agnes Msimang and Johnny Makhatini
Clutching the Ubuntu Sports Diplomacy Award he was honoured with on Saturday night, South African golden boy Wayde van Niekerk already has his sights on breaking records at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 22-year-old took gold at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last year after winning the men’s 400m final, stamping his name in the history books as the fourth fastest man over the distance.
Although success may be guaranteed by his genes, Van Niekerk is still committed to training.
His mother, Odessa Swarts, competed against former South African champion Geraldine Pillay on the track, in the early 2000s.
His father, Wayne van Niekerk, was a track and field athlete, “performing well in the 100m and the high jump”.
Van Niekerk’s stepfather, Steven Swarts, ran the 800m and the 1 500m while his brother won the 400m Free State championship. His younger sister, Kayla, was awarded Free State colours for distance running and hockey in recent years.
Just after receiving his award at a ceremony at the CTICC attended by President Jacob Zuma, Van Niekerk said: “I am quite excited for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. I would love to continue where I stopped last year.
“This year I would have to put in more hard work and effort.
“It’s all about staying focused now and disciplined.”
He said he was “humbled” by the attention he was receiving from his fans and felt grateful that aspiring athletes found him to be a role model.
“It really just humbles me that my country has been supporting me, simply encouraging me into chasing my dreams and trying to accomplish as much as I can as an athlete.”
He said athletics has a “whole generation” of talent coming through at a grassroots level. He displayed an interest in projects that aim to nurture that talent.
“I really believe we have so much more athletes who can do exactly the same that I am doing.
“It is great knowing that I played such a huge role in inspiring the country”.