“As we take stock of how far we have come in healing the divisions of the past and building a united nation, we have much to be proud of.”
This is a message from President Cyril Ramaphosa as the country commemorates the Day of Reconciliation on Monday.
“One need only observe the outpouring of joy when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in Japan and when our Miss SA Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe. South Africans of all races took to the streets in an outpouring of national pride,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa said diversity in the country has been evident in sport, parliament, in places of higher learning and schools, and on television screens where programming reflects the diversity.
“Racism and bigotry no longer define our nation. Where they do occur, they are isolated. Where there have been manifestations of intolerance, we have been able to unite behind the values of tolerance and respect for diversity that define our Bill of Rights,” the president said.
He noted that the country still has a long way to go.
“The SA Reconciliation Barometer Survey 2019, which is published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, reports that a vast majority of South Africans agree that our country still needs reconciliation. At the same time, just over a half of respondents believe that SA has made progress with reconciliation since 1994.
“According to the survey, most respondents agree that reconciliation is impossible as long as corruption continues, political parties sow division, those who were affected by apartheid continue to be poor, gender-based violence remains, we continue to use racial categories to measure transformation, and racism in our society remains unaddressed.”
According to Ramaphosa, since the country attained democracy, its citizens have showed the capacity to look beyond differences “in the quest to achieve true nationhood”.
“The SA of today still suffers from the effects of centuries of discrimination, dispossession and unequal development,” Ramaphosa said.
“We must address the unfinished business of our democratic transition. We must close the festering wound of inequality that exists between our people. We must forge ahead with land reform and social development. We must continue to transform our workplaces and restructure our economy so it benefits all.”
He said government would continue to seek out and forge “durable” social compacts to attain its vision of a SA that has been fundamentally transformed.
“We must all play our part if we are to bequeath to our children a society that has truly reconciled. As the Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire has said: ‘It is time to put aside egos, individual and collective, for the sake of the youth.’”
He urged the country to make a concerted effort to move forward, focusing on what unites it instead of what divides.
“Let us reach out to each other on this day, during this Reconciliation Month, and throughout the year,” he concluded.