Today, 10th May 2013, marks the 19th Anniversary of the inauguration of South Africa's first democratically elected President, Comrade Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Emerging from 27 years of banishment and imprisonment on Robben Island, Comrade Mandela led South Africa as its first democratically elected President, becoming an international symbol of reconciliation, peace and unity.
It was during the inaugural speech that President Mandela said,
"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another"
These words have become the blueprint of our new nation, united in diversity and confident of its future. We remain inspired by these words as the guiding philosophy underpinning our commitment to upholding our constitutional democracy with the protection Bill of Rights as the paramount consideration.
On this day, we remember too the words uttered by President Mandela at the inaugural address that,
"Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty.
Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud..."
Exactly 19 years ago, South Africa embarked on a journey to end 300 years of colonial and apartheid rule. For the first time, as a people and a nation, we sought to mark the end of an era and forge a new identity that would define us as equals amongst equals and a nation amongst nations. Indeed, President Mandela, himself, 19 years ago was extremely aware of the “extraordinary human disaster” that characterized our society and whose remnants are still with us today. We continue to be faced with the legacy of apartheid and colonial rule and the debilitating effects of the cruelty of poverty, the cruelty of unemployment, the cruelty of patriarchy and the cruelty of the dehumanization of black people in their country of birth.
Whilst there is still a lot more to be done, we are proud of our achievements to date in eradicating institutionalised racism; our country is a model of democracy and human rights. Since 1994, we have held regular and uninterrupted elections, in which every South African is free to exercise their democratic right to start, vote for and belong to a political party of their choice.
Building on these successes, the ANC continues to deal with the social and economic challenges facing many South Africans. It is because of these successes since 1994 that we are able to move to the second phase of our transition. The National Development Plan provides us with a vision and roadmap to confront these socio-economic challenges facing our people. To expect that the challenges that confront us, as nation, would have been eradicated in only 19 years to the day would be to deny the very existence of an "extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long"
Comrade Nelson Mandela, amongst the many leaders of our liberation movement who were imprisoned on Robben Island, became a symbol of the long walk from Robben Island to the Union Buildings. Their story is a story of the struggle of the majority of South Africans and we remain inspired by their legacy and that of many ordinary men and women who fought selflessly and tirelessly to usher in our democratic order. The African National Congress calls upon all South Africans to work together, continuing to create the "society of which all humanity will be proud" as envisioned with the inauguration of President Mandela 19 years ago.