Today was the moment the African National Congress has been anticipating. The election manifesto was launched after a week of campaigning for the ruling party, with President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering to a stadium full of eager supporters
Despite being delayed by poor weather conditions, the mood at Moses Mahbida Stadium in Durban was a joyous one.
After a multicultural display of creatives and performances the moment the whole week has been leading to finally come to pass. President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the ANC manifesto launch to the eager supporters.
Here are just a few highlights from his speech, bringing in what the ANC has dubbed as a period of renewal and unity:
A reminder of the long path traveled
Kicking off the speech, Ramaphosa spoke of the long journey since South Africa became a democratic country 25 years ago. The President said the ANC has given their promise of a better life substance during the party's rule providing free housing, land restitution as well as access to electricity, water and sanitation.
"We have transformed the future of millions of young people by massively expanding enrollment in schools, universities, colleges and early childhood development. We have expanded access to health care, increased average life expectancy, reduced maternal mortality and turned the tide of the HIV and AIDS epidemic."
Economic difficulties facing the country
Ramaphosa pointed out that the economy has tripled in size since the birth of democracy in the nation, with over 7 million more employed citizens.
Yet, despite these remarkable achievements, many of our people live in desperate hardship, without appropriate skills, work or opportunities to improve their lot.
Coming clean about corruption
Even South Africans who do not support the ruling party have wondered if the President would address allegations of state capture and corruption in the government.
Acknowledging the situation, Ramaphosa said:
Even as we celebrate the great benefits of democracy, we know that the promise of freedom is yet to be realised by so many of our people. Even as we applaud the great progress that has been made, we must acknowledge that mistakes have been made and that in some areas transformation has stalled. We must acknowledge that state capture and corruption have weakened several of our public institutions, undermined effective governance and contributed to the poor performance of our economy. We must also acknowledge that factionalism and patronage has diminished the ability of the ANC to lead the process of transformation and fulfil its mandate to the people.
The president says the ANC admits to their shortcomings and accepts the criticism dished out by the people, maintaining that they are hard at work correcting mistakes.
The last 25 years have demonstrated the enormity and complexity of the task of redressing the injustices of the past and advancing fundamental change.
The call to come together
Ramaphosa called on citizens to come together and strive for a better life, together.
Through our 2019 Election Manifesto, the African National Congress is making a call on all South Africans, black and white, young and old, urban and rural: Let’s work together to grow South Africa. Let us grow the opportunities available to our people.Let us grow the economy so that all may have decent jobs and an improving quality of life. Let us grow our knowledge and our capabilities, and develop the skills that will propel our young people into a new age of discovery. Let us grow as individuals, respectful of the rights of others, conscious of their needs and concerns, and determined to lend a hand to improve their lives.
Land reform plans
With land reform policies out for public comment, the president spoke of a plan to accelerate changes regarding land distribution including expropriation without compensation.We will continue to promote a range of land ownership forms – public, private, cooperative, family and communal.
We will implement measures to promote urban agriculture and community food gardens to promote national food security and reduce hunger.
Our approach to land reform is guided by our Constitution and by the need to advance economic development, agricultural production and food security.
A watchful eye over greedy officials
With state capture as well as the VBS Mutual Bank scandal, public trust in the government and in particular the ruling party has been devastated. Ramaphosa said there is already legislation preventing public servants from personally benifiting from doing business with the state, but more will be done to monitor compliance.
Issuing a stern warning to his subordinates, Ramaphosa said:
We warn transgressors that there will be consequences for those who do not comply. South Africa will not succeed if our efforts to rebuild the country are not supported by a capable public service.
Public servants implement the transformative projects that change lives. It is not surprising that citizens protest when projects are stalled and services do not reach the people. We cannot and will not allow situations where government fails South Africans.
We call on all our people to join us in this endeavour to build a capable and ethical state and to ensure that those who are responsible for stealing both public funds and private investments face the full might of the law.
4th Industrial Revolution
As technology progresses, those who do not adapt will surely be left in the dust at least as far as job opportunities are concerned. The manifesto made preparations for what the ANC has dubbed a skills revolution in South Africa.
Through this Manifesto, we anticipate a skills revolution in our country. By opening up the doors of learning to all, by focusing on quality and innovation, we will equip young South Africans for the world of tomorrow. Fee-free education for students from poor and working class backgrounds will be expanded this year to cover both first and second year students, and will be progressively rolled out further over the next few years.
We will scale-up skills development for the youth in data analytics, coding, the internet of things, blockchain and machine learning. A social plan will be designed to address retraining and support for workers that could potentially be displaced by new technologies.
Government will open up opportunities for young people to develop new software and applications, devices and equipment through specialised start-up support programmes. Enhanced support will be given to existing innovation centres and hubs over the next three years.
Reinventing the public health sector
Ramaphosa condemned the fact that access to health services remains dependent on the financial capabilities of citizens, with poverty preventing people from accessing quality and reliable health care.
The President spoke of a new approach to this issue, saying:
The introduction of the National Health Insurance will correct this injustice. We will finalise the enabling legislation for the NHI and make sure that everyone has access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay.
This is a revolutionary shift, which requires that we promote social solidarity and work towards the cross-subsidisation of services – where those who can afford to pay more assist those who cannot pay; where the young subsidise the old and where the healthy subsidise the sick.
The journey to universal health care has to start with deliberate efforts to address the immediate crisis in the public health system to tackle such issues as corruption, poor financial management, human resource planning, training, and maintenance of equipment and infrastructure.
With the ANC Women's League in attendance, Ramaphosa enjoyed approval for one of the most inspirational moments of the day. Speaking of the improvements made to the position of women in South Africa, the president had explained how the Constitution, legislation and policies had been used to prevent discrimination and incorporate representation within the leadership, public institutions and commerce.
But Ramaphosa maintained that the situation is not where it should be, asking the men in the stadium to stand and pledge their support.
We call on South Africans to work together to end gender-based violence and the patriarchal practices that give rise to it.
The emancipation of women requires a change in attitudes and the material conditions that perpetuate the oppression and marginalisation of women. We will work more closely with all stakeholders to implement the range of interventions adopted at last year’s Gender-Based Violence Summit, including finalising the National Plan on Gender Based Violence.
The President concluded by declaring 2019 the year for unity and growth, saying:
In recognition of the tasks that we must undertake together, the ANC declares 2019 as The Year of United Action to Grow South Africa! Today, we are issuing a call to all the people of South Africa, to join us as we strive to accelerate change in our country, as we strive to build an inclusive economy that creates decent jobs and as we work towards a better future for our children.
Today, we say to all freedom loving South Africans: Let’s Grow South Africa Together!
This prestigious award was presented to the following leaders of the ANC movement posthumously:
• Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela-Mandela,
• Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu,• Ahmed Timol, and,
• Charlotte Maxeke.
The award was also bestowed upon the following members:
• Denis Goldberg,
• John Nkadimeng, and,
• Sophie de Bruyn.
With the manifest now in the public eye, only time will tell if the ANC is committed to these pledges or if it is simply the efforts of the party to retain power in a country that could possibly have outgrown the movement that saw the birth of democracy in the country.
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