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South Africa called to build “a society of equals”

Thursday, March 21, 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on all South Africans to strive for a society of equals, “where none may claim dominance over another, where there is neither privilege nor disadvantage”.

Speaking at the official Human Rights Day commemoration in Sharpeville on Thursday, the President said while the journey over the 64 years since the Sharpeville Massacre has been remarkable and the 30 years of democracy have seen great changes in the lives of South Africans, the journey is far from complete.

“We must strive for a society where neither race nor gender, nor age, nor religion, nor disability, nor marital status, nor sexual orientation, determines the circumstances in which a person lives or the opportunities that they have.

“We must continue our work to redress the injustices of the past, affirming those who have been disadvantaged by unfair discrimination,” the President said. 

He called for the transformation of the economy so that all people may participate and so that all may benefit and share in the country’s wealth.

“This means that we must continue to implement policies of broad-based black economic empowerment, to support small businesses and black industrialists, to promote employment equity, and to use public and private procurement to empower black- and women-owned suppliers.

“It means that we must accelerate land reform and provide emerging farmers with the resources and support they need to be productive and sustainable,” he said. 

President Ramaphosa noted that in building a more equal society, all people of working age must have an opportunity to earn a decent livelihood. 

“We must therefore create jobs on a far greater scale and at a much faster pace. We must provide support to those who want to run their own businesses and remove the many obstacles that they face,” he said.

As the country works together to grow an inclusive economy that provides more jobs and greater economic opportunities, the President said government must continue to provide work opportunities to unemployed people through public and social employment programmes.

In building a society of equals, the President said there can be no instrument more powerful than education.

He highlighted the enormous strides made in securing the right of everyone to a basic education and the progressive achievement of access to further education.

“We have achieved almost universal access to basic education and we have massively increased access to higher education and training.

“But there is much more that we must do to keep young people in school until matric, and improve the quality and the relevance of what they learn. We must continue to focus on expanding access to early childhood development and improving early grade reading,” he said. 

In building a society of equals, the President further said the divide between men and women must be bridged.

“Already we have made important progress. In South Africa today, girls learn alongside boys in primary and secondary schools and receive equal education. Last year, more females passed the matric exams and got more distinctions than their male counterparts. 

“There are currently more female students enrolled at institutions of higher learning than males. Close to half of our Members of Parliament, judges and magistrates are women. More than 60 per cent of public servants are women,” he said. 

The President emphasised that there must be no position in society to which women cannot aspire and attain.

A society of equals means that all forms of discrimination and disadvantage are eliminated.

“We must ensure that persons with disability are free and able to participate in every part of social and economic life. We must confront prejudice and ignorance, providing appropriate education and ensure equal access for persons with disabilities to economic opportunities,” he said. – SAnews