Cape Town – Much more remains to be done to address the racial and gender distortions of the past, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He was speaking at government’s official Freedom Day celebrations, which took place in Bloemfontein in the Free State.
“Many of our people still experience hunger, millions are still unemployed, many still do not have houses, electricity or clean water,” Ramaphosa said, who added that South Africans cannot be truly free if they do not have jobs, if they do not have an education and if they do not have livelihoods.
He went on to say that there were still huge gaps in wealth and opportunity between white and black and between women and men.
“Though we have achieved a constitutional democracy in which all have equal rights, we dare not linger, because we still have much to do to build an inclusive economy that serves all our people,” the President said.
Ramaphosa explained that government was working to deracialise the economy by strengthening the broad-based black economic empowerment policies, investing in black industrialists, opening up markets for new black entrants through more effective competition policies, and using the buying power of the state to support black business.
He also touched on the issue of the national minimum wage, which sparked protests across the country, led by Saftu who came out strongly against the proposed wage.
“Parliament is currently finalising legislation so that we can implement a national minimum wage for the first time in our country’s history, fulfilling a demand made at the Congress of the People in 1955,” Ramaphosa said.
He further explained that the people who have argued that the starting minimum wage of R20 an hour was not a living wage were correct.
“Some argue that the national minimum wage will not end income inequality. They too are correct.”
“But what the national minimum wage does provide is a firm and unassailable foundation – which is agreed to by all social partners – from which to advance the struggle for a living wage,” the President told the crowd.
He encouraged people to celebrate the freedoms that have been achieved and the great advances the country has made.
“Let us use this Freedom Day to affirm our determination to intensify the struggle for economic freedom for all our people.”