President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday marked the country’s Freedom Day by underscoring the plight of the vulnerable under COVID-19 pandemic.
“This Freedom Day, we find ourselves engaged in a struggle that has thrown into sharp focus the poverty and inequality that still defines our society,” Ramaphosa said in his Freedom Day address to the nation.
Freedom Day is a public holiday in South Africa celebrated on April 27 to commemorate the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994.
The coronavirus pandemic forces South Africans to confront the reality of poverty and inequality, Ramaphosa said.
“Though we are certainly all braving the same tide, we have not been impacted in the same way by this pandemic,” said Ramaphosa.
Some people have been able to endure the coronavirus lockdown in a comfortable home with a fully stocked fridge, with private medical care and online learning for their children, but for millions of others, this has been a month of misery, of breadwinners not working, of families struggling to survive and of children going to bed and waking up hungry, the president said.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, South Africans have been subjected to a nationwide lockdown since March 27.
The true lessons of this experience will not just be about the necessity of social distancing, proper hand washing and infection control but will also be about “whether we have the ability to turn this crisis into an opportunity to invest in a new society, a new consciousness and a new economy,” Ramaphosa noted.
“This is the time when we should actively work to build a fair and just country,” he said.
Before COVID-19 hit the country, efforts had been deepened to address poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and a weak economy, however the pandemic could set these efforts back by many years, he said.
It will take a great deal of effort and resources for the society and economy to recover, the president said.
“Even as we turn the tide on the coronavirus pandemic, we will still have to confront a contracting economy, unemployment, crime and corruption, a weakened state and other pressing concerns,” he said.
He called on South Africans to find new, exceptional and innovative ways to overcome them.
This is not something the government can do alone, said Ramaphosa.
The business community has shown itself ready and willing to support the workforce and to rally its resources to combat this disease, he said.
“We can only overcome this crisis and rebuild our shattered economy if we work together,” he added. Enditem