Dumelang, Molweni, Sanibonani, Goeie Dag, Thobela, Lotjhani, Ndi masiari, Nhlekanhi.

I greet you all on this Day of Reconciliation.

Every year on this day we celebrate our greatest achievement: reconciliation between the races and the forging of a common identity as South Africans.

Reconciliation is not an act of forgetting or ignoring the wounds of the past.

Instead, it is a courageous and intentional effort to confront our history, to learn from it and to build bridges of understanding across the chasms of misunderstanding and mistrust.

Reconciliation is a commitment to creating a society where everyone is valued, where diversity is celebrated, and where the scars of the past are transformed into stepping stones towards a brighter and more compassionate future.

As we mark Reconciliation Day, we are reminded of just how extraordinary our experience was.

Many believed it was not possible for the former oppressor and the oppressed to make peace and reconcile, and yet we did so.

Our national days, our flag, the national anthem and our national symbols stand as testament to a new, unique nation that emerged from a difficult and bitter past.

These are no mere symbols or gestures. They serve as important reminders of what we have been able to build within a relatively short period of time.

Our democracy will soon be 30 years old. Some of the world’s oldest democracies are still grappling with racial and ethnic tensions among their people.

And yet South Africa, despite its many challenges, has not slid into the morass of bigotry, racism and tribalism that is prevalent many other societies.

This is what we celebrate today, and every year on national Reconciliation Day.

This year we bore witness to the power of reconciliation when our national rugby team the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in France.

To have seen so many South Africans of all races and all ages rallying behind the team, showing their support so passionately and joining in the victory celebrations reminded us that, despite our many challenges, we are a united nation, proud of who we are and proud of how far we have come.

The proud and resilient South African spirit has carried us through the many difficulties of the past and it will continue to do so well into the future.

Just a short three years ago we were able to overcome one of the worst public health disasters in modern times because we stood and acted as one.

We came together and rallied behind the national effort to contain COVID-19.

We all played our part to keep ourselves and others safe.

In our journey of reconciliation, it is crucial that we engage in open and honest conversations about the injustices of the past and present so that we can heal.

We must confront the uncomfortable truths, learn from them and work together to create a society where everyone can thrive, regardless of their background or identity.

Next year we will mark 30 years since attaining our freedom.

Yet, the legacy of our divided past continues to manifest itself in the enormous divides between rich and poor, between black and white, between men and women, between urban and rural.

Inequality is the greatest challenge to meaningful and lasting reconciliation in our country.

Central to the advancement of reconciliation must therefore be a concerted effort to end poverty and unemployment and meaningfully reduce inequality.

That is why, since the advent of democracy, we have worked to advance the economic position of those South Africans denied opportunities under apartheid.

That is why we introduced broad-based black economic empowerment, affirmative action, preferential procurement and other transformation policies to address the imbalances created by years of apartheid rule.

We have undertaken a massive redistribution of resources towards mainly black South Africans through the provision of basic services, subsidised housing, improved education and health care, and social grants.

The impact of these interventions is evident not only in communities and homes across the land, but also in the insights provided by the results of Census 2022.

The effective implementation of these programmes, which have transformed the lives of millions of South Africans, are part of the work of reconciliation.

We have prioritised the growth of an inclusive economy that creates employment and provides the means to further reduce poverty.

We have been working with social partners to overcome the most immediate obstacles to the growth of our economy.

We have taken far-reaching measures to deal with the electricity crisis.

These range from removing the licensing threshold to enable private investment in energy generation, to improving the performance of Eskom power stations, to encouraging and enabling households and businesses to invest in rooftop solar.

These measures are seeing results. There has been a measurable and steady decline in the severity of load shedding over the last few months.

We need to accelerate and expand our efforts even further, not only to overcome the immediate crisis, but to ensure that we never face such a shortfall again.

We continue to focus on the needs of young people.

The Presidential Employment Stimulus has provided income, work experience and skills for more than 1.2 million unemployed people.

More than 1 million young people have been able to access opportunities for learning and employment through the SAYouth online platform.

On Thursday I attended the pass-out parade of a group of new recruits into the South African Police Service who are going to bolster government’s efforts to tackle crime that is wreaking havoc in our communities.

This forms part of a wider effort to better capacitate our law-enforcement authorities to step up visible policing, offer better services to communities and to deal with priority crimes.

Reconciliation means that we need to bridge the divides between men and women.

We must work for gender equality in all areas of life, from the home to the workplace, from Parliament to the community.

This means that we must end once and for all the violence that men perpetrate against women.

All parts of society must work together to change social attitudes and practices that discriminate against and oppress women.

We must work together to implement the National Strategic Plan against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, to provide better support to victims, harsher consequences for perpetrators and more economic opportunities for women.

All of this work – indeed the entire programme of government – is focused on building a more equal society.

For millions of our citizens burdened by the hardships of everyday life, it is sometimes difficult to remain optimistic.

And yet we must continue to have hope. We must persevere.

We will overcome this period of hardship as we have so many times in the past.

Two years ago, deadly riots in parts of our country threatened to tear apart our national fabric.

There were attempts to divide us as a people, but we stood firm. We rejected all attempts to stoke divisions and came together to rebuild.

As a people our greatest strength is the celebration of our community humanity. It is our ability to see beyond colour, race, creed, ethnicity and national identity to embrace each other.

There can never be place in our democracy for discrimination against others on the basis of their race, the language they speak, the faith they follow, their sexual orientation, or whether they are citizens or non-citizens.

We celebrate our progress towards reconciliation when much of the world is in turmoil.

There are conflicts between and within nations, including on our beloved continent, Africa.

In the Middle East, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and the devastation being wrought on the Gaza Strip, are a reminder of the tragic outcome when old wounds are left to fester.

The dispossession, occupation and discrimination directed against the Palestinian people has endured for over 75 years.

As South Africa we have maintained that the only solution to this conflict is a just and lasting peace, and for both sides to come together and reconcile.

In a world and at a time when divisions between and amongst peoples are becoming more pronounced, South Africa is united.

Through unity we can build a better South Africa. One that offers freedom, shared prosperity and equal rights for all, and where no one is left behind.

I wish you all, wherever you may be on this day, a meaningful, peaceful and fulfilling Reconciliation Day.

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