Address by President Jacob Zuma at the Chris Hani Wreath Laying Ceremony and handover of the Chris Hani heritage sites, Thomas Nkobi Memorial Park
10 April 2017
Mrs Dimpho Hani and family,
Minister Nathi Mthethwa and all Ministers present,
Acting Premier of Gauteng Ms Barbara Creecy and all MECs,
The Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni Mr Mzwandile Masina and all mayors present,
Leaders of the ANC, SACP, COSATU and SANCO present,
Traditional and religious leaders present here,
Fellow South Africans,
We are gathered here to once again commemorate the life of a distinguished freedom fighter and revolutionary, Tembisile Chris Hani.
Today marks exactly 24 years since he was brutally assassinated by right-wing conspirators who sought to derail our march to freedom and democracy. He was taken away from his family and the people who adored him and looked up to him.
The killers wanted to plunge the country into civil war so as to prevent us from achieving a democracy in which government would be built by the majority will of the people.
Comrade Chris Hani demonstrated throughout his life and at the hour of his death that he lived for his people.
He taught many young men and women within the ANC and the Alliance that personal suffering was the price to be paid in defence of the interests of the oppressed black people.
In their actions, the killers of Chris Hani, sought to sow division amongst the people of South Africa so that they could protect minority interests.
However, the leadership of President Nelson Mandela rose to the occasion and called on all of us not to allow minority interests and the actions of disruptors to shift our focus.
President Mandela called on all of us to honour the sacrifice of Comrade Chris Hani by uniting and accelerating our advance towards democratic elections.
Indeed, we used that sombre occasion as a platform to push harder for freedom and democracy and eventually held our first democratic election on 27 April 1994; on the principle of one person, one vote.
This year we are also commemorating the Centenary of President Oliver Reginald Tambo.
Comrade Chris Hani and President Oliver Tambo are two of the most distinguished servants and leaders of our people in the struggle for freedom and justice.
They passed away, one after the other in April 1993, having successfully laid the foundation for the victory of the people in their struggle against white minority rule.
Our youth and future generations need to understand the life and contribution of these two outstanding patriots.
It is for this reason that on the 24th of March 2017 we declared as National Heritage Sites, the grave of Chris Hani, the Chris Hani Memorial and the Chris Hani Memorial and Walk of Remembrance.
The leadership of Ekurhuleni must utilise the new status of these monuments, alongside other historic monuments of liberation, to build a thriving cultural tourism sector that also creates jobs for local people.
We also need to remember that Chris Hani was a committed advocate of a kind of democratic transformation that would bring about political, social and economic justice in our country.
He believed that our democracy would only be meaningful if it guaranteed equality in the access to education, healthcare, jobs and housing among others.
It is because of such beliefs that we made sure that the Constitution of the Republic affirms the principles of equality, freedom and justice for our people.
We ensured that the Constitution enshrines the creation of a better life for our people, through the inclusion of socio-economic rights, such as the right to water, sanitation, quality education and health care and other important basic services.
We have been able to alleviate poverty through providing social grants to more than 17 million of our people the majority of whom are vulnerable children, older persons and persons with disability, in line with the Constitution. Government will always make sure to overcome whatever challenges may threaten the provision of this important social security net to our people.
Comrade Chris Hani also advocated very passionately, the need for our democracy to transform the systems of economic participation. He insisted that a democratic government had a duty to build a modern economy at the hands of all our people, particularly black people.
As you may recall, earlier this year, while delivering the State of the Nation Address in Parliament, I reminded the country of the message of President Oliver Tambo regarding the content of a future democratic society.
The message was delivered at a South African Communist Party anniversary meeting in London in 1981.
He said: “The objective of our struggle in South Africa, as set out in the Freedom Charter, encompasses economic emancipation. It is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the country to the people as a whole.
“To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the roots of racial supremacy and exploitation, and does not represent even the shadow of liberation.
“It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy; and our drive towards national emancipation must include economic emancipation.”
Over the past two decades of democratic governance, we have achieved a lot in the transformation of our economy.
We have built a growing black middle class with access to work opportunities in areas that were historically denied to them. We have created pathways for the emergence of black owned businesses in various sectors of our economy.
However, the impact of these changes has not been to the desired effect.
Twenty-three years into our freedom and democracy, the majority of black people are still economically disempowered. They are dissatisfied with the limited economic gains from liberation.
Therefore, it is out of this historic knowledge about the essence of our struggle for democracy that we have decided to focus firmly on radical socio-economic transformation in the remaining term of this government, as informed by the 2012 resolutions of the governing party, the ANC.
The ANC government defines Radical Socio-Economic Transformation to mean the fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
We want to move beyond the minority control of our economic assets towards democratic, inclusive and equitable economic relations of control and ownership.
We want to see more opportunities being provided for local producers to sell their products so that our hard-pressed economy can grow.
We want to see more black owned companies benefitting from government’s five hundred billion rand procurement budget, so that we can further grow black business and entrepreneurship.
We want to see more young people becoming entrepreneurs and obtaining support from government and the private sector. We want to see more black people becoming farmers or industrialists.
We want to see more black people owning companies that are listed on the Johannesburg Stock exchange.
We also want to see an improvement in the implementation of the affirmative action policy especially within the private sector.
Reports by the Employment Equity Commission each year indicate that the top and senior management positions of top companies remain overwhelmingly white and male.
Black professionals indicate that they are being overlooked for promotion in many companies.
The private sector also needs to attend to the accusations that the salaries of black and white professionals doing the same job are still unequal in this free and democratic South Africa. These are serious transformation issues that cannot be ignored.
Importantly, we remember well that our radical political transformation towards democracy in 1994 was achieved through united action.
We were able to make progress because all democratic forces closed ranks and put up a united front against minority interests that sought to prevent the achievement of our objectives.
We must therefore unite as South Africans behind this project of building a sustainable economy.
We need to unite even more now given the challenges we face locally and globally.
Earlier this morning, I met with the Finance Minister and the Deputy Minister, the Governor of the SA Reserve Bank and the SARS Commissioner to discuss further, the impact of the credit rating downgrades and how we should respond adequately and unite the country as we move forward.
The Finance Minister has been engaging the business community.
Engagements with all social partners including labour will continue, because we make progress and find solutions when we work together.
Comrade Chris Hani believed in a non-racial society. In his memory, we must continue building a non-racial society and fight racism wherever it rears its ugly head.
We have sadly not yet succeeded in building the non-racial society that we envisaged. There is a resurgence of racism in our country. It is also clear that racists have become more emboldened.
The marches that took place last week demonstrated that racism is real and exists in our country.
Many placards and posters displayed beliefs that we thought had been buried in 1994, with some posters depicting black people as baboons. It is clear that some of our white compatriots regard black people as being lesser human beings or sub-human.
The racist onslaught has become more direct and is no longer hidden as was the case in the early years of our constitutional democratic order.
Racists no longer fear being caught or exposed.
In the fight to combat racism, we should look beyond only overt racist utterances and public displays that we saw during the marches last week.
We should also look at the ideological and institutional machinations that continue to give racism more traction.
Racism is a gross violation of human rights and plunged this country into decades of conflict in the past. We cannot allow and assist racists to take our country backwards.
At a legislative level, Government has published the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill.
Once it becomes law, it will criminalise several forms of discrimination including on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.
We call upon all freedom loving South Africans to unite and fight racism in our country, in the memory of Comrade Chris Hani. Chris Hani abhorred racism and fought against it all his life. He tragically lost his life at the hands of hard-core racists.
It will take time, but it needs to be done if we are to achieve a truly united and non-racial society.
As we navigate the transformation of our country, we encounter various challenges along the way.
Our people are also experiencing frustration and we will have misunderstandings in trying to choose the best path forward.
However, we should never forget that one of the trademarks of South Africa’s transition to democracy was tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
We must co-exist and tolerate one another, around a common vision of social justice, reducing inequality, maintaining political stability and national unity.
As we celebrate the life of Chris Hani, we must work together to build a better life for all of our people, in spite of the economic hardships that we face currently.
We must face the difficult times together, and united, we shall succeed.
Compatriots and friends,
It is my pleasure and honour to officially unveil and launch today, as National Heritage Sites - the grave of Chris Hani, the Chris Hani Memorial and the Chris Hani Memorial and Walk of Remembrance.
I thank you!
Issued by The Presidency, 10 April 2017