Honourable Speaker, Ted Arnott
Honourable Members of the Ontario Provincial Parliament,
Members of the Consular Corps,
Fellow South Africans,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and privilege to represent the government and the people of South Africa during this important ceremony marking and celebrating 28 Years of freedom and democracy. We celebrate this year’s Freedom Day under the theme: “Consolidate our Democratic Gains”, to mark South Africa’s transition from the oppressive apartheid regime to a free democratic country. The first democratic elections on 27 April 1994 gave birth to our constitutional democracy.
This year’s Freedom Day celebration takes places as the country recently witnessed the devastating effects of Climate Change – which caused floods that destroyed lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal. Government has declared the National State of Disaster to provide much needed help to affected communities and businesses while restoring damaged infrastructure.
These floods, like the once we witnessed recently in British Colombia, continues to sound the alarm to all of us to take Climate Change seriously and put measures to reduce carbon emission and reduce global warming to save our beloved planet.
South Africa enjoys cordial diplomatic relationship with Canada which covers Political, Economic and Social relations. Our bilateral relations have strengthened over the years since South Africa became a democracy in 1994. Of course, our path to democracy was never easy, and we are eternally grateful to friends and partners such as Canada who contributed significantly to the freedom we enjoy today.
Canada, through its advocacy in fora such as the Commonwealth; support for economic sanctions against the Apartheid regime in the 1980s and through the production of documentaries and films, helped to educate many people about the injustices in South Africa and so popularised the liberation struggle in South Africa.
We recall with fondness former President Mandela’s historic visit to Canada in June 1990, a mere four months after his release from prison – and his historic address to a Joint Session of the National Assembly. In doing so, Mr Mandela became the first foreign citizen invited to address the Canadian Parliament in 40 years who is neither a head of Parliament nor a Head of State.
Many do not know that Mr Mandela became the first living person to receive honorary Canadian citizenship when the Canada Parliament bestowed the honour on him in 2001 in recognition of Mr Mandela’s “great moral leadership to South Africa and to all humanity.”
South Africa has covered lots of strides since our democratic breakthrough in 1994, however, we are the first to acknowledge that much remains to be done to resolve challenges of unemployment, poverty, and inequality which continues to bedevil our communities. These triple challenges have been exacerbated by COVID – 19 pandemic which left far reaching negative effects on our economy which was experiencing structural challenges before COVID-19.
However, this provided an opportunity for government to fast track its transformative agenda. Government introduced its Economic Reconstruction and recovery Plan which aims to build a new economy and unleash South Africa’s true potential. The overarching goal of the plan is to create sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economy. We invite Canadian business community to partner with South Africans and take advantage of the opportunities within our economy as we reconstruct and transform the South African economy.
In the spirit of our Freedom Day, we are called upon as South Africans to come together as one nation to rebuild our country from the devastating effects of the COVID – 19 pandemic and the floods in KwaZulu-Natal. There is more that binds us together as South Africans than that divides us, let us strive to build on our many ties. We have a national identity that is built on mutual respect, tolerance, and acceptance.
On this Freedom Day, we encourage South Africans to reflect on the progress made over our democratic journey. It is time to recommit ourselves to the Constitution, which is the foundation of our democracy, and the very essence of what freedom means.
The Preamble of our Constitution refers to a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people where every citizen is equally protected by the law. The Bill of Rights reaffirms that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Ontario provincial government and the Federal government of Canada for being kind and receptive to South African diaspora who now reside and work in Canada. These are South African who are working or practicing their trades in different sectors of the Canadian economy, and they call both South Africa and Canada their home.
I thank you!