Press Releases

Press Releases

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 14 JUNE 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
In two days’ time we commemorate the fateful events of June 16th 1976, when brave young men and women in Soweto and other parts of the country rose up against the iniquity of Bantu Education.
 
On that day and in the days that followed, many lost their lives. They were killed by a callous regime that had little regard for black lives and thought nothing of opening fire on unarmed, uniformed schoolchildren. 
 
These events hardened international opinion against the apartheid regime and gave further impetus to the liberation struggle.
 
Young people have always been at the forefront of social protest, from the anti-authoritarian protests in Latin America in the late 1950s to the May 68 movement in France, to the protests across many parts of Africa in the late 1960s.
 
History faithfully records the contribution of the generation of 1976 to the international student movement and its stance against oppression and injustice in all its forms. 
 
Since the early 1980s the All Africa Students Union has observed June 16th as African Students Day in tribute to the Soweto students. In 1991 the Organisation of African Unity adopted June 16th as the International Day of the African Child.
 
As such, this historic event that took place 45 years ago continues to be commemorated across our continent and many other parts of the world.
 
It is therefore disturbing that knowledge and awareness of the events of June 16th is diminishing among young South Africans. This is particularly so among the so-called Generation Z, or young people born between 1997 and 2015.
 
The 2019/2020 South African Social Attitudes Survey published by the Human Sciences Research Council found that close to 40% of Generation Z has not heard of the historical events of June 16th. A similar percentage has heard about it but knows very little or nothing about it. 
 
Importantly, the survey also found that young people of this generation are nevertheless open to learning about key historical events and believe in their continued importance.
 
As the celebrated author Ngugi wa Thiong’o writes, memory is the site of consciousness. And consciousness is the driving force of change. 
 
We need to do more as a country to ensure that the message of this event, of young people taking charge of their destiny and standing up against apartheid rule, is transmitted faithfully. 
 
This is a collective responsibility of government, schools, tertiary institutions, parents, families, musicians, artists, and indeed all of society. 
 
The generation that was born after apartheid ended inherited a country with a democratic Constitution and where fundamental freedoms are protected.
 
Due to the sacrifices of the 1976 generation, the opportunities young black men and women have today are both vastly different and greatly improved.
 
Keeping the story of June 16th alive is a reminder to today’s generation of the great sacrifices made to secure their freedom. But it is much more than that.
 
Youth Day is also a reminder of the immense power and agency that young people have to create a better future for themselves.
 
The struggles of young people in South Africa today are many. Young people have remained at the forefront of activism, whether in pursuit of free education or against social ills like gender-based violence.
 
Today the greatest struggle young people wage is against unemployment, something that has worsened under the COVID-19 pandemic. 
 
Creating more opportunities for young people, and supporting young people to access these opportunities, is government’s foremost priority.
 
Everything that we do as a government contributes towards improving the lives of young people. Tackling youth unemployment requires accelerating economic growth, particularly in labour-intensive sectors, and building the capability of the state to fulfil its developmental role.
 
We are also driving this agenda through a series of targeted interventions. These include the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has provided work opportunities and livelihoods support for many young people.
 
This week, on Youth Day, we will be launching a range of additional measures to create opportunities, enhance skills development, support young entrepreneurs and enable the full participation of young people in the economy.
 
This includes the establishment of a National Pathway Management Network, SA Youth, to make it easier for young people to view and access opportunities and receive active support to find pathways into the labour market. 
 
These are among the priority actions of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which was launched just weeks before we entered a national lockdown last year and which is now entering full implementation.
 
The Presidential Youth Employment Intervention was built on the understanding that to address the youth unemployment crisis requires innovative thinking and strong partnerships across society. 
 
Its ultimate objective is to find models that work, whether in skills development or active labour market policies, and to scale these models rapidly to reach as many young people as possible.
 
Most importantly, it recognises that young people must be at the centre of any effort to boost youth employment. Young people are our greatest asset, and our greatest weapon in this fight.
 
As we pay tribute to the youth whose courageous activism won us our freedom, we also salute the resilience of every young person who is playing their part to build and develop this country. 
 
They are the young people volunteering in our communities, building our country through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, running their own businesses and studying to better themselves.
 
They are the young people who are forging their own path and bringing their families along with them.
 
We also salute the young men and women who have not given up hope, who keep working to improve their lives. 
 
Young people are doing their part; they need government, and indeed all of society, to do ours.
 
Our country is going through the most difficult of times, but we are working daily to expand the frontiers of hope. 
 
We are seeing the green shoots of growth in our economy, and are confident this will translate to better opportunities for all. Our task now is to ensure that young people are ready and able to access these opportunities, and to create their own. 
 
This Youth Day, let us continue to work together as a nation to nourish these shoots of growth in pursuit of our common, brighter future.
 
With best regards, 

AMBASSADOR GAORETELELWE VISITS MAIA AND GONDOMAR

South African Ambassador, Ms Mmamokwena Gaoretelelwe, was hosted by Mr Paulo Ramalho, Councillor for International Relations at Maia Municipality on 17 May 2021.  Counsellor Political, Mr Carl le Roux, and South Africa’s Honorary Consul in Porto, Mr António Schneider, joined the Ambassador during the discussions. At the meeting several areas of cooperation between South Africa and Maia Municipality were addressed, as well as the possibility of organising a seminar on business opportunities in South Africa, to take place in Maia later in the year. The current political and economic situations in both countries and in particular the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic were also discussed.  On the same occasion,

Ambassador Gaoretelelwe also paid a visit to the Municipality of Gondomar. Gondomar is famous for producing filigrees, which are intricate pieces of ornamental jewellery consisting of fine wire of gold, silver, or copper, which is mainly applied to gold and silver surfaces. Gondomar is also only one of four municipalities that are authorized to authenticate deposits of gold and silver in Portugal.   A jewellery manufacturing centre exists in Gondomar and is supported by a number of jewellery schools and institutions for young jewellers. In her discussion with the Mayor of Gondomar, the Ambassador expressed her interest in having young South Africans enrolling in the jewellery schools in Gondomar, to learn the skills to produce the intricate filigrees jewellery pieces.

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 7 JUNE 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Later this week, I will be travelling to the United Kingdom to attend the G7 Leaders Summit. We have been invited as a guest country together with South Korea, Australia and India. 
 
The summit will discuss how to promote future prosperity through free and fair trade, championing shared values and tackling climate change, but the global recovery from COVID-19 is likely to dominate the agenda. 
 
In extending the invitation, the G7 group of countries acknowledge South Africa’s role in driving the continental response to COVID during our AU chairship, and the contribution it can make to global progress. 
 
Much as we are a developing economy and despite facing considerable challenges given rise to by the pandemic on our society, we have done and will continue to do our best. 
 
South Africa can hold its head high among the community of nations because we remain a country that is free and united and determined to succeed.
 
Gatherings such as the G7 are important opportunities for South Africa to promote its view of a fairer and more peaceful world. They are also an opportunity to promote our country as a destination in which to invest and do business, as a partner for development, and as an ally in resolving the most pressing social and political issues facing humankind. These gatherings also give us an opportunity to promote our continent as a destination for investment.
 
Our delegation to the G7 Summit will be able to talk about the progress we are making in overcoming the pandemic and the measures we have taken towards our national recovery that are slowly but steadily yielding results. 
 
We will be able to talk about the green shoots of economic progress I spoke of in the Presidency Budget vote in Parliament last week. Among them are the tangible results of commitments made by this administration to resolve challenges that have long hindered our economic growth. 
 
I will be presenting the clear signals that our country is emerging from the devastation wrought by the pandemic. These signals include a strengthening currency, a record trade surplus, and growth in mining, financial services and manufacturing. We can also talk about the lifechanging opportunities being provided to our people through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has directly benefited nearly 700,000 people since it was launched eight months ago. We can reflect that there is progress towards greater policy and regulatory certainty in important economic sectors such as energy and telecommunications.
 
The G7 Leaders Summit is an opportunity to seek broader support for the struggle we are waging alongside India and more than 100 other countries to achieve a temporary waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property agreement at the WTO to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This will enable countries to manufacture their own vaccines and pave the way for the development of a local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in our own country and on the continent. 
 
The message I will be taking to the G7 Summit will be one of hope about the prospects for our country’s recovery, and indeed the global recovery.
 
But not everyone in this country is ready for that message.
 
When times are tough, it is easy to be pessimistic. 
 
It is understandable that citizens may be frustrated by the slow pace of change, and feel that our problems appear to be intractable. Our high rate of unemployment, for example, has not improved since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago and was made much worse by the pandemic.
 
But sometimes we are so absorbed by our shortcomings, that we often fail to acknowledge what we are doing right and where things are improving. 
 
We are making progress in resolving many of our challenges, from corruption to energy shortages to the obstacles that discourage investment. The pace of reform is picking up. 
 
We do not take the patience and resilience of the South African people for granted. We acknowledge our shortcomings as a government and are working to remedy them.
 
Optimism is the foundation of progress and hope is the companion of development.
 
Cynical though some among us may be, let the progress we are making in overcoming the immediate crisis motivate us to do even better. 
 
Our democracy was founded in hope where there seemingly was none. We emerged from a desperate situation that threatened to engulf us and built a new nation. Over the last year and a half, we rallied together to fight the pandemic, united in the belief that better days would come. 
 
Throughout the course of our history we have had setbacks and false starts. But our resilient nature allowed us to weather many storms. It is this drive and determination that must continue to propel us forward as our country recovers socially, politically and economically.
 
Let us look ahead and move forward. Let us nurture the green shoots of progress. Let us not only hope for better days, but let us work even harder to achieve them.
 
With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 31 MAY 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Today is the anniversary of an event in our history that most South Africans would rather not remember.
 
Sixty years ago, on 31 May 1961, apartheid South Africa become a republic, cutting its ties with the British Empire. But while a ‘republic’ is generally defined as state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, this was not the case in South Africa. 
 
The Constitution of the apartheid republic pledged allegiance to God, “who gathered our forebears together from many lands and gave them this as their own.”
 
It was a Constitution written by and for a racial minority, and it used faith to justify tyranny. It outlined the administration of government, providing that only white people were eligible to vote and serve as public representatives. It contained no Bill of Rights. 
 
The country’s majority was relegated to a footnote towards the end of its 121 provisions, in a section titled ‘Administration of Bantu Affairs, etc.’. 
 
In a televised message from the Prime Minister’s residence, now known as Mahlamba Ndlopfu, Prime Minister HF Verwoerd said: “We seek the gradual development of each of our groups in a certain direction. Here the solution is openly sought by retaining the white man’s guiding hand.”
 
“We are very happy to be a united people,” he declared to the world.
 
But the reality was that we were not a united people. 
 
We were inhabitants of a country where one’s rights, prospects and life expectancy was determined by one’s race. For two decades, the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act of 1961 was the legal impetus for the repression of nearly ninety per cent of the South African population. It provided legal cover for discrimination, dispossession and exploitation. 
 
This unhappy anniversary takes place in the same month that we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the adoption by the Constitutional Assembly of our new democratic Constitution, which became the birth certificate of a real united nation.
 
Now we have one law for one nation.
 
Together, we have chosen for ourselves a system of government that gives true meaning to the concept of a republic.
 
We have said that in our democratic republic, everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
 
South Africa today is a country where the administration of justice is vested in independent courts and a judiciary that is subject only to the Constitution. We live in a country where everyone has the right to approach the courts for the fulfillment of their rights. 
 
We live in a country where communities can stake a legal claim on land they were forcefully moved from, and where individuals or families are protected against arbitrary eviction from their homes. 
 
We live in a country where everyone is permitted to freely practice their culture and traditions. It is a country where anyone can freely protest in support of social, political and other causes anywhere.
 
Our constitutional dispensation is premised on accountable government, where the Executive is answerable to the people and where Parliament is representative of the people. It is a country where the law applies equally to any citizen. We now have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.
 
We share a common responsibility, as both the state and citizens, to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the Bill of Rights. 
 
As elected officials we have a responsibility to uphold our oaths of office, and to not steal from the state, engage in corruption, or mismanage resources meant for the benefit of our citizens.
 
When the apartheid regime triumphantly paraded its racist constitution to the world 60 years ago, it had misplaced confidence that it would endure.
 
In an unanswered letter to Verwoerd a month before the Republic was declared, Nelson Mandela affirmed the liberation movement’s rejection of the forcibly imposed white republic. He said that no constitution or form of government decided without the participation of the African people would enjoy moral validity. 
 
Indeed no system that entrenches the systematic denial of people’s rights can be sustained. Though it would be over three decades before the demands of the liberation movement were met, we eventually won our freedom. 
 
In relegating the apartheid constitution to the dustbin of history, we committed ourselves to a new constitution and a new set of values. 
 
When I addressed the Constitutional Assembly 25 years ago, I said our Constitution must become more than words on a page; it must become a reality in the lives of our people. Unless we do so, this progressive and revolutionary document will be rendered irrelevant and meaningless.
 
We have long decided what kind of society we want to be. It is a society rooted in human dignity, equality, freedom and non-discrimination. 
 
For a quarter of a century we have worked to build such a society. We have made undeniable progress, but we still have many challenges and there is much work still to be done. 
 
As we mark the anniversary of the adoption of our democratic Constitution, let us remember what a decisive break it was with the system underpinned by racism, exploitation, dispossession and oppression that had come before. Let us also remember that it is up to us to make the vision contained in our Constitution a reality.
 
For it is only by ensuring that all South Africans are able to freely and fully exercise their constitutional rights, that we will truly become a united people.
 
With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 24 MAY 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Last week media around the world carried heart-rending images of a young boy adrift off the coast of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. He was clinging to a makeshift buoy made of plastic bottles and desperately trying to make it to shore.
 
Over the years we have become accustomed to seeing images of African men, women and children crammed into boats and makeshift rafts trying to reach Europe. According to relief organisations more than 20,000 people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014.
 
As we observe Africa Day tomorrow, these tragic stories remind us of the huge task we have to build a better life for all the people of Africa.
 
While we celebrate the progress we have made towards building a peaceful and prosperous continent, events in faraway North Africa show that we still have a long way to go.
 
Life is so difficult for millions of people on our continent and opportunities so few that they would risk their lives crossing the sea in pursuit of a better future.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has made people already suffering from the effects of conflict, under-development and poverty even more vulnerable.
 
African economies have been severely damaged and growth prospects are greatly diminished. Many of the continent’s developmental gains may be reversed as the fight against the pandemic takes precedence over other national priorities like poverty eradication. Although low-income countries are especially vulnerable, middle income countries like our own have also been severely hit.
 
To support the continent’s economic recovery, African governments have been working through the African Union (AU) to mobilise significant financing to meet their developmental goals.
 
Last week, I joined several African leaders at a summit in Paris hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on the financing of African economies in the post-COVID-19 era. 
 
South Africa reiterated its support for a comprehensive and robust economic stimulus package for Africa to aid the recovery. But we said this should not be a substitute for official development aid.
 
We welcomed the steps taken by financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support low- and middle-income countries, and called for further measures to support vulnerable countries. This would include an allocation by the IMF of what are known as Special Drawing Rights, where on the basis of membership quotas, around $33 billion will be released to increase the reserves of African countries. African leaders have however argued that an amount of $33 billion, while welcome, is not sufficient to meet the challenges that the continent faces. As the more developed economies are set to receive much of the $650 billion of Special Drawing Rights to be issued, we believe that 25% (which equates to $162.5 billion) should be made available to African countries.
 
Other measures would include increased concessional financing by international institutions and development agencies, and additional measures led by the G20 countries to provide African countries with debt relief.
 
In what was described as a New Deal for Africa, leaders and international organisations recognised that we share a collective responsibility to implement financial relief measures for African countries in distress.
 
The international experience with COVID-19 has been a lesson in the importance of collaboration between African countries and with our international partners. Our gains as a continent have been because we have both drawn on our own capabilities and worked with the international community.
 
As African countries, we want to help ourselves and not be told what is good for us. The principle of ‘nothing about us without us’ should be applied. It is important that we affirm our sovereignty as free and independent states capable of determining the destiny of our continent.
 
While countries have immediate financing needs, a sustainable economic recovery can only be assured if we increase levels of investment on the continent. Investing in African economies will contribute to making Africa the next champion of global growth.
 
The African Continental Free Trade Area will play a key role in the continental recovery. We also envisage a greater role for the continental network of African public development banks to mobilise funding to support key projects in health, education, infrastructure, green growth and other sectors.
 
African leaders acknowledge the centrality of good governance, public debt management, financial integrity and creating a more favourable climate for private sector investment in their economies.
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented levels of unity and cooperation between African countries. It has seen the continent strengthen its ties with the broader international community and global institutions.
 
As we observe Africa Day, let us deepen our efforts to achieve a sustainable and lasting social and economic recovery for the citizens of Africa. Ours must become a continent that is thriving and prosperous, not one from which its people are dying in an attempt to leave.
 
As a country, we are part of Africa and Africa is part of us. What happens in one part of our continent affects us all, and so we must work together to recover from this crisis, and to ensure that our continent grows and thrives.
 
I wish you all a happy Africa Day.
 
With best regards, 

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 17 MAY 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Our experience with the democratic transition is a lesson about the power of empathy, negotiation and compromise.
 
The escalating situation in Israel and Palestine affirms once more what we South Africans know too well, that intractable conflicts can only be solved through peaceful negotiation. 
 
It also demonstrates that unless the root causes of a conflict are addressed, in this case the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land and the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, there will never be peace.
 
The latest violence was sparked by an Israeli court decision to evict a group of families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlements.
 
The sight of men, women and children being evicted from the homes their families have lived in for generations brings back painful collective and personal memories for the majority of South Africans – of forced removals and land dispossession.
 
It was a pain and humiliation faced by my own family, and by many South African families. My family was forcibly moved to different parts of the country on two occasions. 
 
Being forced from one’s home at gunpoint is a trauma not easily forgotten, and is carried across generations. As a country we are still living with the residual effects of the callous acts carried out in the name of apartheid spatial planning.
 
For all who believe in equality, justice and human rights, we cannot but be moved and indeed angered, at the pain and humiliation being inflicted on the Palestinian people; for it echoes our own.
 
Israel’s actions are a violation of international law. They show a total disregard for successive United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land and for the fulfillment of the rights of the Palestinian people. 
 
Since Israeli security forces launched assaults on worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week, the violence has now engulfed the Gaza Strip, large parts of the West Bank and a number of Israeli cities. It has claimed the lives of dozens of people, including children.  
 
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at least 40 children have been killed in Gaza since 10 May. Over half of them were under 10 years old.
 
It is also deeply troubling that Israeli forces last week destroyed a multi-storey building that housed a number of media organisations, sending a chilling message to media reporting on the violence.
 
The senseless and continued Israeli bombardment of Gaza will have devastating consequences for more than two million people who have been suffering under an illegal Israeli blockade for 14 years. As is always the case, it is civilians who will bear the brunt, with their homes and livelihoods destroyed.
 
Every effort must be made to dissuade both sides from further escalation, and to end the violence that is causing fear, death and misery on both sides.
 
We call on all parties involved to show restraint, to respect human life, and to cease the current hostilities. 
 
Far too many lives have been lost to this intractable conflict. The continued occupation of Palestinian land and the suffering of the Palestinian people is a blight on the conscience of humanity. 
 
As South Africa we are committed to being part of international efforts aimed at reviving a political process that will lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace with Israel, and within internationally recognised borders. 
 
The two-state solution remains the most viable option for the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and must continue to be supported. 
 
Just as Israeli security forces were attacking worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, we in South Africa were preparing to commemorate the centenary of the Bulhoek Massacre at a religious site in Ntabelanga in the Eastern Cape. On 24 May 1921, colonial security forces armed with machine guns and artillery opened fire on worshippers, killing more than 160 people and wounding nearly 130. 
 
The massacre laid bare the brutality not only of the police force of the Union of South Africa, but also the racist system that it was charged to uphold.
 
Just like the dispute in the Sheik Jarrah neighbourhood, the atrocity at Bulhoek was not just about a local dispute; it was fundamentally about the forced dispossession of land, about colonial occupation, about racial discrimination and about the violent suppression of dissent.
 
As we reflect on the crisis in the Middle East and particularly on the suffering of the Palestinian people, we would do well to recall the words of Selby Msimang, a founding member of the African National Congress.
 
In the aftermath of the Bulhoek massacre he wrote: “History has shown that the human soul naturally revolts against injustice.” 
 
The protests and the revolt of the oppressed people of South Africa against colonialism and apartheid proved the veracity of this prophecy.
 
As lovers of freedom and of justice, we stand with the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination, but also in their resistance against the deprivation of their human rights and the denial of their dignity.
 
As citizens of a country that was able to turn its back on race-hatred and bloodshed and build an inclusive society rooted in human rights for all, it is our collective hope that the people of Israel and Palestine will follow a similar path; that they will find each other, and that they will find peace.
 
With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 10 MAY 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Twenty years ago, South Africa was the site of victory in a lawsuit that pitted public good against private profit. 
 
At the time, we were in the grip of the HIV/Aids pandemic, and sought to enforce a law allowing us to import and manufacture affordable generic antiretroviral medication to treat people with HIV and save lives. 
         
In response, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry sued our government, arguing that such a move violated the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This is a comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property. 
 
The case, dubbed ‘Big Pharma vs Mandela’, drew widespread international attention. The lawsuit was dropped in 2001 after massive opposition by government and civil society. 
 
As a country, we stood on principle, arguing that access to life-saving medication was fundamentally a matter of human rights. The case affirmed the power of transnational social solidarity. Several developing countries soon followed our lead. This included implementing an interpretation of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that allowed them to import and manufacture generic antiretrovirals.
 
Years later, the world is in the grip of another deadly pandemic in the form of COVID-19. And once again, South Africa is waging a struggle that puts global solidarity to the test. 
 
Alongside India, we have submitted a proposal to the WTO for a temporary waiver of certain aspects of TRIPS to facilitate wider access to technologies needed to produce vaccines and medicines. The idea is to rapidly scale up local production to ensure wider access to affordable and effective vaccines. 
 
The waiver proposal currently enjoys the support of more than 100 countries. Last week the US government announced its support for the proposal, which will give the current negotiations added momentum.
 
The enforcement of intellectual property rights is critical to research and development and innovation in the quest for human progress. 
 
But our position as South Africa is that such a waiver is necessary at this time. It is temporary and is in direct response to an emergency.
 
This is an unprecedented situation. It requires that all intellectual property, knowledge, technology and data related to COVID-19 health technologies be put at the disposal of all.
 
If we as the international community are truly committed to human rights and the values of equality and non-discrimination, vaccines should be viewed as a global public good.
 
They should be made available to all, not just to the highest bidders. 
 
A situation in which the populations of advanced, rich countries are safely inoculated while millions in poorer countries die in the queue would be tantamount to vaccine apartheid.
 
It will set a devastating precedent in our quest to realise a more egalitarian world and our ability to handle future pandemics.
 
Social responsibility for health is a recognised principle in the Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights adopted by the international community in 2005. 
 
It affirms that progress in science and technology must contribute to justice, equity and the interests of broader humanity. It notes that the benefits of scientific research should be shared with society as a whole and within the international community, in particular with developing countries that face resource constraints.
 
Earlier this year, the UN’s education, science and culture body UNESCO called for vaccine equity, noting that it was not just the right thing to do, but also the best way to control the pandemic, restore confidence and to reboot the global economy.
 
Currently, 55% of the existing vaccine manufacturing capacity is located in East Asia, 40% in Europe and North America, and less than 5% in Africa and South America. In the case of developing countries, much of this capacity is under-utilised.
 
South Africa is one of only five countries on the continent with vaccine production capacity. Although we have secured enough vaccine doses to reach ‘population immunity’, there will continue to be a need for vaccines. We are therefore preparing to bolster global vaccine manufacturing for COVID-19 and other major diseases. Existing facilities need to be repurposed and new capacity built.
 
I call on all South Africans to support this effort, and in particular civil society organisations that played a leading role during the HIV/Aids pandemic.
 
Civil society has a critical role in mobilising international support for this cause, particularly through international cooperation with like-minded organisations in developed countries. This is an issue that calls for greater public advocacy and awareness-raising.
 
As a nation, we must stand united in our effort to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines to save lives and proceed with the national recovery. 
 
Our commitment to putting human lives first does not diminish our commitment to honour international trade agreements.
 
It is about the promotion of health as a public and social good.
 
It is about affirming our commitment to the advancement of equality and human rights, not just in our own country but around the world.
 
With best regards, 

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FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 3 MAY 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
We live in a country where not just journalists but any member of the public is able to freely articulate their views, their opinions and indeed their dissatisfaction without fear of retribution.
 
As we conclude Freedom Month, we recall how far we have come from the days where social protest by artists attracted banning orders, and critical reporting by journalists risked imprisonment or the closure of publications.
 
Last week, the organisation Reporters without Borders published the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, a barometer of the state of media freedom across the globe.
Overall, it was found that there has been a decline in public access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage in a number of countries. 
 
The report said that journalism is ‘totally blocked or seriously impeded’ in 73 countries and ‘constrained’ in 59 others. What is worrying is that media freedom has deteriorated under the COVID-19 pandemic, with the various restrictions put in place having seemingly been used to curtail media activity in several places.
 
In this latest report South Africa ranked 32nd out of 180 countries. The index describes the state of media freedom in South Africa as ‘guaranteed but fragile’. 
 
It notes that while the South African Constitution protects freedom and we have an established culture of investigative journalism, a number of impediments still hinder journalists in the performance of their duties. This includes legal injunctions against taking images of National Key Points or reporting on matters involving state security. 
 
The report also notes an increase during 2020 of the intimidation of journalists, especially female journalists on social media. Such intimidation is totally unacceptable, but is particularly harmful when it is directed at female journalists and is occasionally accompanied by threats of sexual violence. This is a matter of great concern and cannot be allowed.
 
At the same time, we take great comfort in the knowledge that we have a free, robust media that is able to report without fear or favour about those in power, about the most pressing social issues of our time, and to provide accurate, impartial information to the public.
 
At a time when we are working together to rebuild our economy and our society in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a robust media is more critical than ever. 
 
The South African media has played a pivotal role in uncovering much of what we know today about the true extent of capture of the state by self-serving, corrupt individuals and entities. They sustained their reporting even in the face of intimidation, disinformation and attacks on their person.
 
Corruption is by no means the only challenge we face as a country. The daily lives of many South Africans are still affected by poverty, inequality and underdevelopment, poor service delivery, and lack of access to opportunities. 
 
If the media is to remain true to its responsibility to support democracy, our journalists must continue to report without fear or favour on the other issues of the day. Their sustained coverage must include gender-based violence, crime in our communities, and social ills like substance abuse. Our media should provide accurate and impartial information, enabling the public to make informed decisions, to access opportunities and to improve their lives. They should continue to produce journalism that goes beyond the headlines and front pages and that contributes to human development. The should report both the good news and the bad news, the progress we make and the challenges we face.
 
Credibility is key to sustaining trust between journalists and the public. When journalists allow themselves or their platforms to be used to fight political battles or settle scores on behalf of vested interests, their credibility suffers. When media disseminate stories that are inaccurate or that they know to be false, the public loses faith in them.
 
It is in the best interests of all who love this country and wish for it to succeed that our media is supported, and not hindered in its work. 
 
As a society, let us continue to work together to jealously safeguard our country’s media freedom. It was hard won, and without it, we cannot hope to flourish.
 
With best regards,