Press Releases

Press Releases

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 13 SEPTEMBER 2021

Dear Fellow South African,
 
A year before the first democratic elections, President Nelson Mandela wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine on the new South Africa’s future foreign policy.
 
Reflecting on the shifts in global alliances brought about by the end of the Cold War, he wrote that countries would have to “recast their nets” if they were to reap any benefit from international affairs.
 
Since the tectonic shift of 1994 when we made a decisive break with not just apartheid but the international relations outlook of its architects, South Africa’s foreign policy continues to be characterised by this “recasting the net”.
 
Our foreign policy priorities are regional political and economic integration, pursing African development, multilateral engagement and the promotion of democracy, peace and human rights.
 
To this end we have forged strategic alliances with both the countries of the Global South and mutually beneficial cooperation with the countries of the North.
 
Joining the BRICS group of countries in 2010 was a milestone in our quest to advance our own national development priorities by forging stronger ties with the important emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
 
Put into context, BRICS countries comprise roughly 41% of the world’s population and account for around 24% of global GDP and some 16% of global trade.
 
We have reaped the benefits of membership of this important bloc, most notably in the area of economic cooperation.
 
Bilateral trade has grown, particularly with China and India, with commodity exports and manufactured goods imports featuring strongly.
 
The BRICS countries continue to be important sources of foreign direct investment in key such as mining, automotive, transportation, clean energy, financial services and IT.
 
A 2018 review of our BRICS membership by professional services firm Deloitte noted that BRICS partners “invested three times more capital in the country compared to the seven years prior to 2011”. These investments and projects have in turn led to significant job creation.
 
Since the formation of the New Development Bank, whose regional office is located in Johannesburg, South Africa has been a beneficiary of financing and technical support for projects in transportation, clean energy, environmental protection, water infrastructure and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
 
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa has received $2 billion in funding from the New Development Bank under the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Programme to fight the pandemic and to support our economic recovery.
 
There has also been substantial cooperation with our BRICS partners in securing personal protective equipment and cooperation around vaccine access and distribution.
 
Last week we participated in the 13th BRICS Summit, where BRICS countries agreed to deepen cooperation to fight COVID-19 and mobilise the political support and financial resources needed to respond to future pandemic preparedness.
 
This includes the establishment of a virtual BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre and a BRICS Integrated Early Warning System to forecast future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
 
Another important area of agreement was on mutual recognition of national documents of vaccination and systems of COVID-19 testing – something that will be vital to cross-border travel in the future.
 
The concept of mutually beneficial cooperation will be particularly important in the global economic recovery, where unequal development means that some countries will bounce back quickly, while others will lag behind.
 
In support of economic recovery, BRICS partners agreed to strengthen collaboration in catalytic sectors such as energy, IT, science, technology and innovation, agriculture and the green economy. These are all important sectors identified in our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan announced last year.
 
Cooperation with other BRICS countries, particularly in the field of innovation research, will help to accelerate our country’s industrialisation and help us meet our Fourth Industrial Revolution aspirations. In this regard, discussions were held around the creation of formal BRICS platforms to share best practice, knowledge and expertise, including the use of open source technology platforms.
 
The BRICS partners agreed that developing countries need assistance to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and that donor countries should honour their commitments in this regard.
 
This is particularly important within the context of climate action. Like most countries, South Africa seeks to move towards a low-carbon development path that is inclusive, sustainable and that takes into account our status as a developing country. The BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform will be valuable as we move to diversify our energy sources.
 
In the eleven years since we joined BRICS, our membership has substantially advanced our national interest. Being a member of BRICS has enhanced our position as an important emerging economy. It has given us access to policy and technical expertise of larger and established economies, as well as access to the support of the National Development Bank. It has strengthened our activism on the global stage, particularly around reform of multilateral institutions.
 
We have benefitted from being part of a collective voice striving to advance a world order based on mutual respect and the equal sovereignty of nations.
 
BRICS is of immense strategic importance to our country, and will continue to be so for some time to come.
 
With best regards,

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 6 SEPTEMBER 2021

Dear Fellow South African,
 
Over the course of time, public servants in our country have come to be in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
 
We have become too used to stories of civil servants involved in maladministration, embezzlement, corruption and other forms of conduct that betray the values of the public service.
 
While much is made of those that are errant and unprincipled, the vast majority of public servants understand the weight of responsibility their positions entail, and discharge their duties faithfully.
 
We have set ourselves the challenge of building a capable, ethical state. We remain firmly on course towards professionalising the public service and transforming it into a group of men and women who are able and committed to serving our people and their interests.
 
During this Public Service Month, we pay tribute to the many public servants who continue to make a positive difference in our country every day, and whose actions and performance embodies the principle of Batho Pele, of ‘putting people first’.
 
Our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that we do have capable and committed public servants who diligently serve the people of South Africa.
 
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, civil servants have displayed courage and resilience in discharging their duties, often under the most difficult of circumstances. Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, they have kept the wheels of our country turning and have ensured that service delivery continued.
 
Frontline health personnel have made sure that the ill are attended to. Members of the SAPS have continued to serve and protect our communities. Teachers have continued to care for and educate our learners. Officials in government offices have ensured that our people continue to receive services.
 
We have learned many lessons from the pandemic. COVID-19 has exposed the chasms between the planning and execution of public service delivery; and the reality of government departments still working in silos when they should be working together in a seamless, development-orientated manner. At the same time, COVID-19 has shown us what is possible if we work in a coordinated manner and manage resources effectively and efficiently.
 
At the launch of last year’s Public Service Month, I made specific reference to the need for a new integrated model for service delivery that is responsive, adaptive and brings development to where it is needed most.
 
This adaptive service delivery model, or District Development Model, is exactly what the Batho Pele White Paper compels us to do: establish a citizen centred Public Service that is seamless, adaptive and responsive.
 
We call on public servants to be part of this process by identifying ways in which we can realise a public service focused on meeting the needs and advancing the interests of citizens.
 
Our commitment to building a state that is ethical, capable and above all developmental necessitates that civil servants see themselves not merely as state functionaries but as development workers.
 
Though we must continue in earnest with our task of rooting out those whose conduct makes them ill-suited for public service, we must at the same time acknowledge the vast majority are exemplary civil servants. They have kept us going.
 
One speaks here of the grandmother who is assisted when she receives her grant every month; the critically-ill patient in the public hospital who is nursed back to health by caring staff; the social worker who helps to keep families together; the vulnerable woman who is treated with dignity by a member of the South African Police Service; and the businessperson who receives their documentation at the Home Affairs office on time to travel to expand their business.
 
The professionalism of these hardworking, ethical and principled public servants keeps our country afloat, and their good work brings hope to our people.
 
At a time when shortcomings in the public service are amplified and bad news falls like an avalanche, we acknowledge our public servants of South Africa and their service.
 
It may be said that they are just doing what they are paid to do. But public service is a calling – one to which they have ably responded in order that the rights of all people in this country are fulfilled.
 
We are grateful to all our public servants and for all that they do.
 
With best regards,

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 30 AUGUST 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,

Over the course of the three years since the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture started its work, we have heard of the lengths to which the perpetrators of corrupt acts have gone to conceal their misdeeds.

It has been an extremely complex undertaking to unravel the networks of influence that enabled corruption. Among other things, vast webs of front companies were established to move funds around and disguise payments made to politically-connected individuals.

The same patterns have been seen in a number of investigations into corruption being undertaken by the Special Investigating Unit, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the NPA’s Investigating Directorate and others.

As these investigations progressed and the net began to close on implicated individuals, we have seen witnesses being threatened, their families intimidated, being forced into hiding, and even killed.

The murder of Babita Deokaran, a senior finance official in the Gauteng health department, is a stark reminder of the high stakes involved in our collective quest to remove this cancer from our society.

While we do not yet know the motive for her murder, she was a key witness in a SIU investigation into the procurement of personal protective equipment in the department.

The SAPS and the private security teams who apprehended seven suspects last week are to be commended for their work. The docket has been transferred to the Hawks, and the investigation will yield further information on why Ms Deokaran was murdered.

Regardless of the circumstances behind this tragedy, Ms Deokaran was a hero and a patriot. As are the legions of whistleblowers who, at great risk to themselves, help to unearth instances of misdeeds, maladministration, cronyism and theft.

Without their brave and principled interventions we would be unable to unmask those committing corruption. Though much focus in recent times has been on whistleblowers in the public sector, we also owe a debt of gratitude to those in the private sector whose actions receive less attention, but are equally important.

Whistleblowers are important guardians of our democracy. They raise the alarm against unethical acts and practices in government and organisations.

They speak out in good faith and with a reasonable expectation not only that action will be taken on their disclosures, but that they will be protected and not suffer victimisation or prejudice.

In South Africa there is extensive legislative protection for whistleblowers, including through the Protected Disclosures Act, Labour Relations Act, Companies Act, Protection against Harassment Act, and the Constitution itself.

In addition the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, working with other law-enforcement agencies, administers the Office of Witness Protection to provide support to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses in any judicial proceedings.

Entering witness protection is voluntary, and neither the SAPS nor the NPA can compel a witness to do so. Should a witness receive threats to their life or feel unsafe, they have to inform investigators and apply for admission to the programme. This successful programme has played a key role in securing successful prosecutions since its inception, particularly with regards to organised crime.

It is clear that as the fight against corruption gathers momentum, we need to urgently review our current approach not only to witness protection, but also to the broader protection of whistleblowers.

While numerous systems are in place to enable whistleblowers to report anonymously, we need to tighten up existing systems and provide greater support to those who publicly come forward with information.

As society, we need to identify where existing laws and policies are inadequate in protecting the livelihoods, reputations and safety of whistleblowers – and work together to address these.

The intent of the criminals who target whistleblowers is not only to silence particular individuals – it is also to send a message to other potential whistleblowers.

Day by day, brave South Africans like Babita Deokaran are standing firm that they will not be party to corruption and they are prepared to bear witness against it.

As the South African people we salute her and all the whistleblowers in the public and private sectors who are exposing corruption to the harshest of glares. They are doing so without expectation of acknowledgement or reward. Theirs is the highest form of public service.

We cannot let them down. We must, and we will, ensure that their disclosures result in prosecutions and do much more to ensure that they are protected from harm.

As South Africans, we want to send a strong a message that we will not be intimidated. Those behind the killing of witnesses and whistleblowers will be arrested and face the might of the law, as will all who are found guilty of the very corruption these assassins are trying to cover up.

With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 23 AUGUST 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Today, I want to speak to the young people of South Africa. Young people are turning out in impressive numbers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This fills me with great pride. Over half a million South Africans enrolled on the day that registration for over 18s opened.
 
The young people of our country are giving us all hope that an end to this time of hardship is within our sights.
 
As I watched young people being interviewed while queueing at vaccination centres I was impressed by their enthusiasm and excitement. Most of all I was impressed by their knowledge about the vaccine, how it can protect, and why it is necessary.
 
I heard young men and women speaking of the need to protect those at risk in their communities. I read a post online by a young person urging those who follow her on social media to take heed of the early days of the HIV/Aids pandemic, when young people died unnecessarily because they believed false stories that were then circulating that antiretroviral medication was deadly, or because they disregarded advice to practice safe sex.
 
The maturity that young people have brought to the important task of vaccinating as many South Africans as possible calls to mind the words of Frantz Fanon, that it is to each generation to discover its mission and fulfil it.
 
In 1994, millions of South Africans stood in queues to fulfil the mission of liberation. Many young people stood in those long queues to cast their vote for the first time.
 
Today it is the turn of the new generation of young people.
 
Today’s young people are being called upon to step up and be at the forefront in this defining moment in the life of our nation.
 
Last week, we passed the milestone of 10 million vaccine doses administered. Nearly 5 million people are fully vaccinated, which means they have received one dose of the J&J vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. But we still have a long way to go.
 
This is where young people come in. We are calling on them to go out and get vaccinated so that we reach our goal.
 
I was not surprised to see young people taking to this task with such determination. Since the pandemic broke out 17 months ago, young South Africans have been an integral part of the national effort to battle the coronavirus.
 
We have seen the youth step up to keep themselves and others safe. We have seen
youth formations and community organisations, young leaders, influencers and content creators using their platforms to share public health messages with their peers.
 
Young people have been brave and forthright when they have seen the friends or popular personalities violating the regulations at parties, grooves and gatherings. They have called them out.
 
We have seen how young people have been helping with the national vaccination drive, even when they were not yet eligible themselves.
 
We are proud of the young volunteers in our communities, like those from #GrandkidsforGogos who assisted the elderly with vaccination registration at social grant pay-points. One young volunteer was asked what motivated her and she said: “I am where I am because of the elderly.”
 
I hear such powerful words from young people often. Despite the hardship caused by the pandemic, they are still optimistic, and they still want to be of service to our country. By getting vaccinated they aren’t just protecting themselves, but also those around them.
 
There is still a lot of shady content being circulated out there about the vaccine. These conspiracy theories are far-fetched, and I am calling on young people once again to not circulate them.
 
These messages are harmful, and are making people hesitant to get vaccinated. This is not only harmful to young people, but many others, including people at risk who really need the vaccine.
 
Young people are digital natives. They are more tech savvy than any generation that came before them. It is important that they help to spread the correct information around vaccines provided by the Department of Health and World Health Organisation.
 
We would like to see young people becoming walking adverts for the vaccination process. We appeal to young people to post pictures of themselves getting vaccinated.
 
These vaccines are safe. They work. They don’t affect anybody's performance in any way. Most importantly, they save lives.
 
Young people have always been the drivers of progress, innovation and change.
 
You are determined to build a better, brighter future. We must emerge from this health crisis so we can recover and rebuild.
 
I want to give a shout out to those who have got their jab.
 
I also want to thank all the youth organisations, leaders and influencers for their efforts to encourage young people to get vaccinated, and call on them to continue with this work.
 
Your time is now. Go and get your jab. This is your mission and your chance to fulfil it.
 
With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 16 AUGUST 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Last week marked the end of the scheduled hearings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, more than 1,000 days after the first witness testimony was heard.
 
While the commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has said it may be necessary for a few more witnesses to testify, the work of the commission is now one step closer to completion.
 
This is a significant milestone that brings us ever closer to a reckoning with one of the most ruinous episodes in the history of our democracy.
 
Even before Judge Zondo submits his findings and recommendations to the President, we can all agree that the commission’s work has been invaluable.
 
Over the course of three years, we have heard testimony detailing alleged acts of corruption on a massive scale. We have heard about actions that resulted in the theft of billions of rands of public money. We have heard how many public institutions and state-owned companies were deliberately weakened.
 
This exposure of the nature, extent and depth of state capture did not take place behind closed doors, but was broadcast to the entire country. By allowing all South Africans to follow the commission’s proceedings, it has helped to instil public confidence in our democracy in the way it promotes openness and transparency.
 
The country owes a debt of gratitude to all who were involved in the work of the commission; from those who investigated, researched and compiled a huge amount of information; to the many witnesses who testified and provided evidence; to the journalists who diligently reported on the proceedings; to the lawyers who helped present evidence.
 
We also owe a debt of gratitude to the many individuals, some of whom remain unknown, whose actions led to the establishment of the commission in the first place. These are the people who unearthed these alleged criminal acts, who resisted, who spoke out and who took up campaigns – both public and behind the scenes – to end state capture. It is thanks to them that we now speak of state capture in the past tense.
 
State capture did not end of its own accord. It was brought to an end by the concerted actions of South Africans from all walks of life, working in various areas to restore the values of our constitutional democracy. And it is up to all of us to ensure that these practices are never allowed to happen again.
 
Over the past three years, we have taken several important steps to tackle corruption and state capture. We have been painstakingly rebuilding bodies like the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the South African Police Service (SAPS), the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and others. We have set up new structures, like the Investigating Directorate in the NPA to prosecute high-level corruption and the SIU Special Tribunal to recover stolen public funds. We have improved our crime-fighting capacity through the establishment of the Fusion Centre, which brings together various law enforcement agencies to share information and coordinate the investigation and prosecution of crime.
 
We have changed the leadership at several strategic state-owned enterprises, and begun the process of restoring them to financial and operational health. We are working towards a new SOE model that promotes greater transparency, accountability and sustainability.
 
Much of this work is ongoing. There are areas where progress has been far slower than we would have hoped, and these are now receiving closer attention.
 
The findings and recommendations of the commission will undoubtedly strengthen these efforts. We expect that the commission will identify some of the systemic weaknesses that allowed state capture to take place. This will empower us to take further corrective measures.
 
While we can say that the era of state capture is over, we have not defeated corruption. Fraud and corruption remains pervasive and deeply entrenched in both the public and private sectors.
 
Although it may not be on the scale of state capture, such criminal activities cost our country greatly, weaken our institutions and deprive South Africans of many basic needs.
 
Corruption is deeply immoral at the best of times, but takes on a greater depravity in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. One speaks here of the despicable acts of corruption last year in the procurement of goods and services needed for our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
We acted swiftly to stop such corruption, to identify those responsible and to take action against them. This is proof of our commitment to root out corruption.
 
We tightened up Treasury regulations, established the fusion centre and gave the Special Investigating Unit a wide-ranging mandate to investigate all COVID-related corruption allegations. In a first for the country, we also published online the details of all COVID procurement contracts across all public entities.
 
The damage done to our country by state capture is deep. Its effects will be felt for many years to come. But, working together, we have started to put things right. We have started to rebuild and restore.
 
We can expect that the outcomes of the Zondo Commission will immeasurably strengthen these efforts. They will give us an opportunity to make a decisive and lasting break with the state capture era.
 
Much work lies ahead, and many challenges must still be confronted. But we are on our way to building a society that is free from the evils of state capture and corruption.
 
With best regards,
 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 9 AUGUST 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Today we observe Women’s Day.
 
In reflecting on the historic march of nearly 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in 1956 we recall that as much as it was a protest against the dehumanising pass laws, it was also an economic protest.
 
At the time, racial segregation, land dispossession, discrimination against black workers, influx control and the migrant labour system were destroying communities and tearing families apart.
 
Millions of women, particularly black women, were left to fend for themselves and to care for their families alone. Many were forced to seek domestic work in white homes in cities and towns. Others turned to activities like home brewing as a means of survival.
 
The new pass laws would have rendered them unemployable. Without being able to prove they had a right to be in an urban area, they could be arrested and ‘deported’ to the so-called homelands.
 
In one historical account, a woman attending the march said: “These passes make the road even narrower for us. We have seen unemployment, lack of accommodation and families broken because of passes. We have seen it with our men. Who will look after our children when we go to jail?”
 
By taking a stand they were fighting not only for their dignity, but for their right to move around the country freely in search of work, to earn a living and to keep their families together.
 
While these oppressive laws have been swept away, women in South Africa continue to bear the brunt of economic hardship.
 
A study conducted by Statistics South Africa in 2018 found that across all four race groups, between 74% and 92% of children lived with their mothers. Of this, African children under the age of 17 were least likely to not stay with their biological father at home. Absentee fatherhood is a tragic phenomenon. It has a host of social implications and consequences for child development. It worsens economic hardship in female-headed households, particularly if there is no child support.
 
The rise in female-headed households, in unemployment among women, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, have significantly worsened the material conditions of our country’s women.
 
The economic empowerment of women is one of the pillars of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) to combat gender-based violence and femicide launched last year. It recognises that unless the economic drivers of gender-based violence are overcome, women and girls will remain vulnerable to abuse.
 
This Women’s Day, we are releasing the one-year progress report on the NSP. It outlines the steps we have taken to advance economic opportunities for women. It provides progress on the implementation of our 40% preferential public procurement policy for women-owned businesses, as well as the extent of support given to women to start their own businesses.
 
The launch of the NSP coincided with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we had to rapidly reprioritise state resources to address its impact on health. At the same time we prioritised vulnerable women and children in the support provided to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
 
Throughout the relief phase there were substantial cash transfers to women through the top-up of social grants and economic relief through the UIF TERS wage support and support to women-owned small businesses.
 
We recently announced the reinstatement of the COVID Special Relief of Distress Grant, which will now include unemployed caregivers, of which roughly 4.5 million are women.   
 
Most of the participants in the Presidential Employment Stimulus are women. This includes 72% of teaching assistants, 65% of general school assistants, 87% of workers in the early childhood development sector, and 70% of the small-scale farmers that received support. Sixty-one per cent of the new jobs created through the expansion of the Global Business Services Incentive went to women.   
 
As part of the state land allocation process, we are also working to ensure that women’s access to productive assets such as land is being prioritised. To date about 60,000 hectares of the state land leases have benefited women.
 
Just as ending violence against women is a collective responsibility, so too is the economic empowerment of women.
 
We must ensure that workplaces and places of learning are safe for women and girls and that they are protected from harassment, violence and the practice of demanding sexual favours in return for jobs, marks, promotion or advancement. We must ensure that more shelters are made available to enable women and children to escape abusive relationships.
 
Working together as business, labour and civil society we must ensure that more economic opportunities are made available to women through the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, the Presidential Employment Stimulus and programmes initiated by the private sector.
 
Companies need to employ more women, promote them in higher numbers, and provide mentorship and other programmes to capacitate them.
 
As men, let us step up to our responsibilities to our children and our families. Let us not withhold financial support as a means of punishment or use it as a means of control over the women in our lives or our children.
 
We cannot achieve gender equality without economic emancipation. I call on all sectors of society to take ownership of the NSP and embed it into their work. We have the blueprint; let us now work together on its implementation.
 
The generation of 1956 stood up to claim their rights and assert their agency. Let us break the cycle of poverty affecting millions of South African women and build a truly non-sexist society.
 
I wish all South Africans a Happy Women’s Day.
 
With best regards, 

UBUNTU NEWS FLASH - 5 AUGUST 2021

Please click here to read the UBUNTU NEWS FLASH.  Highlights include:

VACCINATION MOMENTUM PICKS UP IN SOUTH AFRICA

PRESIDENT AUTHORISES SANDF MEMBERS TO SUPPORT MOZAMBIQUE

MINISTER MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE LAUNCHES WOMEN’S MONTH

ESKOM MEDUPI'S LAST UNIT ACHIEVES COMMERCIAL OPERATION

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 2 AUGUST 2021

 Dear Fellow South African,
 
Last week, I had a chance to meet some of the heroes on the frontline of our fight against COVID-19 when I visited two vaccination sites in Tembisa and Midrand. These heroes include the health workers administering the vaccines and the many South Africans who are coming forward to be vaccinated and thereby safeguard the health of the nation.
 
The number of vaccinations administered in South Africa has now passed the 7.5 million mark. Around three million people are fully vaccinated. At the present rate, we are vaccinating on average 220,000 people a day. In the coming weeks, this rate will increase significantly due to the arrival of more vaccine doses.
 
Nearly 1.5 million single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been handed to the Department of Health in the last couple of days. Over the past weekend, a donation of 5.66 million Pfizer vaccines from the USA government began arriving in the country. This is part of a donation of vaccines from the United States to African countries and low- and middle-income countries in other parts of the world.
 
Our country is also making history. The first COVID-19 vaccines produced in Africa, for Africa, were released by Aspen Pharmacare from its flagship manufacturing plant in Gqeberha last week. These vaccines will be made available to the rest of the continent through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, which we set up during our tenure as African Union chair.
 
Thanks to the efforts of all involved in the multisectoral vaccine acquisition response, we now have a comfortable supply of stocks to vaccinate our population.
 
The two vaccination sites I visited are among an estimated 3,000 vaccination sites we have set up in the country. These sites are currently providing vaccines to any person above the age of 35, healthcare workers, and employees in participating workplaces.
 
To meet demand, several sites around the country are now operating on weekends, and many innovations – like vaccination drive-throughs and mobile vaccination units – are in operation.
 
One of the two vaccination sites I visited is run by the private sector in partnership with government and the other is run by the government, yet both facilities had similar levels of excellent service and professionalism.
 
Our private sector, including medical schemes, has worked alongside government from the onset of the pandemic, helping to mobilise resources and, most recently, helping us meet our national vaccination targets.
 
At the Rabasotho Community Centre in Tembisa, I saw government’s Batho Pele principles in action.
 
The process was efficient and streamlined: from the COVID-19 Vaccination Card people are issued with to help them keep track of their doses, to data-capturing stations, to observation stations with doctors on standby for those who have just received their jab. Importantly, the site has an information area where those presenting for vaccination are given clear information in their own language on the different vaccine options available.
 
We spoke with Mama Rosemary Mabaso, 67, who had come for her second dose. She said that the staff at the centre had treated her with the utmost care and courtesy and helped allay her initial fears of getting vaccinated.
 
I am encouraged that so many South Africans accept the need to be vaccinated. The latest National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) found that there is increased public openness to accepting a COVID-19 vaccine. Only 1 in 10 South Africans believe that COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe.
 
The Mathebulas, a couple from Tembisa who had come to the centre together to get vaccinated, told us that they were initially hesitant ‘because of negative stories going around,’ but had decided to follow government’s advice to get vaccinated.
 
Such expressions of confidence are greatly encouraging, as are the words of Mama Mabasa, who said: “I want to tell everyone out there is no need to be scared; this vaccine is safe, and it is helping us.”
 
Indeed, vaccines are safe. They are our best protection against this disease and the national vaccination programme is our surest guarantee of a swift health and economic recovery.
 
I want to encourage South Africans to continue to follow the guidance of the World Health Organisation and our Department of Health around COVID-19 vaccines. We need to avoid spreading misleading and false information that can cause confusion.
 
As we work to vaccinate as many people as possible by end of the year, we salute the officials, healthcare workers and staff of the vaccination centres who are working tirelessly to support the national effort.
 
But by far, the greatest heroes are the South African people, of whose resilience and steadfastness I remain in awe.
 
Over a year and a half, we have experienced a deadly pandemic, severe economic and social hardship, and recently, serious unrest wrought by those who want to see our country fail.
 
By going out and getting vaccinated, we aren’t just protecting ourselves. We are performing a patriotic duty to our country and our fellow citizens.
 
In this great race to preserve human life, let us continue to work together in the interests of the health and welfare of our nation. In this way, we will ensure that recovery is certain.
 
With best regards, 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 26 JULY 2021

Dear Fellow South African,
 
While the violence and destruction that engulfed parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng two weeks ago caused much damage to property and livelihoods, it also had a huge impact on the cohesion of our communities.
 
This was most evident in the tragic events that took place in and around Phoenix in eThekwini.
 
During some of the worst unrest in our democracy, and in a climate already thick with suspicion and paranoia, people that had lived side-by-side in relative peace turned on each other.
 
There is still much we have to unearth about the events that took place over the course of the last two weeks. The proliferation of fake news, doctored images and incorrect information has made it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
 
But we do know from official reports and personal accounts that people were racially profiled at illegal roadblocks, some people were pulled out of cars and beaten, and some were humiliated and degraded. Several people were killed.
 
Much of what has happened is the inevitable outcome when people take the law into their own hands. Vigilantism will not be tolerated in this country. It is criminal and it is dangerous.
 
Now that calm has been restored to the affected areas, our law enforcement agencies are investigating all acts of criminality. A team of detectives has been assigned to deal with the murders and are working closely with local communities. There have been arrests and those responsible will face the full might of the law.
 
Much of the narrative around the events in Phoenix has been dominated by attempts to turn one race against another. It has been stoked by anonymous people on social media and in messaging groups making outrageous claims and calling for revenge.
 
There is an attempt to present this as a sign of imploding race relations between African and Indian communities.
 
Just as there were people who tried to exploit people’s vulnerability and cause mayhem, there are those who want to present criminal acts in racial terms to serve their own purposes.
 
They will not succeed. South Africa has a proud history of principled non-racialism and working class solidarity. African and Indian communities were united in the struggle against apartheid and, together with other communities, remain committed to a united and democratic society.
 
In response to the fear and mistrust, the people of Phoenix and the neighbouring areas of Bhambayi, Zwelitsha and Amaoti are working to repair the damage. Aided by a peace forum established by the South African Police Service in partnership with community leaders, the communities have come together to support those affected by the unrest and to open channels of dialogue.
 
This is not the only part of the country that is confronted with such challenges.
 
Our efforts to build integrated communities are frustrated by the legacy of apartheid planning and persistent inequality. Our cities, towns and rural areas are still all divided by both race and class. This discourages cooperation and understanding, and hampers the work we have undertaken to build a non-racial society.
 
Correcting these spatial distortions must be part of our work of building an inclusive economy and improving the living conditions of all South Africans. It is why we are working to build flourishing township and rural economies, and focusing on the growth of small businesses. It is why we are investing in infrastructure in these areas and working to improve the provision of services.
 
At the same time, we need to confront racism in our society. We need to have honest conversations not only about our attitudes to one another, but also about the material conditions that divide us. For as long as the division of wealth and opportunity in South Africa is largely still determined by race and gender, we will not be able to build a truly united nation.
 
The events in Phoenix are a painful reminder of how much work we still need to do to build inclusive communities that have successfully broken down the boundaries of the past. These events also demonstrate how determined some people are to divide us, and how we need to do everything we can to resist them.
 
It is our collective responsibility to support these communities in eThekwini and elsewhere in their journey towards reconciliation and healing.
 
Our democracy was built by peacemakers and bridge-builders. The architects of our freedom were African, Indian, coloured and white men and women of great courage who chose the path of reconciliation over retribution, and of peace over war.
 
As we strive to heal from this collective national trauma, let us stand as one. Let us overcome our differences in pursuit of the common good.
 
Let us work together to forge a common future in which everyone has an equal share.
 
With best regards,