25 years after apartheid, many ‘South Africans ‘still not free’, says president

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a meeting ahead of the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of Freedom Day in Eastern Cape Province. (AFP)
Updated 28 April 2019

25 years after apartheid, many ‘South Africans ‘still not free’, says president

  • 3 centuries of white rule and the apartheid regime in place since 1948 ended in South Africa on April 27, 1994
  • But President Ramaphosa says there will be no true freedom when so many people still live in poverty

MAKHANDA, South Africa: A quarter of a century after the end of the apartheid in South Africa, large swathes of population still are not free given abject poverty and high unemployment and the scourge of corruption affecting the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.

Speaking at a ceremony in Makhanda, formerly Grahamstown, in the south of the country, Ramaphosa said that South Africans were "gathered here to celebrate the day we won our freedom."

The first democratic elections were held in South Africa on April 27, 1994, with blacks — who make up three quarters of the population — voting for the first time, bringing to an end three centuries of white rule and the apartheid regime in place since 1948.

"We remember the moment we placed a cross on a ballot paper for the first time in our lives," the president said, paying homage to Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid campaigner who was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994.

Nevertheless, "we cannot be a nation of free people when so many still live in poverty," Ramaphosa said.

"We cannot be a nation of free people when so many live without enough food, without proper shelter, without access to quality health care, without a means to earn a living," he continued.

"We cannot be a nation of free people when funds meant for the poor are wasted, lost or stolen ... when there is still corruption within our own country."

Ramaphosa is head of the African National Congress (ANC), the party that has been in power since the end of apartheid.

He took over as president in 2018 from Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign as a result of a number of corruption scandals.

"As we celebrate 25 years of democracy, we need to focus all our attention and efforts on ensuring that all South Africans can equally experience the economic and social benefits of freedom," Ramaphosa said.

Despite the emergence of a middle class in South Africa, the continent's economic powerhouse, 20 percent of black households still live in dire poverty, compared with only 2.9 percent of white households, according to the Institute of Race Relations.

The unemployment rate in South Africa currently stands at 27 percent, compared with 20 percent in 1994.


Tight security as 16 million Sri Lankans prepare to vote

Updated 26 min 29 sec ago

Tight security as 16 million Sri Lankans prepare to vote

  • Police, civil defense deployed with warning to crack down on protests 

COLOMBO: More than 16 million Sri Lankans will go to the polls to elect the country’s president on Saturday amid heightened security.

About 60,000 policemen and 8,000 civil defense personnel have been deployed across the island while voting takes place, police media spokesperson SSP Ruwan Gunasekara told Arab News.

More than 200,000 government officials have been deployed on election duty as the counting of votes takes place at 43 centers, while more than 125 foreign observers representing the EU and Commonwealth will also monitor the poll.

The government has spent $42 million to implement a secret ballot system for the 35 candidates at 12,845 polling centers, according to Sri Lanka’s Election Commission.

The winning candidate needs to secure more than 50 percent of the vote to assume office. Counting will start soon after the poll ends.

The ballot paper also lets voters pick their three top choices to help determine the winner if no candidate secures the first place by mark.  

“The first results of the presidential election 2019 can be expected by midnight on Saturday,” Mahinda Deshapriya, the Election Commission chairman, said on Friday.

Authorities have also told police to thwart protests during the election silence period that began on Wednesday.

“The commission has no intention to obstruct freedom of expression by blocking any social media, but it might be compelled to do so if the situation becomes worse or uncontrollable,” Deshapriya said.

He said that the commission had written to Facebook asking the platform to remove any paid or sponsored advertisements for candidates.

The Sri Lanka Transport Board will deploy 5,800 buses for election duties, including transporting ballot boxes and officials.

Special bus services will operate from Friday to cater to people traveling to their villages to cast votes.

Al-Sheikh A.C. Agar Mohamed, deputy chairman of All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, told Arab News that it was mandatory for voters to prove their identity when entering a polling booth.

Muslim women who wear the veil have been asked to cooperate with officers by revealing their face to confirm their identity,
he said.

Print and electronic media have been barred from taking pictures of political leaders entering polling stations, Information Director-General Nalaka Kaluwewa said.

However, pictures of President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, former presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya will be taken while casting their vote by official photographers, he said.

The two top candidates are former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa.