As the 25th year of our democracy draws to a close, we look back on a year that has been filled with both highs and lows, a year in which we measured great progress, but also encountered several setbacks.
In May, millions of South Africans went to cast their votes, peacefully and enthusiastically, this once again demonstrated for all the world to see that we are a robust and vibrant democracy.
We recommitted ourselves build a new society founded on the will of the people, in which all South Africans – black and white – truly belong.
And yet, for many South Africans, the hardships endure.
While our economy created jobs, these have not been nearly enough to stop the rise in unemployment or the deepening of poverty.
Many South Africans’ lives have changed for the better, but many others are yet to feel the benefits of the economic reforms and new investment.
This has also been a year in which we have had to confront the darkest forces of our nature.
As a nation, we have witnessed the brutality perpetrated by men against women and against children.
We have seen lives, both young and old, ended with brutal violence.
We have seen fear in our homes, schools and streets.
Yet, as a nation, we have stood as one in our determination to end the crimes perpetrated by those men who have no respect for the lives, the rights or the dignity of women and children.
An outpouring of grief and anger has incited the nation to action, to undertake an emergency response plan that will turn the tide on this national shame.
Despite the difficulties of this past year, day-by-day, we draw closer to our ambition of a better life for all South Africans.
Day-by-day, we are drawing closer to our goal of providing quality health care to all South Africans, and redistributing land to all those who work it and all those who need it.
We are making progress towards our aim to provide free higher education to all students from poor and middle-class families, and to ensure all children benefit from early childhood development.
Each day, we draw closer to our target of R1.2 trillion in new investment in the factories, mines, refineries, shops that will drive our economic renewal.
Steadily, we are rebuilding the public institutions that are so vital to our democracy, restoring our law enforcement agencies, and taking forward the fight against state capture and corruption.
And so, we enter this New Year and this new decade, encouraged by the progress we have made under difficult conditions, knowing that we still have many mountains to climb, and many treacherous rivers to cross.
From January, South Africa takes up its position as chair of the African Union. We will seek to work with our sister countries to realise an Africa Free Trade Area that stretches from Cape Town to Cairo, and from Dakar to Mombasa.
We know only too well the enormity of the challenges that confront us, but we are united in the knowledge that we have the means and the determination to overcome them.
Just as the strongest steel is forged in fire, just as diamonds are forged deep inside the earth’s crust under the most extreme pressure, let us turn adversity into opportunity.
In doing so, let us each play our part: for upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.
By working together towards the South Africa that we all want, sparing neither strength nor courage, we will progress and we will succeed.
I wish you and yours a successful and peaceful 2020.
Happy New Year to you all.