31 December 2021
My Fellow South Africans,
This is a special time of year for us all.
It is a time for family and for enjoying quality time with those we love.
For many of us, this is also a time to look back at the year we have been through – it is time to reflect on the year that has gone by. It is time to reflect on our lives and our goals, and on our plans for the year ahead.
It is also a time of gratitude for the things that matter most in our lives – good health, a decent life, the love of family and the companionship of friends.
This has been a very difficult year for our people and country.
For the second year, we have had to contend with a deadly pandemic.
For many families around the country this is a sad time and a reminder of what they have lost.
In many homes tonight, there is an empty place which was once occupied by a father, mother, sister, brother, child or parent.
We pray for them all, for those who have passed away, for those who are ill, and for those who have lost loved ones.
For many South Africans, the festive season has brought little cheer.
Due to the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many breadwinners have lost their jobs, several businesses have closed, and millions of families are struggling to put food on the table.
The second pandemic that i spoke about last year that manifests itself through violence against women and children has continued unabated.
Earlier this year, the country experienced the worst acts of public violence and destruction since the advent of democracy.
This unrest led to loss of life, to jobs being destroyed and to billions of rands in damage to businesses and to our economy.
In the course of this year, we have lost men and women who were pillars of strength in their communities, leaders, activists and veterans of our struggle for liberation.
Tomorrow, the nation will gather in spirit to lay to rest our beloved Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu.
We have had to weather many storms in this past year.
Yet, as we greet a new year, we know that better times are on the horizon.
Notwithstanding the difficulties of 2021, there is much that we have to be thankful for.
We can be thankful for the strength of our democracy.
This year we held another free and fair local government election.
We celebrated 25 years since the signing of our Constitution.
Our strong democracy withstood a deliberate and coordinated attempt to challenge our constitutional order and undermine the rule of law.
We can be grateful for the ability of the South African people to unite in times of crisis.
In the midst of the unrest, many South Africans came together to prevent looting. They cleaned the streets and helped to rebuild ransacked businesses.
We are grateful for our men and women who are on the frontline every day fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. As we speak many of whom are on duty even at this hour.
To our health care workers, our paramedics and our emergency personnel, to our police men and women, to our soldiers and to our many volunteers, we thank you for your commitment to heal, to serve and to protect us all.
We are grateful for the pioneering work of our scientists, academics and members of the health fraternity who are helping us to better understand the pandemic, to plan and to respond accordingly.
We are grateful for the resilience of our learners and educators during this year, and in particular our matriculants, who had to write their final exams under challenging conditions.
We can be thankful for the nearly 18 million South Africans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vaccination remains our best protection against severe illness and hospitalisation for COVID-19.
I want to call on all South Africans over the age of 12 who have not yet vaccinated to please go and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
It is safe, it is free and it is the responsible thing to do for yourselves and for those around you.
We are grateful to all citizens who expressed their solidarity to other South Africans and gave what they could to help those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
I speak of the help given to neighbours to pay rent and buy food, of the community food gardens and soup kitchens set up to feed the destitute, of the millions in donations to the Solidarity Fund, and of the business owners who went out of their way to retain jobs.
As we strive to get more South Africans vaccinated, we must put our every effort into rebuilding our economy so that people can support themselves and their families.
During this past year, a number of critical foundations were laid for our economic recovery.
Millions of South Africans received direct support through the Social Relief of Distress grant and workers in vulnerable industries received wage support through the UIF.
We undertook several critical economic reforms to boost investor confidence and aid a sustainable economic recovery.
This year we placed our focus on promoting trade and investment on the African continent to ensure that we would benefit from the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
In 2022, we will dedicate all our energies to create work and fight hunger.
We will build on the important progress that has been made in ending state capture and fighting corruption.
We will continue to prevent corruption and successfully prosecute those responsible for malfeasance.
We must work together to deal decisively with rising levels of violent crime; with crimes against women and children, and with the sabotage of our economy.
It will be some time before the world is free of COVID-19, but if we all play our part, we can limit the impact it has on our lives and livelihoods.
We must ensure that our actions, our behaviour and our decisions over this festive season and beyond do not lead to more infections, more people ending up in hospitals and more deaths.
The hardships we have endured over the past year have brought us together as a nation.
In this season of goodwill, we are reminded that generosity of spirit has always been our greatest strength.
It is my wish that the spirit of solidarity, empathy and compassion should continue into the new year and in the years to come.
May the year 2022 be one in which we spare neither strength nor courage to build South Africa going forward.
Let us build a better South Africa, based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
Let us build a united and inclusive South Africa where we care for and help each other.
Let us take to heart the words of our beloved Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu:
“Do your little bit of good where you are. It is those little bits of good put together that can overwhelm the world.”
As we welcome in the new year, I wish you all joy, happiness, prosperity and peace.
I thank you.