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
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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.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.