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Address by ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association 3rd National General Council

25 September 2015, Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg

Chairperson of the MKMVA, Comrade Kebby Mphatsoe,
Former combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe,
Leadership of the African National Congress,
Leadership of the ANC Women's League and the ANC Youth League,
Leadership of the Alliance,
Distinguished Guests,
Comrades and Friends,

I bring you revolutionary greetings from President Jacob Zuma and the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress.

We salute you, the veterans of the people's army, the Spear of the Nation.

We recall that Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed at a moment in our history when the legitimate demands of our people were met by brute force and yet more force.

For over three decades, Umkhonto we Sizwe was at the front line of the people's defence.

Now, the guns have fallen silent.

The apartheid government has been overthrown.

Liberty and democracy for all the people of this country has been won.

The aims for which our glorious people's army was formed have largely been achieved.

And yet the spirit of Umkhonto we Sizwe lives on. It lives on amongst all of you here.

The tradition of selfless sacrifice, the deep political consciousness and the fearless determination of the soldiers of Umkhonto remain.

Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed in the crucible of struggle.

It was led by the gigantic figures of our revolution, men and women who placed the interests of the people above their own welfare, their own safety, their own lives.

Umkhonto we Sizwe drew into its ranks the fighting youth of our nation. One of the most important moments of honor in my life after being elected to national leadership of the ANC was to visit the camps in exile.

These were young people whose commitment to freedom, justice and equality compelled them to leave their homes and families, to journey to places unfamiliar and often inhospitable, and to undertake missions that were as arduous as they were dangerous.byou are a cohort of comrades who dedicated their lives for our liberation.

These were the people prepared to lay down their lives for freedom.

And, over the course of a bitter struggle, many did.

To them - and to you - we owe our freedom.

Comrades,

The spirit of Umkhonto we Sizwe lives on in our movement. It lives on because of you.

It is sustained by the selfless actions of the many cadres who continue to serve our people. Many of you continue to serve in different forms.

It is sustained by the determination of the South African people never to submit to poverty, inequality and injustice.

It is sustained by you, the former combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Because to be where you are you took an oath.

The MK Military Veterans Association provides a vital link to a proud and courageous past.

It is one of the guardians of the history of our revolution.

But, much more than that, it is the voice and the instrument of the veterans of our armed struggle.

It remains an engaged and vibrant force for social and economic change.

It remains a vital part of the African National Congress, ready to marshal its resources, capabilities and energies in pursuit of the National Democratic Revolution.

The MK Military Veterans Association derives its existence from our past.

Yet it is firmly located in the present, and deeply focused on the future as well.

We look to MKMVA for guidance and inspiration and support.

This National General Council will discuss issues that are crucial for the advancement of the struggle for a better life for all South Africans. An ideal you were prepared to commit your life to.

We have defeated apartheid. But we must still defeat its legacy.

Today, our enemy is poverty.

We must overcome inequality, unemployment, disease, ignorance and violence.

We must build a new nation that is educated and skilled.

We must build a new nation of prosperity, equality and security for all.

We must build a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it as prescribed in the Freedom Charter.

Comrades,

If we are to realise this vision, the vision of the Freedom Charter, we need to place the economy at the centre of all our efforts.

For the people to share in the country's wealth, we need faster growth.

The National Development Plan maintains that we need to achieve over 5 percent annual growth to reach our economic and social objectives.

By 2030, our GDP per capita needs to have doubled.

This means we need to produce more.

Sectors of the economy like manufacturing, agriculture and mining need to account for a greater share of economic output and employment.

We need to add more value to the mineral resources we extract through greater beneficiation - thereby reducing our dependence on the export of raw materials, boosting domestic manufacturing and creating jobs.

Through the Industrial Policy Action Plan and the New Growth Path, we are implementing measures to reconfigure the industrial landscape.

We are working to achieve greater regionalintegration and to diversify the range of goods and services that we export.

But while faster growth is essential, it is not sufficient.

We need to ensure that the benefits of growth are more equitably shared by all our people.

To do this, we need to create more jobs, more rapidly.

We have to promote and grow industries that are labour absorbing, such as mining, agriculture, construction, hospitality and small businesses and cooperatives.

We also have to grow the more advanced sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, financial services, telecommunications and businesses services. Such as security and other aspects of the security sector.

We are currently undertaking the largest infrastructure investment programme in our history.

We are building dams and power stations, Medupi will be the third largest power station in the world, roads, rail lines, broadband networks. We are building schools, colleges and universities.

In doing so, we are expanding our economic capacity, stimulating private investment, developing skills and creating employment.

More effective provision of a broader social wage will enable even the poorest of people to have a decent standard of living.

Public employment programmes have an important role to play.

Not only do these programmes provide income for poor households. They also provide training and experience that can assist participants in making the transition to permanent employment.

Skills development is critical to the achievement of economic emancipation.

Since 1994, we have significantly increased enrolment in schools, universities and colleges. More than 7 million learners attend no-fee schools today.

We are working hard to improve the quality of our education outcomes.

In the next few years, we will devote more of our education budget to improving school infrastructure, ensuring all learners receive suitable learning materials, and improving teacher training.

The post-school education system is being significantly expanded.

As we pursue faster, inclusive growth, we will move faster to change patterns of ownership and control.

We have recently refined our broad-based black economic empowerment policies to broaden their reach and deepen their impact.

We have done much to advance the participation of black South Africans and women in the management of the economy.

We need to be more determined in pursuing employment equity, and be more proactive in developing managerial skills and capabilities.

These are some of the issues that this NGC of MKMVA needs to discuss and on which it needs to resolve.

In doing so, this NGC will demonstrate the determination of MKMVA to confront the enemies of the present.

It will reaffirm the view that MKMVA is a critical and vital part of addressing the challenges South Africans face today.

Comrades,

As we prepare for the ANC's NGC next month, we must ensure that the circumstances of our former combatants remains prominent on our national agenda.

The ANC remains committed to ensuring that the benefits of democracy translate into a better life for all the veterans of our struggle and their dependents.

The ANC NGC next month provides an opportunity to review the progress we've made in the implementation of the Mangaung resolution on the welfare of military veterans.

We commend the important work being undertaken by the Department of Military Veterans together with other departments, the provinces and municipalities.

However, there is much more that still needs to be done to assist veterans and their families.

It is worth remembering what our former President Nelson Mandela said at the Umkhonto we Sizwe conference in 1993. He said:

"The issue of welfare is not one that can be reduced to the handing out of money for services rendered.

"The welfare of our combatants and that of our returned exiles in general is directly linked to a commitment on the part of the ANC to recognise the incredible sacrifices and commitment to liberation by generations of our people who found their way into the ranks of the ANC and MK.

"Those of our people who have been denied the opportunity to lead normal lives by virtue of the commitment to the liberation of our people must be given access to pensions, health care, housing, education, skills training and employment...

"It is important that this commitment extends even to the families of those who have fallen in the course of our struggle, to the families of those who have been disabled and brutalised by apartheid."

We need to ask ourselves whether - as a movement and a country - we have done everything possible to fulfil the commitment that Madiba made over two decades ago.

We trust that this National General Council will develop concrete, feasible proposals that we can all discuss to ensure that the men and women who sacrificed everything for our liberation live decent, comfortable lives.

We trust that it will give practical meaning to the call in our Constitution to "honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; and respect those who have worked to build and develop our country".

Comrades and Compatriots,

The ANC looks to MKMVA as a force of revolutionary consciousness, behaviour and discipline.

As former combatants, there is no one in the movement who better understands the importance of unity, focus and discipline.

We know that MKMVA will continue to speak out against racism and sexism and intolerance.

We know that you will fearlessly confront the forces of reaction.

You will stand up against those who undermine the collective leadership of the ANC and those who seek to subvert the will of the people.

True to the traditions of MK, you will strive at all times to defend the unity of the ANC and the revolutionary alliance.
As we have done before, we now look to you to guide the ANC and its allies.

We look to you to advance the National Democratic Revolution.

We look to you to show us the way to freedom.

I thank you.