On national Freedom Day, President Thabo Mbeki has called for "all hands on deck" to deal with the challenges facing the country.
Addressing Freedom Day celebrations on Sunday at the Turfhall Stadium in Landsdowne, President Mbeki said that everyone needed to engage in "business unusual".
He said everyone must get involved to bring about a new South Africa; people should become that which do not do crime, is not racist, sexist, xenophobic and who works hard to make our country succeed.
"We believe that by coming together and working in partnerships as government, business, labour, civil society and communities, we will succeed."
Addressing a crowd of a few hundred people from all across the Cape, he said that "as we celebrate freedom, let us strengthen these partnerships that have helped us improve the quality of life of many of the people in the last 14 years."
President Mbeki admitted that the country was still facing its challenges.
"There are still too many people who are poor. There are still too many people without jobs. There are too many people without houses. There are still too many children who study in dilapidated schools."
The whole nation needed to unite in action, he said, to speed up the process of change in South Africa to realise our common dream to ensure that all South Africans enjoy a better life.
There were also "other problems we must confront together as they impact negatively on the standard of living of the people.
"These include the national electricity emergency, the high food and fuel prices and the high interest rates".
He said these challenges needed the call for "all hands on deck to speed up change".
Regarding the electricity crisis, President Mbeki said since government had made the call in the State of the Nation Address for everyone to work together to save electricity and help stabilise the national electricity grid, much had been done by both business and individual households.
He thanked the nation for their positive response in this regard.
He said that even though progress has been uneven in different facets of "our lives there is no doubt that freedom has given us the possibility to move our country away from the terrible legacy of apartheid, opening opportunities in the quest for a better life for all South Africans."
As the crowds waved small South African flags and ululated, President Mbeki continued to talk about Freedom Day.
Fourteen years after the first day that South Africans, irrespective of race, got to vote in a democratic election, "we walk tall because of collective efforts that culminated on 27 April being the country's Freedom Day, [however] we still carry the scars that remind us that our freedom was never free.
"Because freedom was never free and truly to honour the memory of our heroes and heroines we need all hands on deck to do more to make real the dream of equality, justice and a better life for all".
President Mbeki also referred to recent racism attacks that have hit the headlines, saying "we cannot allow racism and racist attitudes to prevail in our society, in our communities and in any of our diverse and varied institutions".
The recent acts of racism against black people showed that the country still had pockets "of backwardness in the country which we must confront.
"Indeed we cannot claim to be truly free when insidious and blatant racism still exists in our society ... in our institutions of higher learning, in the media, in the private sector, in the boardrooms and with the xenophobic occurrences we have observed in some communities in recent week."
On xenophonibia, he called on South Africans to refuse to be part of unnecessary attacks on innocent people, merely because they were foreigners.
The President also spoke out against violence against women and children. "Clearly we can't proclaim to be a free nation while women and children are not free to enjoy our freedom."
He said men had an important part to play in advancing affirmative social values and mending the social fabric that is clearly been torn apart by "those that behave like animals".
He said men have an important message to give to their compatriots that "real men do not abuse".
A big portion of the crowd at the Turfhall Stadium celebrations were young people. Some who had not even been born when the country had its first democratic election in 1994.
President Mbeki said that in the country's work to transform the lives of its people, particular attention needed to be paid to the youth.
They faced increasing challenges such as substance abuse, unemployment, crime and the absence of good role models. "Indeed, many of our young have to face difficult challenges at times without parental or adult guidance.
"All of us, as a society, need to inculcate among the youth the ethos and ethics that help build great and successful nations; we need to help bring about a spirit of resilience in the face of what would seem formidable odds.
"We need to bring up young people who know that to sustain the progress of the last 14 years we need skills and better education." - BuaNews