President Jacob Zuma used the Human Rights Day celebrations in King William’s Town to reassure grant recipients that they will get their money on April 1.
Zuma was speaking yesterday at the Victoria Sports Grounds in Eastern Cape, where he also honoured black consciousness leader Steve Biko by unveiling a monument to mark the 40 year anniversary of his death.
Zuma also visited Biko’s grave at the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance where he, Biko’s widow Nontsikelelo and son Samora laid wreaths.
While addressing thousands of mainly ANC supporters who had braved the hot weather, Zuma sought to allay fears about grants not being paid following weeks of speculation and uncertainty which forced the Constitutional Court to intervene in the grants saga.
“Let me take this opportunity to once again assure all who receive social grants that they will receive their money at the end of the month,” he said.
The president, who was flanked by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle and various government ministers and deputy ministers, said the government was proud of the progress it had made in extending social security assistance to South Africans in line with the Constitution.
“Government pays social grants to almost 17 million social grants recipients, which is a huge achievement in fighting poverty. The child-support grant and older-persons grant are the two largest social grant programmes with 12 million children and 3.2 million older persons benefiting from the social grants,” he said.
Zuma said to provide more assistance, the government was seeking to amend the Social Assistance Act to enable the government to provide funeral benefits to the elderly and savings vehicles for caregivers of children.
Turning his focus to Biko, Zuma said 2017 also marked the 40th anniversary of the brutal murder of the liberation struggle icon.
“This sports ground is the historic venue where his emotionally charged funeral was held. We honour him today on Human Rights Day, because the gruesome and painful manner in which he was treated and his eventual merciless murder by the apartheid state was a gross human rights violation.
“We joined Mrs Nontsikelelo Biko and family earlier this morning to unveil and hand over the Biko monument to the family. The handover marks the launch of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the death of Mr Biko,” Zuma said.
The president also paid homage to the heroes of March 21 1960 – 69 people were killed by apartheid police in Sharpeville.
“The ruthless incident shocked the whole world. Many were also brutally killed in Langa in Cape Town on the same day. They were marching to declare their right to freedom of movement in the land of their birth.
“In another tragic incident 28 people were killed in Langa, Uitenhage, in March 1985 during the 25th anniversary commemoration of Sharpeville. We pay tribute to all of them for their selfless contribution. We shall never forget their sacrifices for freedom, equality and justice,” he said.
Zuma said the country enjoyed a stable constitutional democracy where everyone was entitled to equal human rights because of the sacrifices of the people of Sharpeville, Langa, Soweto, KwaMashu, Tzaneen, Zeerust, Giyani and many other parts of our country.
The theme of Human Rights Day this year was dedicated to Oliver Reginald Tambo, the longest serving president of the ANC, and Zuma paid tribute to the late struggle hero, who would have turned 100 this year.
“We are celebrating the life of a liberator, teacher, intellectual, internationalist and unifier who kept the liberation movement together and in focus during the most difficult moments in our struggle.
“He strove for unity at all times and this should inspire us to work together to achieve our dream of a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa,” Zuma said.
Speaking at the gravesite of his father, Nkosinathi Biko said it was important to remember and celebrate other struggle heroes such as Pan Africanist Movement founder, Robert Sobukwe.
Nkosinathi said his father, who would have been 70 years old today if he had not been killed at the age of 30, wanted to bring the people of this country together.
“I think President Zuma, Bantu Biko at a young age wanted to see South Africans united. We must use this monument as a pilgrimage where our people come together as one. A place which reminds all the time that despite our differences we still have a lot to do that should unite us,” Nkosinathi said.