Our Programme Director, Education MEC, Mr Kwazi Mshengu;
The MEC for Health, Ms Nomagugu Zulu and MEC for Sports, Art & Culture MEC Mavimbela;

MEC Pillay and MEC Nkonyeni
The representative of eThekwini Metro, Cllr Thanduxolo Sabela;
Chair of the KZN House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Phatisizwe Chiliza;
Members of the KZN Command Team on COVID-19;
The Leadership of Addington Hospital;
Representatives of Labour and Civil Society;
Our Most Distinguished Guests: The Healthcare workers in our midst and everywhere in KZN;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Today our nation commemorates 26 years of freedom from the protracted struggle against the evil of apartheid colonialism.

This day is a reminder that our freedom is written in the blood, tears, and sweat of countless South Africans from all walks of life who were united behind the goal of giving birth to a new society that is united, equal, non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous.

It is crucial that we do not underestimate the gains and progress we have made, as a country, since 1994. The present living conditions are by far better than pre 1994. While the current socio-economic landscape still depicts the persistent legacy of apartheid colonialism, but the interventions of the ANC Led government in improving the standards of living, access to education and healthcare facilities is a major victory scored by our democracy. The social protection provided to the need and the elderly is better than what is provided many countries that had democracy decades before us.

The health workers of this country who worked in a divided country where health care provision was racially segregated and inequitable were not only at the heart of saving lives of all South African citizens.

They also became the midwives of our freedom and shapers of the vision of universal health care where no South African, regardless of income, is excluded from accessing quality health care.

Since 1994, our government has worked hand in hand with the Health Profession and social partners to expand health care to the most vulnerable and poor of our land. But more still need to be done to ensure that our health care services are equitable and address the needs of all South Africans, not only a few with deep pockets.

On a day like this, we wish to pay tribute to all the health workers in KwaZulu-Natal for their absolute commitment to the health and well-being of the people of KwaZulu-Natal. As government, we are fully aware that we need to do more to improve the working conditions of this sector.

And today we wish to thank all of you from the depths of our hearts for the sacrifices that you are making to save the lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal. Thanks to you, the life expectancy of South Africans has improved as many of our people are on life saving anti-retroviral therapy, babies are saved from mother to child transmissions, and people with TB are cured.

With all the serious, fatalistic diseases that our nation has faced during this century, probably none has been as devastating and worrisome as COVID-19.

We have not seen a deadly virus that has impacted on billions of people across the world and severely affected the global economy than COVID-19.
Long after it has been defeated, this virus will leave many more with deep psychological wounds and trauma. As we speak, it is destroying livelihoods, jobs, and businesses.

We applaud the bold measures that have been undertaken by our government under President Ramaphosa to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our country.

We applaud all social partners – business, labour, political parties and civil society- for uniting behind government’s efforts and plan to combat COVID 19.

We thank also all South Africans who are ensuring that no person in KwaZulu-Natal goes to bed hungry.
And we honour all South Africans who are playing their part in combating the spread of the virus by transforming their behaviour – these are South Africans who have embraced the message of hygiene.

These are responsible citizens who regularly wash their hands, observe social distancing, wear their masks, and cover themselves with the elbow or tissue paper when they are coughing or sneezing.

We heartily thank them for staying home to avoid risking the health of their loved ones, neighbours, and our healthcare workers.
There are signs making it plausible to assert that no other disease in our country has been this devastating since the days of the Spanish influenza of 1918.

This Freedom Day, we therefore wish to salute all our healthcare workers, social workers, law enforcement personnel who are daily fighting COVID-19 at a huge risk to their own health and safety.

We have learned of cases here at home and from the four corners of the globe of nurses, doctors and security officers who have been infected and of those who tragically lost their lives. Once more, we convey our condolences to families who have lost their loved ones because of COVID-19.

Nurses, doctors, community health care workers and various professionals in the health sector are human beings with families and anxieties like all of us. They live in communities where they can be ostracised or face stigma.

Like all of us, nurses, doctors, and general hospital workers are concerned about their safety and health. It is normal for them too to worry about who will look after their loved ones should they be infected and not recover. With the high risk of their work, they too are concerned about the prospect of infecting their loved ones.

Yet, they continue to remain loyal to their oath to selflessly serve and save the lives of others. We are truly fortunate and blessed as a country to live among such gentle giants and noble spirits. All of us can learn something of the true meaning of “country first” or patriotism from our healthcare professionals.

On behalf of the people of KwaZulu-Natal and our government, today we dedicate this freedom day to you and to thank you for putting our people first.

As government, we are determined to improve your working conditions and wellbeing. Please be assured that your health and safety is a priority to us. As part of demonstrating our care and solidarity with our healthcare workers, today we are providing more Personal Protective Equipment. We will continue to offer various support, including psychosocial support to all our healthcare workers.

To all healthcare workers and professionals, security personnel and social workers we say please know that we value you and appreciate what you are doing for our province and country. Your sacrifices assure us that the hard work and sacrifices of Doctors, Nurses like Lilian Ngoyi, Cecilia Makiwane, Winnie Nomzamo Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Dr AB Xuma, Dr Yusuf Daidoo, Dr Neil Aggett, and D Abu-Baker Asvat were not in vain.

We look forward to a day when we will have our guard of honour and festival of life to celebrate the courage, bravery, and patriotism of our doctors, nurses, and community health workers.

In this regard, we also join our government in welcoming the Cuban internationalists and doctors who are joining our country to defeat COVID-19 and reduce its impact.

Thank you all for sustaining the hope of our people. For giving every patient another chance to live, we take a solemn vow to intensify our efforts to create a more just and equitable society.

May our God Bless you and protect you and your loved ones.

Together, Let Us Create Our Future and Grow KwaZulu-Natal.

Let Health and Freedom Reign from Nongoma to Ezingolweni, from eMondlo to KwaMashu, and from Chatsworth to KwaDukuza.

I thank you.