Thursday, 31 December 2020 16:47

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

President Cyril Ramaphosa wished South Africans "a happy and healthy 2021" in his New Year message after a difficult year rocked by COVID-19 pandemic.

Ramaphosa said in a televised address that the pandemic had also demonstrated the spirit of ubuntu as citizens took responsibility for each other’s wellbeing, donating their time, energy and resources.

More than one million people have contracted Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, while more than 28,000 have died in SA.

The country is currently under lockdown level 3.

Ramaphosa said besides Covid-19, the country also dealt with another horrific pandemic.

"Even as we were struck by coronavirus, we had to confront another pandemic which has long plagued our nation. We mourn the many women and children who lost their lives at the hands of men. We think of the many more who have had to endure rape and beatings, abusive relationships and sexual harassment," he said.

"We think of the many children who have been injured and traumatised by adults — the very people who are responsible for their wellbeing and safety, and yet in the face of both these pandemics, South Africans have remained resolute."

The president made special mention of front-line workers, including health and social service staff who braved the Covid-19 storm, saying they had worked tirelessly.

"We have a duty to protect them from harm and fatigue by acting responsibly,” he said, urging everyone to continue social distancing, wearing face masks and sanitising."

Ramaphosa also made special mention of members of the defence force, police, teachers, artists and business people who made sacrifices during the year.

He saluted school pupils, religious and traditional leaders as well as journalists.

Ramaphosa said the new year would be one to rebuild and improve on existing development, with opportunities being provided, especially for women and youth.

"The year ahead will be challenging and difficult. We are in the midst of a second coronavirus [wave] which may even be much worse that the first wave," he said.

"We are encouraged by the upcoming vaccine and are aware that it will be some time before the pandemic ends."

He said that as the year wrapped up, the country must mourn the loss of those who had succumbed to COVID-19.