Address by President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the Sangoni Clinic, Sangoni

10 July 1998

Premier of the Eastern Cape; MEC for Health; Management and Staff of Siemens; Traditional Leaders; Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today I have the special pleasure of being part of a celebration that is especially close to my heart. Many of you here today will not know this, but I was born within walking distance from where we are today. Every visit here brings back special memories.

Having grown up in this area, I know first hand the deprivation caused by apartheid and the former corrupt homeland leaders in this province. I have seen for many years how people were deprived of the most basic amenities; food; shelter, proper education; health care; employment. Many had to travel huge distances to find jobs creating unhealthy situations here at home, because healthy breadwinners had to leave to find work.

Since our first democratic election in 1994, government, together with its partners in the private sector, in Non-Governmental Organisations and in communities has been working hard to correct the imbalances. We have seen massive programmes for housing, electrification, school-feeding schemes and water supply getting under way. Already clean water has been made available to about two million people; electricity to about two million homes and telephones to one million homes.

With regards to health services, much restructuring had to take place because in the past the hospitals catered mainly for a minority of South Africa's population. This is why there was such a strain on facilities and resources when health services were opened to all.

The emphasis on primary health care which government has introduced will help reduce the strain on hospitals. The clinic building programme aims at having a clinic within walking distance of every household. Already, 500 new clinics have been built since 1994, bringing access to health care to another five million people.

Just recently we laid the foundation stone for the Umtata Academic Hospital. It will improve the level of care for people in this region, attracting specialists and academics. Sangoni clinic will be a referral clinic to the Umtata hospital. Like other primary health clinics, it will help lay the foundations for building a healthy nation. The clinic improvements will benefit the community and the better working conditions will help the doctors, nurses and other health workers.

This clinic is a product of the spirit of Masakhane. The Sangoni Masakhane project is based on the recognition that all agencies and individuals have a part to play in maintaining and improving the health of our people.

A special tribute should go to the combined efforts of the Eastern Cape Department of Health and Welfare, Eastern Cape Department of Public Works, the Eastern Cape Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, the Independent Development Trust (IDT) and the community. In particular, we honour the contribution of Siemens. By their funding of this project, and by contracting a local company for the building, Siemens have shown they are genuinely interested in the reconstruction and development of our country.

Dr. Doring, I thank you for the generous sponsorship towards uplifting this community. I can assure you that we look forward to strengthening the relationship between Germany and South Africa and that Siemens is an essential link in the chain, through initiatives such as this one. As a leading supplier of technology in medical engineering, Siemens is an excellent partner for government and the community. I congratulate them on the successful completion of the new Sangoni Clinic.

It is precisely this kind of partnership, of all sectors of our society that has been laying the foundations for a better life all over South Africa. We know that we have made only a start - many more people still wait for the most basic of services. The government appreciates that people have been patient and that much hard work will still be needed. Our goals will take years to achieve and success requires that we all pull together. It requires that communities are active in their own upliftment; that the private sector makes development part of their business; and that government facilitates this process with infrastructure and resources.

Siemens, along with other businesses who have joined hands with government and communities to provide clinics and schools across our country are giving real meaning to reconciliation. Their efforts deserve wider recognition, and we urge others to follow their example.

Now that this facility has been completed, it is up to the community to take advantage of it and to nurture the health of all those who live in the area.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I now declare this clinic open.

I thank you

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website