South African President Jacob Zuma on Friday lauded the great progress made since the end of apartheid in 1994 on his inspection of infrastructure projects.
"Democracy has done more in 20 years than what colonialism and apartheid did in over 100 years, thus demonstrating the value of freedom and democracy in our country," Zuma said on the occasion of the re-opening of Grootvlei Power Station and inspection of Balfour railway line construction site in Mpumalanga Province.
South Africans will celebrate 20 years of freedom and democracy on April 27, 2014. The day will mark two decades since South Africans of all races voted in the country's first free and fair election, ushering in a new democratic dispensation.
"As we move towards marking 20 years of freedom and look back at progress made by the country, we proudly add the fact that 3, 200 kilometres of new transmission power lines have been laid in the past few years, to take energy to more parts of the country and ensure that rural communities increasingly have access to electricity," said Zuma.
Over a million new households were connected to electricity, with benefits to more than four million South Africans over the past five years, according to Zuma. "As a matter of interest, in the 104 years between 1892 and 1996, only 5,2 million households were connected to electricity," he said.
In the 20 years of democracy, a further more than 7 million households were connected to electricity, Zuma said.
Zuma pledged that the government would continue to prioritize infrastructure development to enable economic growth.
"Our roads, railways, ports, pipelines, airports, dams, power stations, transmission and distributions lines form the backbone for economic growth and also contribute to an improvement in the quality of life," he said.
Zuma said the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, which was set up in 2011, will monitor the bulk of the state's infrastructure program on a quarterly basis, looking at spending levels, construction activity, jobs and localization.