President Cyril Ramaphosa said his government would focus on improving infrastructure – especially roads – in order to ensure that they were safe.
Ramaphosa was speaking during the reburial of late former ANC president, Dr Alfred Bathini Xuma, in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape, on Sunday morning.
His remarks come after the death of 25 people in Centane last Monday after an AB 350 bus veered off a gravel road and plunged into an embankment, injuring 68 passengers.
Ramaphosa, who visited the Eastern Cape for the first time since the accident, said infrastructure – particularly in rural areas – needed to be fixed.
“I was also saddened when we heard the report of the bus accident that resulted in the death of 25 people and injured so many others. It [the accident] talks to infrastructure development that we need to focus on to make sure that we can deliver a better life to the people of our country,” he said.
A 3-year-old boy was among the 25 killed and will be buried during a government-supported mass funeral at Lusizini village in Centane on Friday.
Still on infrastructure, the president said as the sixth administration they had resolved to embark on infrastructure projects that would deliver water and construct bridges so that when children go to school they do not have to cross overflowing rivers.
“There is much that we need to do and as we announced in our state of the nation address (Sona) in the sixth administration that, much as our economy is going through a challenging time, as government we will deploy resources particularly for infrastructure built that will improve the infrastructure layout of rural areas.
“Here in the Eastern Cape we have been talking about this big dam, Umzimvubu. We have been talking about it for many years. We have resolved that we are going to build this dam,” he said.
Ramaphosa said Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu – working together with other ministers – would go through a process of building Umzimvubu Dam on a modular basis.
“We realised that the dam will require a lot of money to build. We then decided that we should build it in stages. It is possible to build a dam in stages and the work has started to lay the ground so that we can start to build this dam.
“We want to deliver this dam. And as I said during the Sona I would be visiting the area myself so that I can see personally where the dam will be located,” the president said to loud cheers from the crowd.
Meanwhile, Ramaphosa – who was accompanied by a number of government ministers, deputy ministers and Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane – paid a moving tribute to Dr AB Xuma.
He said: “The re-interment of Dr Alfred Bathini Xuma is an occasion tinged with sadness, as we remember the great loss that was his passing on the 27th of January 1962. But we are also comforted and our hearts are gladdened, for we have brought our father home.”
He said Xuma had been brought to his final resting place in the land of his forebears.
He accorded him a special official funeral as a mark of honour to him, to the family, and to the men and women of Ngcobo who birthed a fine, distinguished and illustrious son.
It has been 58 years since Xuma passed away.
As a country, we are faced with a great many challenges, but we will overcome them if we are united and work together as a people.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
He was the first black South African to become a medical doctor, a qualification he earned abroad through great sacrifice.
Ramaphosa said at Heroes Park, a statue of Xuma had been erected and it stood tall as a tribute and a reminder to the people of the Eastern Cape of the great responsibility they shoulder to carry on his legacy.
“Dr Alfred Xuma was an exemplary leader in times of both difficulty and stability. His stewardship of the ANC, and before that of the All African Convention, was defined by revolutionary discipline, ethics and commitment to the greater good, the liberation of South Africa. His tenure was free of scandal and suggestions of impropriety.
“We should follow in his footsteps in the positions we have been entrusted with, in national government, in our provinces and in our municipalities. He took his role seriously and discharged it faithfully. He forged consensus and unity.
“He understood then, as we do today, that if we fall prey to division, dissent and discord, we will never achieve our aims. As a country, we are faced with a great many challenges, but we will overcome them if we are united and work together as a people,” said Ramaphosa.
He said it was under the leadership of Dr Xuma that the ANC adopted the African Claims’ document at its annual conference on December 16 1943.
“This seminal document laid out the African people’s demands for full equality and citizenship rights. Most importantly, it prioritised the South African people’s right to land ownership,” he said.