President Jacob Zuma has called on all South Africans to celebrate 20 years of the signing of the Constitution into the supreme law of the Republic, on Saturday.

The President was taking calls from listeners on Thursday evening during a one-hour phone-in programme linked to community radio stations across the country.

The programme was convened by the Government Communication and Information System’s (GCIS) radio unit.

Speaking on the Constitution, President Zuma said there was a lot to celebrate as people were discriminated on the basis of their gender and colour before the country had a democratic Constitution.

“We now have a Constitution that guarantees the rights we must celebrate because we have made some progress. The country is working towards achieving all rights. It is important that we celebrate,” he said.

The President called on all to take responsibility of their rights.

He also called on government leaders, especially ward councillors, to handle people with care and listen to their cry in order to work together with communities and improve service delivery.

“When people are complaining, listen to them. Don’t bulldoze them, because you are making them more bitter.

“We must be innovative about how we can make our lives better. Those who are put in leadership by government must not be arrogant, they must not fail to service the people because they are making a bad situation even worse.

“They must be humble and have respect because they are dealing with the people.”

He urged leaders not to drive people to losing hope. “Those who are in authority must handle people with care so that people, even when in pain, can have hope that tomorrow will be better.”

Speaking on the issue of racism, the President said South Africa will win and become a non-racial, non-sexist nation, but it will take time because racism was institutionalised before the dawn of democracy.

He said racism is a matter that the country needs to work on politically, religiously, socially and otherwise, and condemn those who still believe in racism.

The young generations, the President said, do not have much racism problems because they school and socialise together, but the problem is with the older generations.

“If they are younger and still believe in racism, it means the problem is in their homes. It is a matter that we need to deal with if you are racist you are wrong, you are backward, and you need to be developed.”

He said it is important to celebrate our rights but not forget the responsibility that comes with them.

“Women did not have rights, children did not have rights, and some people did not have rights because of the colour of their skin.

“The fact that we have not yet managed to meet all our rights is a problem caused by our history, but we must celebrate the progress that we are making. We are celebrating freedom, although freedom is not yet complete because we have political freedom but economic freedom and rights are not there.

“We still have a challenge that we need to deal with. We encourage the country to work hard to ensure that all of us have all the rights. The country is working towards achieving all the rights, and that is why we are celebrating the constitution.

“We should remind ourselves where we come from, where we are and what we need to do.”

Speaking about the National Development Plan (NDP), the President said one of the key goals that the country aims to achieve through the NDP was empowering citizens with education so that they do not only become job seekers but are able to create jobs, and once that happens the country’s economy will grow.

He said the ultimate goal is to reduce the number of citizens who depend on social grants as their source of income and turn them into economic participants who contribute to the growth of the country and become fully independent.

“We are looking forward to a time where people will stop asking what government is going to give them, but rather what their contributions are to the government.

“The NDP is a developmental plan that, once completed, will round up everything whether you are in rural areas, you will be developed,” said the President.

He said part of the plan is to ensure that people who live in rural areas do not have to go to the cities to access quality services from healthcare centres, schools and other services provided by government. These services should be accessible in the very rural areas they live in.

He also said the fact that the majority of citizens were deprived of education in the past has led to many of them being unemployable when opportunities were created for black people, due to illiteracy and age.

Responding to a caller’s question regarding the monitoring of service delivery in communities and local government level, President Zuma said he established the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) so that government programmes can be monitored and progress checked.

He also said he uses the Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring Programme to interact directly with communities so that government leaders can listen to problems faced by citizens in their communities.

The President said the DPME needs to grow bigger and stronger so that it can have a huge impact in executing its mandate.

“In my thinking, we need to have DPME offices in all provinces and municipalities, so that it can monitor and evaluate programmes on a daily basis and report back to the Presidency Monitoring is one of the most important programmes of government.”

The President said this could help to discover many things that go wrong and unnoticed in government.

The President also responded to a question regarding water problems facing the country. “South Africa is a water scarce country,” he said.

He said part of the problem is that, given South Africa’s history, not enough was done to preserve water for human consumption in the country. Not enough dams were built to store and purify water for human consumption in the past because the majority of people were not taken seriously.

He said the Department of Water Affairs was established to address such issues and it is proving to be efficient as it works hard to address water problems that affect the whole country.

The President said although the problem cannot be resolved overnight, the department is building more dams across the country and is drawing water from its neighbours as South Africa does not have sufficient water.

“We are going to be a country that has enough water for the people and the world. We are working on it,” he said.