Zuma: SA has faced its demons

President Jacob Zuma says SA has made progress over the past 19 years.

President Jacob Zuma addresses the nation on Freedom Day 2013 outside the Union Buildings, Pretoria. Picture: GCIS

PRETORIA - As the country celebrates Freedom Day on Saturday, President Jacob Zuma said significant progress has been made since the country's first democratic election 19 years ago.

Zuma was addressing thousands of people at the Union Buildings in Pretoria this afternoon, and said government has made great strides in improving the economy.

The President said while inequality remained a challenge, access to social grants has improved from 2.7 million in 1994 to 16 million in 2013.

Zuma said not a lot of countries can celebrate such achievements.

"We went through the Truth & Reconciliation process in order to confront the demons of our past. Very few countries braved this exercise."

Meanwhile, thousands of people gathered at the Good Hope Centre in Cape Town earlier on Saturday to honour the memories of those who fought for freedom.

The ANC's Phillip Dexter said members of several political parties and unions, religious leaders and veterans joined the celebrations.

"The ANC held a very successful Freedom Day celebration. Our theme was to commemorate and honour the heroes and heroines who fought for freedom."

The ruling party also launched the Chris Hani 5,000 volunteer detachment programme aimed at helping the old, poor and needy in several communities across the Western Cape.