For most people in our country, last week was much like any other. As most of us went about our daily lives, we may have noticed, but not necessarily appreciated, two significant developments that will, in different ways, change our country.
Last week, the remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, including limitations on gatherings, international travel and wearing masks in public. The decision to lift the restrictions was made in the light of a decline in daily cases, hospitalisations and reported deaths.
For the first time in over two years, the country does not have any COVID restrictions in place. In my first televised address to the nation on 15 March 2020, I said that we would overcome the deadly pandemic in our midst. I said that we would act decisively and that we would act together.
In the many difficult months that followed, my faith in the resilience and strength of the people of South Africa, and their ability to come together in times of crisis was reaffirmed, time and again.
While there was not much fanfare about the lifting of the last COVID-19 restrictions, there has been a tectonic shift in our national psyche. We are emerging from a great national trauma that caused untold damage, destruction and heartbreak.
And while the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly not over, and vigilance and the utmost caution is demanded of us all, there is a clear sense that we have endured.
Where many thought it would crumble, our health care system survived. It served our nation well by providing care, saving lives and vaccinating millions. We owe an eternal debt to the courage and dedication of the health workers and many other people on the frontlines of the pandemic.
The heroism of every South African has enabled us to weather the storm. And it is the same resilience and fortitude that will enable us to forge ahead with the difficult task of reconstruction and recovery.
With the restrictions lifted, the responsibility for preventing a resurgence of the disease now rests with each of us. It requires that we act sensibly, understand the risks and do what we can to minimise them.
In the same week as the restrictions were lifted, the work of the State Capture Commission drew to a close, and its final report was handed over to the President.
The state capture era was a different kind of national trauma.
Its damage extended beyond the ransacking of the public purse, the attempted destruction of our public institutions and the grand corruption that robbed the South African people of what was rightfully theirs. It was also a betrayal of the values of our Constitution, and of the principles upon which our democracy was founded.
The immoral, unethical and criminal behaviour of self-serving individuals in positions of authority undermined the confidence of the people in the leaders and institutions that are meant to serve them. This has created a trust gap that will take some time to close.
But as has been the case with the pandemic, the people of South Africa have rallied together to wage war against graft and corruption.
The State Capture Commission was able to conduct its work because of the activism of South Africans from all walks of life who made submissions and gave evidence, who acted as whistle-blowers and who uncovered and reported on wrongdoing.
Just as our health care and other frontline personnel are lauded for their bravery, all who were instrumental in shining a light on the corrupt activities eating away at the heart of the state are to be commended for their heroism and patriotism.
Realising a South Africa of full freedom, equality, peace and common prosperity demands that we each play our part.
Having now known what happened and who was involved, our work begins in earnest. We must ensure there is redress, justice and accountability, and that such a shameful period never happens again.
Though they are unrelated, the pandemic and state capture were grave crises in our national life.
Yet in crisis lies opportunity. We should emerge from these experiences more determined and better equipped to rebuild anew.
We now have an opportunity to make a decisive break with the excesses of the past by building a society free of corruption and a state rooted in ethics, professionalism and capability that truly serves the South African people.
We also have an opportunity to reconstruct a society that is more inclusive, more humane, founded in equal opportunity for all, and that protects the most vulnerable.
As much as we did not take to the streets and celebrate last week, it was a momentous few days for our nation. It should remind us of how far we have come and that we need to continue to act and work together if we are to realise the better future that we all seek.