Hansard: President's Reply to Debate on State of the Nation Address
House: National Assembly
Date of Meeting: 09 Feb 2009
No summary available.
TUESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2009
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
The House met at 14:02.
The Speaker took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.
PRESIDENT'S REPLY TO DEBATE ON STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam Speaker of the National Assembly, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Deputy President of the Republic, hon leaders of our political parties and hon members of the National Assembly, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, distinguished guests, friends and comrades and the people of South Africa, I wish to thank all members who took part in the debate for their well-considered responses to the President's State of the Nation Address.
Although they differed significantly, I was struck by the influence that the impending national and provincial elections had on the debate.
It is a privilege to lead the national executive in completing the mandate accorded the ANC in the 2004 elections. Irrespective of who is at the helm of government at any one point during a term of office, the mandate of the ruling party remains the same.
When it was elected to power, the ruling party was by that very fact mandated by the electorate to address the challenges affecting the lives of the majority of our people.
Over the years I have learnt the value of the right of all people - particularly the poor, the working people and the marginalised in society - to have a better life in a united, nonracial, nonsexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
To this end, appreciating the value of public service, I became the President of the Republic in the full knowledge that I was to serve all the people of South Africa, regardless of race, creed, gender or political affiliation.
There is an obvious gap in this debate concerning the expectations of hon members, about which some seemed to be rather perplexed. As we all know, the February 2009 State of the Nation Address, coming at the end of term of the Third Democratic Parliament, necessarily reported on and accounted for progress in fulfilling the electoral mandate of this government.
The new government, to be installed shortly after the election, will carry the baton further, striving for a better life for all our people.
Government's role is to create an enabling environment for all sectors of society. Consequently, as we all know, what we were meant to reflect on is the state of the nation in this debate and not merely the state of government!
Madam Speaker, we need to congratulate the democratic Parliament on work well done over the last five years and indeed since the first democratic elections in 1994.
We have no fear of contradiction when stating that our democracy has benefited a great deal from, among other things, the oversight that Parliament has exercised over the executive.
Accordingly, we need to remind ourselves of the key defining role of Parliament, as ably stated by Madam Speaker in her address to this honourable House yesterday.
Her words regarding the functions of this august people's assembly are worth repeating, and I quote:
Parliament is, in line with the Constitution, expected to perform five functions in its interactions with the other arms of government and the general public, including the international community. They are to: pass laws, oversee and scrutinise executive functions, facilitate public participation, facilitate co-operative governance, and facilitate international participation.
Over the 15 years of our constitutional democracy, Parliament has played a central role in entrenching democracy in our nation.
Madam Speaker, the hon uMtwana Buthelezi has raised an important matter about what he perceives to be a threat to our Constitution, and I quote:
The President made reference to the inspiring values of our Constitution which are indeed of paramount importance. But there is no hiding from the fact that our Constitution has been betrayed and the people of South Africa have rightly grown disillusioned with those called upon to promote these values.
I want to assure all of us here, and all South Africans out there, that the Constitution of our Republic is not under any form of threat from any quarter. Instead, the events of the last few months attest to the contrary.
Matters of national interest, which often stir up robust and heated debates in society, must be understood as the necessary oxygen of democracy. When society launches into such debates it is because we are all driven by patriotism and a desire to build a better society.
Admittedly, in the course of giving full expression to our constitutionally-guaranteed rights of expression, we may at times overstep the bounds; and I am certain that this is what hon Buthelezi was warning us about.
Since 1994 we have had regular successful democratic general elections, all of them free and fair. National and provincial elections this year will further deepen the democratic culture in our nation.
There is therefore no validity to the concerns about the putative peril of our Constitution.
Madam Speaker, turning to the current global financial crisis, I wish to thank all participants who reflected on this matter for their appreciation of the efforts being made, working with social partners, to address the challenges.
It is rather surprising that members of the NA chose to mishear our stated position on what government is doing to mitigate the negative effects of the current global economic meltdown.
Arising out of discussions at the India-Brazil-South Africa New Delhi Summit, the Washington G20 Summit and the Addis Ababa AU Summit, which included ministers of finance and governors of reserve banks, was the view that we must not pull back from investing in bulk infrastructure.
Government will continue with its public investment projects, the value of which has increased to R690 billion for the next three years. We will intensify public sector employment programmes. We will work with the private sector to counteract an investment slowdown and unnecessary closures of production lines, and government will sustain and expand social expenditure.
The Task Team, made up of various social partners, will soon report to the Presidential Joint Economic Working Group on final proposals. In addition, we will take into account issues that have been raised by hon members and The Presidency would welcome any further written contributions in this regard.
Hon members may wish further to reflect on the proposal made by hon Holomisa on wider consultations on these matters and the role Parliament and political parties should play.
Madam Speaker, South Africa remains committed to reducing carbon emissions in line with international standards and protocol. We must note that these emissions have been increasing with higher economic growth.
In 2009 government will host a policy summit on climate change to devise more mitigation programmes. This will initiate the formal consultation about a national policy on climate change.
Steps have already been taken to pull together all the diverse work that has been done on climate change; and various stakeholders and social partners are involved in planning to mitigate the impact on energy, health, transport and agriculture.
Our initiatives should include greening programmes, as hon Holomisa argued; this point was taken up eloquently and comprehensively by hon Mfeketo and I agree with her when she says that:
This government has consistently championed a progressive response to the environmental dimensions of development challenges facing Africa and the countries of the South.
I listened intently to the instance quoted by hon Pieter Mulder and what he claims are the effects of affirmative action on young white South Africans, who wish to contribute to the development of our common home.
I therefore wish to reiterate our commitment to what I believe, hon Mulder, to be the principle of correcting previous injustices and ensuring that the discrimination historically visited upon black people is eliminated. This is not only logical but also a constitutional imperative.
As we have always maintained, affirmative action aims at involving all South Africans at all levels of the economy and social life.
We need only cite a few statistics to show just how racial disparities still characterise our society.
For instance, as far back as 2007, the unemployment rate in this country, according to the Labour Force Survey, showed that the percentage of unemployed black people was 30%, as opposed to only 4% for white South Africans.
Statistics from the September 2008 survey indicate that, of African university graduates, 5,5% are unemployed while for other population groups the figure of unemployed graduates is negligible.
With regard to the racial breakdown of management in the private sector, 54% are white, 29% are African, 9% are Indian and 7% are Coloured.
The dire consequence of these disparities on our efforts to rebuild the country is self-evident.
Coming back to the specific issue that hon Mulder raised, we wish to emphasise that if the strange kinds of things that he described arise in the course of correcting the historical injustice and involving all South Africans in building their country, these should be dealt with concretely. However, this should not result in us questioning the policy of affirmative action as such.
On the issues of crime and corruption, I would like to agree with the hon Minister of Safety and Security, Nathi Mthethwa, about interventions required to revamp the criminal justice system.
In this regard, it is worth pointing out that government has adopted the four-pillar approach as a model, which sets out the different areas in which crime prevention should be developed. This model is intended to provide a basis for the development of crime prevention initiatives at provincial and municipal levels, as well as through civil society initiatives.
The four pillars of the revamping of our criminal justice system, which were elaborated upon extensively yesterday by the Minister of Safety and Security, indicate a comprehensive revamp of the fight against crime from prevention of crime to detection, to prosecution and investigation, right through to the rehabilitation of offenders.
This shows our absolute determination to defeat crime and create safer communities in which all people can move freely.
Hon Sandra Botha and numerous members repeated the call for a judicial enquiry into the Strategic Defense Procurement Package. If we appointed a commission of inquiry as the hon members requested, that would constitute a parallel legal process, since the ordinary process of the law is sufficient to get to the bottom of any well-based allegations of a criminal nature against anyone.
The latter process should reach anyone at any level of government in arms procurement; and all formations of society, including the hon members of this House, should support and assist the criminal justice and other authorities to do just this.
Additionally, we will recall that this matter was investigated by the Joint Investigating Team comprising the Public Protector, the Auditor-General and the NDPP. In the concluding section of the report, these three agencies said that any and all allegations and information brought to the attention of the investigators would be followed up by the NDPP.
That is the right course to follow and anyone in society with information that can assist the law enforcement agencies should pass it on to the investigators.
I am aware of the oversight work by the NA's Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Scopa, to look at any new evidence on the Strategic Defence Procurement Package. We await their report. Allow me to emphasise: if there is any wrongdoing, that evidence must be brought to the NDPP to ensure that the wrongdoer is punished.
We live in a world that is beset with challenges of persistent levels of poverty and underdevelopment. Our developmental goals require practical means of supporting poor households who cannot afford to keep up with rising prices of commodities such as maize, milk, vegetables, cooking oil and samp.
We are committed to accelerating agricultural land production, social safety nets, and financial support for small and medium-sized farmers.
Significantly, we aim to give support to women, who are the frontline combatants in the fight against poverty and hunger. We also intend implementing short- to long-term initiatives such as:
the expansion of the Household Food Production Programme; the expansion of the school feeding programme to include nursery schools; and the alignment to the War on Poverty and other poverty reduction strategies.
In addition, government is geared towards the expansion of agricultural starter packs from 70 000 to 140 000 households per annum.
Therefore, the developmental objectives we have put forward include improving access to basic services, such as health care and clean water, and promoting income security and support for the vulnerable groups.
We have to realise that a major challenge confronting us is price affordability and not necessarily, or solely, food availability.
Hon members would know that since government started the bucket eradication programme in formal settlements in 2005, 96% of buckets used in the 252 000 households have been eradicated. The bottlenecks we face in the remaining areas are largely related to bulk infrastructure, and government is doing everything possible to speed up the pace of providing such infrastructure.
With regard to water supply, we have ensured that 517 923 people got new access to fresh water between April and September last year. This is also the result of the partnership between the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, the Department of Provincial and Local Government, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the SA Institute of Civil Engineers.
These institutions have worked together to ensure that we deploy engineers and technicians to municipalities to help with project identification, preparation of feasibility studies and technical reports, project designs, implementation support and monitoring.
As part of our Second Economy interventions, the Expanded Public Works Programme, EPWP, has helped us to extend the reach of the Home and Community Based Care initiative.
Through this initiative, we also seek to mitigate the impact of HIV and Aids and create an enabling environment for care, treatment and support. By the second quarter of the 2008-09 financial year, we already had over 2,5 million people who benefited from this initiative.
It is encouraging to mention that, during that time, we had a total number of 39 270 caregivers receiving a stipend as part of this EPWP initiative.
With regard to education and literacy, the Kha Ri Gude campaign started with classes on 14 April 2008 and is positively empowering 200 000 adults to use basic life skills. In this regard, job opportunities were created for about 14 700 people as volunteer educators in this campaign.
Madam Speaker, the hon Themba Godi has raised many important issues, including those pertaining to the taxi industry and the Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, system and the continuity of service delivery. The aforegoing account addresses most of the issues raised.
In the view of government, the taxi industry will be providing crucial assistance for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The taxi industry will be the nucleus of the Bus Rapid Transit system, providing transport outside the areas of operation and on days when there are no games. We envisage taxi operators as being part owners of such systems where their routes are affected.
It is important to dispel the notion that there have not been sufficient consultations with those affected. Government continues to consult with relevant stakeholders in the taxi industry and where there are outstanding issues every effort is being made to address those.
In relation to the provision of basic services, we have acknowledged as government and partners that there are areas that require improved rigour and speed, including the matter of sanitation.
In 2008, we reaffirmed the commitment to implement an intensive campaign to meet targets for water, sanitation and electricity, and to speed up implementation of the programme to attain universal access by 2014, as part of our Apex Priorities.
Let me emphasise that all the 24 Apex Priorities are receiving attention in actual practical implementation. In addition to issues such as poverty reduction, Second Economy interventions, provision of basic services and anticrime campaigns - to which I have already referred - these priorities include the expansion of Early Childhood Development, improving civic services and an intensive campaign on energy security. These matters are reported on regularly to Cabinet and the updates are published on the government website.
The hon Pheko called for the release of all Apla members who are still in incarceration.
As hon members will recall, in response to calls from the ANC, the IFP, the PAC and others, President Mbeki announced a process to assist the President in dealing with requests for presidential pardons. In terms of this process, a Presidential Reference Group consisting of all political parties represented in Parliament was established to consider these applications.
The Reference Group submitted an interim report to the President in December last year. I am expecting to receive the final report within the next few days. Once the report is received I will pass it on to the Minister and the Department of Justice and thereafter consider their recommendations.
Madam Speaker, we are much heartened by the recognition from this House that there is progress in Zimbabwe. Shortly, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai will be sworn in as the prime minister of Zimbabwe along with two deputy prime ministers.
In essence this is a vindication that our approach to the crisis of Zimbabwe has been correct all along, despite scepticism in certain quarters.
We are heartened that today we are addressing issues about the economic reconstruction and development of that country and that, on this issue, all of us - the representatives of the people of South Africa - are moving from the tacit assumption that there is no need to entangle ourselves in discussion relating to the political solution of Zimbabwe. That is the task of the Zimbabwean people.
We need to restate that the people of Zimbabwe understood full well that securing their future was possible through the formation of the inclusive government to prepare conditions for the holding of free elections. This government is both inclusive and democratic as it is based on the results of the 29 March harmonised elections accepted by all. [Interjections.]
Allow me to remind members about the outcome of the 29 March parliamentary elections: the MDC-T won 100 seats, the Zanu-PF won 99 seats, the MDC-M won 10 seats and there was one independent seat won by Jonathan Moyo. Accordingly, these elections produced a hung parliament and did not yield any presidential candidate with more than 50% of the vote. The inclusive government, which was agreed upon by all the parties, is based on this outcome.
The challenge is to deal with both the humanitarian crisis plus the reconstruction of the economy. We therefore call on the international community to come to the aid of Zimbabwe and its people. To this end, SADC and the AU have called on the international community to end sanctions against Zimbabwe and to assist the people.
The Zimbabwe Humanitarian and Development Assistance Framework, ZHDAF, was launched by SADC in Zimbabwe in December last year in response to the crushing challenges, including food, water, health, agricultural inputs and other social needs, which are besetting Zimbabwe.
In keeping with the key objective of striving for a better Africa, we have over the last 15 years of democracy steadily lent a helping hand in the peace-keeping, peace-making and post-conflict reconstruction efforts on our continent.
Members of the SANDF have served with pride in countries such as the DRC, the Sudan and Burundi in different capacities such as to promote stability of the security situation in the Congo, the AU/UN Hybrid Mission in the Sudan and the protection of leaders of the Palipehutu-FNL leaders and combatants in Burundi.
Madam Speaker, on behalf of our nation, let me take this opportunity to thank all members of the SANDF for service to the nation and their role in all the peace-keeping missions and reconstruction and development on the African continent. I say to each and every one of them: "Help us to hold our heads high as a free nation, dedicated to peace and progress in a dangerous world."
All of us move from the common understanding that we need to continue to fulfil our international responsibility, especially on the African continent, to help bring about a better Africa and a better world.
Madam Speaker, this session of Parliament sees the last appearance of some of our long-serving Members of Parliament. In this regard, I wish the following hon members who spoke yesterday well in their chosen future careers: hon Tony Leon, Sandra Botha and Tertius Delport. I wish all these members well in their future endeavours and, I hope, continuing service in new capacities to the people of South Africa.
Madam Speaker, we call on this Parliament to hold an appropriate session to say farewell to all Members of Parliament who will not return.
With all the challenges strewn along our way, it is incumbent upon us to join hands as we strive to bring about a better life for all our people. As we enter the season of elections, once again, we call upon all our people to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with our democratic ethos.
Let us expand the floor for political tolerance, ensuring that in whatever we do we guarantee a climate of freedom of assembly, expression and association. The right of all political parties to campaign in a politically free atmosphere must be respected at all times.
Madam Speaker, I also take this opportunity to announce the date of the fourth national and provincial election in our country. It is 22 April 2009, and we believe that is an appropriate date as it falls on a Wednesday - midweek. We have agreed on this date with the IEC and all the provincial premiers. I must, however, emphasise that the actual proclamation of this date will be made later. With this coming election, the maturation of our democracy receives yet another shot in the arm.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the Deputy President, hon Baleka Mbete, the Minister in The Presidency Dr Manto Tshabala-Msimang, former President Mbeki, former Deputy President Jacob Zuma, former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and former Minister in The Presidency Essop Pahad, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, the Public Service and the directors-general for their dedication, commitment and support to ensure that we have had an effective and efficient government for this term of office.
Further, I wish to pay tribute to the staff, advisors and management in The Presidency for their exceptional support. Finally, I wish to thank my advisors, Dr Khulu Mbatha and Mr Ebrahim Rasool, Parliamentary Counsellor John Jeffery, the Chief Operations Officer Mr Trevor Fowler, and two of the longest serving directors-general, Mr Joel Netshitenzhe and Rev Frank Chikane as Head of PCAS and Secretary of the Cabinet, respectively, for their dedication and service to government for over two decades combined. I thank you.
The House adjourned at 14:38.
END OF TAKE
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