Hansard: President's Reply to Debate on State of the Nation Address / Commencement of the FIFA Confederation Cup
House: National Assembly
Date of Meeting: 08 Jun 2009
No summary available.
Tuesday, 9 June 2009 Take: 61
START OF DAY
TUESDAY, 9 JUNE 2009
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
The House met at 14.06.
The Speaker took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.
The SPEAKER: Order! Hon members, I wish to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of the Prime Minister of Kenya, The Right Honourable Raila Odinga, and his delegation. [Applause.] Namkelekile, a warm welcome to you all.
The CHIEF WHIP OF THE MAJORITY PARTY
Start of day
THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE FIFA CONFEDERATIONS CUP
The CHIEF WHIP OF THE MAJORITY PARTY: Speaker, I move without notice:
That the House -
(1) noting that on Sunday, 14 June 2009, the Fifa Confederations Cup will officially start,
(2) further noting that the Confederations Cup is a warm-up for the main event planned for 2010 and should provide an indication as to how well planning and construction activities have progressed,
(3) believes the most important thing in sport is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle, while the essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well,
(4) welcomes the soccer teams that have converged on our shores and wishes them well in their stay in our country.
Thank you, hon Speaker.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
The CHIEF WHIP OF THE MAJORITY PARTY
PRESIDENT'S REPLY TO DEBATE ON STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker of the National Assembly, the hon Prime Minister of Kenya, Mr Raila Amolo Odinga, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, hon members, one of the most wonderful things about being a South African is our very progressive Constitution.
It allows a multiparty constitutional democracy, which enables the government of the day to benefit from debate. All of us know that we were part of crafting a framework which allowed South Africa to become one of the countries in the world that is governed by a good Constitution. Our constitutional democracy makes all of us benefit from the views and opinions of many political parties. This enriches the work of government.
In the presidential inauguration address we called for a partnership for reconstruction, development and progress.
We believe we moved one step closer to that goal during the debate on the state of the nation address, which was our first interaction since the inauguration. Parties were given the opportunity to respond to that statement.
The debate has been both instructive and encouraging. It has demonstrated that all parties in this House, without exception, are earnest in their commitment to this country and to harmonious relations amongst its people.
Regardless of our differences as political parties, I believe that we have a common goal, which is to make South Africa a greater country. We take all contributions to the debate in that spirit.
We have noted too that this House will seriously hold the executive accountable. As hon Thaba Mufamadi said, this will be a "strong, activist Parliament".
As the national executive, we welcome increased oversight to assist us in achieving our target of effective and efficient government. We will work harder and smarter and the South African people will be the beneficiaries of this constructive robust role of Parliament.
It is when we are able to work together in that manner, that South Africa will be more united and prosperous.
When opening the debate, the Chief Whip of the Majority Party, hon Mathole Motshekga, reminded us to focus on that which makes us human.
He referred to the call by former ANC President, Rev Z R Mahabane, for "the recovery of the humanity of all people".
That has been a guiding tenet of the ANC for the many decades of its existence. It will be a central feature of our shared efforts over the term of this government, because we know that working together we can do more to build a great South Africa.
Decent work and a steadily improving quality of life are essential for the recovery of the humanity of all our people. So too is empowerment through access to quality education and skills development. Safe water, affordable energy, decent shelter, and cohesive, secure and vibrant communities are similarly all important for the recovery of this humanity. To be treated with respect and dignity, by one's fellow citizens, and by those who have the responsibility of providing a public service, is important for the recovery of our humanity.
Central to this recovery of our humanity is also the need for access to economic opportunities and to earn a living. That is why we are determined to lessen the impact of the economic downturn on the most vulnerable.
We can draw some encouragement from the fact that, as South Africans, we have not experienced the worst effects of the global downturn, due to the prudent macroeconomic policies that had been followed.
From the Ready to Govern document of the early 1990s, the pursuit of our objectives has always been based on the maintenance of a stable macroeconomic environment. This is not going to change.
Hon Kenneth Meshoe has raised a concern about whether or not we would have sufficient funds to bail out companies in distress during the downturn. You will be pleased, hon Meshoe, to hear that there is no intention on our part to utilise the fiscus for general company bail-outs. [Applause.] As we indicated, we are working with development finance institutions, such as the Industrial Development Corporation, to identify such companies and, where appropriate, mobilise assistance.
The hon Ryan Coetzee is correct in saying that the steps we take now must not undermine our ability to take advantage of the upturn.
It is also important for us to ensure that the interventions we make do not distract us from our longer-term socioeconomic objectives.
We must also keep the productive capacity of our economy intact so that it can respond in a timeous fashion to the revival in demand as the global economy recovers.
It is important that our manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors are ready for the recovery. That means we must do our best to retain skills and labour.
Hon Patricia de Lille summed up what should be our approach as a nation to this problem when she said:
The global recession means that we need a plan around which all South Africans can rally, a plan that can tap into our collective patriotism, skills and wisdom, and bring us together as a nation.
Hon members, a number of speakers made reference to the targets we have set with respect to the second phase of the Expanded Public Works Programme.
I reiterate that we intend to create about 500 000 work opportunities this year, as part of our goal of creating about 4 million such opportunities by the end of this five-year term.
Let me emphasise that these measures are not a substitute for the permanent jobs that must be created and sustained in the economy.
The key sectors of the Expanded Public Works Programme are as follows:
Firstly, there is the infrastructure sector programme. Key programmes are road construction, water reticulation, sewerage and waste water management.
The second programme is the social sector, aimed at creating work opportunities through the provision of public social services. The key programmes in this sector include the Home and Community Based Care programme, which entails provision of care and support for those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as personnel required for the expansion of the Early Childhood Development programme.
The third EPWP intervention is in the environment and culture sectors. Programmes include Working for Water, Working on Fire and Land Care. New initiatives on waste management, including the Food for Waste programme, will be expanded.
This is one of the measures that government has put in place to alleviate poverty and provide income, work experience and skills development to many who are unemployed.
The Minister of Public Works, hon Geoff Doidge, will provide more information during the department's budget speech.
Hon members, as part of the war against poverty, government has also committed itself to specific goals concerning the development of a comprehensive social security system. The new system seeks to ensure access to social security as provided for in Section 27 of the Constitution.
We are working on reforms in the areas of retirement provision, national health insurance, unemployment insurance, compensation for injuries and diseases on duty, and road accident insurance.
Hon Bantu Holomisa, we have noted your emphasis on the need to deliver quality services in the rural areas. We are fully committed to change the face of rural areas.
We must heed the clarion call of the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Hon Gugile Nkwinti, who said "phezukomkhono", "vukuzenzele",[stand up and take initiative] "siyazondla", [we feed ourselves] imploring all to swing to action to make the Comprehensive Rural Development programme a reality. For the benefit of those who do not understand isiXhosa, when he said "phezukomkhono" he meant that we must work. [Applause.]
There has been a lot of interest in our new national planning process. In the coming two months, the Presidency should have completed work on the systems and structures to deal with this matter. This will form the basis of a Green Paper for public discussion in Parliament and by the nation at large, as explained by the Minister in the Presidency responsible for national planning, hon Trevor Manuel.
We are also encouraged by the universal support for the monitoring and evaluation system. It should be emphasised though, as also pointed out by hon Matladi of the UCDP, that the monitoring and evaluation system will not be aimed at punishment. This is not a trap-and-catch exercise. The intention is to improve service delivery.
The monitoring and evaluation system will include an early warning system to assist us, working with the affected departments, in ensuring that urgent corrective action is taken when weaknesses are identified.
We are trying not to wait until the Auditor-General produces a report and only then realise that there are problems. This is often misleading because that report could reflect a time of two years before. So, we want to be in step with the activities and correct the weaknesses that would otherwise be detected two years later.
There are no super ministries, but just colleagues who will be working together to find new ways of doing things more effectively. [Applause.] In other words, we are not saying that these departments will then be indunas [overseers]; no, not at all. We are creating a collective working together of the colleagues.
Hon uMntwana wakwaPhindangene, raised various critical issues. Shenge also raised issues related to the elections. Our confidence in the Independent Electoral Commission is unwavering. [Applause.] The men and women of the IEC have never been found wanting with regards to delivering free and fair elections.
This always reminds me of 1994, when I was in the opposition in KwaZulu-Natal after the IFP won the elections. I was not convinced that it was free and fair. [Laughter.] I thought that going through the processes would take me too long. I wanted to be certain of the results and I went to the then head of the IEC, Justice Kriegler. I argued with him until he found the room very small. I was trying to prove to him that something was wrong. I returned to KwaZulu-Natal, still unhappy. I came back for the second trip and he thought that he should hand me over to his deputy, who was Justice Moseneke. But, at the end, the IEC delivered the results and, in the context of the province, I was a loser, and I lost with a smile. [Laughter.]
Of course, at that time we were serving under the Interim Constitution. We worked together very well. I still have to see in the world elections that almost every citizen would say were free and fair. There is always somebody who complains. Elections are the only activity in the world that has to be guaranteed by that statement, that it was free and fair. All other activities do not need such a statement. That indicates the challenge posed by managing an election.
However, bearing all of that in mind, we still believe that our IEC has been able to deliver. This is not so just because they are smart and wonderful; because I think South African citizens are very good. They are wonderful, they respect elections and I think, each time, that we have the most peaceful elections. Of course, the party agents and everybody else look around and see papers walking their way, and they jump. It is a natural thing for politicians, I think. It would be something else if there were no political party that complained. For example, I had to take a plane to Johannesburg to tell the chairperson that that election was not conducted properly. He said that it was. He said that zip-zip machines were used and that they worked fine, as did everything else. You know, that judge was very impressive.
This illustrates the IEC's handling of complaints when problems were brought to their attention.
I also wish to thank uMntwana for his counsel on the economic situation. I continue to hold uMntwana in very high regard. He is a tried and accomplished elder statesman of our nation. [Applause.]
The IFP and the ANC have come a long way, and he has been part of that journey. Working together under extremely difficult conditions we managed to bring about peace and stability nationally, and, in particular, in KwaZulu-Natal.
We must respect the will of the electorate, and work together to improve the lives of our people, especially the poorest of the poor.
We fully agree with hon Dr Pieter Mulder that the public service belongs to all South Africans, and it should serve all South Africans, regardless of party political affiliation.
We have also noted the comments of hon Dene Smuts on the judiciary.
Amongst the key principles contained in the Constitution is that of the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, with appropriate checks and balances to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.
When we speak about the pace of transformation in the judiciary, hon members, it is not because we want to infringe on its independence, which we uphold and will always defend. The transformation of the judiciary entails, amongst others, having a court system in which the people of South Africa have confidence.
Obviously, as part of this, we need to ensure that judicial officers reflect the demographics of our country. If the numbers of women and Black people acting as attorneys or advocates are low, we cannot avoid looking for the obstacles that hamper their representation.
The transformation of the judiciary is, however, more than just a question of the composition of the Bench. It is also about ensuring an integrated, accessible and affordable court system. It is about judicial training and ensuring that we have judicial officers who are steeped in and reflect the progressive values of our constitution. [Applause.] It is about ensuring that all people have access to justice, both in the criminal and the civil courts.
I would like to assure hon Smuts and the House that, when the President exercises his powers when it comes to the appointment of judicial officers, in terms of the Constitution, he will act in the best interests of the country. [Applause.]
Hon members, we noted the call by the Minister of Police, hon Nathi Mthethwa, to the youth to join the fight against crime. This being Youth Month, we trust that the youth will join the Minister and government in this national duty. We agree with the Minister that we should all be part of the effort to "reclaim our peace, security and comfort".
In my address, I stated our concern at the deterioration of the quality of health care, aggravated by the steady increase in the burden of disease in the past decade and a half.
The AIDS epidemic is among the conditions chiefly responsible for the latter. Hon Sandy Kalyan feels I should have said more about HIV and AIDS. The hon member has been outspoken for years about health care in our country, and her concern is well known.
Government is firmly committed to the full implementation of the AIDS plan, which offers a comprehensive response to this grave epidemic. Importantly, the targets described in this plan are not merely government targets. They were set together with our social partners after extensive consultation. The targets require a properly functioning public health care system to which all our people have access.
That is why we have emphasised our plans to construct and rehabilitate public health care facilities, improve management and other systems, and address with urgency the working conditions and remuneration of health practitioners and professionals. This includes finalising all matters relating to the Occupation Specific Dispensation, particularly proposals to address all the remaining categories.
We are pleased that all the parties share our commitment to education. We have started to step up our efforts aimed at providing resources and skills to our schools. For example, to bring our educators into the 21st century we intend to introduce a teacher laptop initiative. [Applause.] The project will be phased in over a two-year period starting from 1 July 2009. [Applause.] Our aim is to ensure that, by 2012, every teacher has access to a laptop computer and the Internet. [Applause.] I am sure that this will contribute immensely towards motivating our educators to improve the standard of teaching and learning in our schools.
Hon Narend Singh underscores the point that we must act now to ensure that our natural resources are protected for future generations. We will strengthen our capacity to investigate and prosecute environmental crimes, enforcing a zero tolerance approach to illegal and unsustainable exploitation of resources.
A critical starting point is to ensure that all organs of state, themselves, comply with environmental legislation.
Hon members, our arts, culture and heritage define our national identity. During the election campaign I had the opportunity to engage with our creative arts fraternity. I was informed of the challenges faced by artists, and they requested government to intervene to transform the industry.
After the state of the nation address, I received an email from Eugene Mthethwa of the popular kwaito music group, Trompies.
He expressed disappointment that I, in my address, emphasised sport as a unifying force, to the exclusion of arts and culture. I would like to assure Eugene and all in the creative industry sector that we remain fully committed to supporting the development of our country's arts and culture.
Music, including kwaito, helps us to bridge barriers and is one of the most unifying elements of our arts and culture. Kwaito may have started as a township art form, but today attracts a steady flow of young people from across the racial divide. [Applause.]
We reiterate also that the artists must organise themselves without any delay, so that government can interact with them as an organised formation. The Department of Arts and Culture is planning to meet with the artists soon to take these matters forward.
Isn't this wonderful, that members of the public are participating in our debate? It is absolutely wonderful. [Applause.]
Some of the speakers lamented the lack of extensive detail in the state of the nation address on these matters.
Naturally, a state of the nation addresses immediately, after an election, deals with the transition of the election mandate into a five-year government programme.
As such it becomes almost impossible to go into detail on each issue. As I indicated last Wednesday, the Medium Term Strategic Framework and the detailed programme of action will be published.
In addition, the relevant Ministers will elaborate these issues during their Budget votes this month. Therefore we should not worry about the lack of many details. I think the address gave a direction and highlighted ten points of priority and I think sufficiently indicated where we are going. I think the departments will come with the details. [Applause.]
Ho members, I cannot ignore the fact that our country is abuzz with the forthcoming kick-off of the Confederations Cup on Sunday. The growing confidence within Bafana Bafana and the arrival of visiting teams has added to the soccer mood all over the country.
We welcome all our visitors and wish them an excellent stay in our country. A warm welcome to Fifa Secretary-General, Jerome Valcke and Danny Jordaan, CEO of the Local Organising Committee, and to our special guests who have brought the Confederations Cup trophy which is on display in Parliament today. These officials I have just mentioned are present here today. It should inspire all of us to fill the stadiums, beginning this very coming Sunday. [Applause.]
May the best team win. [Applause.] Of course no one can blame us for believing that that team should be Bafana Bafana. [Laughter and applause.] Let us all go out and support the beautiful game.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me reiterate that the debate on the state of the nation address has made me optimistic that it is possible for us to find issues on which we can interact constructively as elected representatives. It has reminded us of the need to recover our humanity, which transcends political differences. I am convinced that we are going to work very well together as parties represented in parliament.
Our view is that we are now gravitating towards identifying national interest issues – that which is good for all of us – that will make us come together as citizens of this country, even if we belong to different parties. Unity, reconciliation, constructive and decent engagement, and tolerance are emerging as common issues about which we all feel strongly. I wish we could keep this because it makes all of us as South Africans feel good.
The recession and the 2010 Fifa World Cup are some of the issues that are beginning to bring us together.
It is not an easy period, given the economic climate. We are given strength by the warm words of many colleagues in the Opposition benches.
Hon Athol Trollip – Leader of the Opposition in Parliament – remarked that, due to the recession, it is not the best time to become a President. Perhaps we should hope that this adversity will draw out the best in all of us as citizens.
Thank you to all for the words of encouragement. Working together we can and will do more to build a great South Africa!
I thank you. [Applause.]
The SPEAKER: Order! I wish to thank the hon President for his response to the contributions made by members of this House during the debate. That concludes the debate.
Hon members, I wish to inform you that after I have adjourned the House the CEO of the Local Organising Committee and a representative of Fifa will join the President in the Chamber for a presentation and a photo opportunity with the Confederation Cup. Members are kindly requested to remain – I repeat, remain – at their seats during the presentation.
The House adjourned at 14:50.
END OF TAKE
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