Chairperson of the NCOP, Ms Thandi Modise,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the NCOP,
Amakhosi from the House of Traditional leaders,
Representatives of provincial and local government,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a singular honour and privilege to join you in this special session of the NCOP among the people of our country.
This is democracy in work.
This is what we envisaged when we crafted the Constitution.
Sixty years ago, a call went out to the people of this country.
The call was made at a time when we our country was deeply divided along racial lines. Our people were not free.
A call was made that said:
“Let us speak of freedom?
“Let us speak of the wide land, and the narrow strips on which we toil?
“Let us speak of the good things we make, and the bad conditions of our work?
“Let us speak of the light that comes with learning, and the ways we are kept in darkness?
“Let us speak of laws, and government, and rights?
“Let us speak together of freedom.”
As we meet here in Oudtshoorn – convened by the National Council of Provinces to hear the views and concerns of the people of this country – we are reminded of this call to convene a Congress of the People to draft a Charter of Freedom.
I say so because this programme of taking Parliament to the people reminds us of the campaign that led up to the adoption of the Freedom Charter. After the Congress Alliance accepted the proposal by ZK Matthews that a Congress of the People be convened, circulars went out to townships and villages all across the country.
People were asked how they would set about seeking a good life for themselves and their children. They were asked to imagine a South Africa of the future. Local, regional and provincial Congresses of the People were held across the country.
As former President Nelson Mandela recalls in Long Walk to Freedom: “Demands came on serviettes, on paper torn from exercise books, on scraps of foolscap, on the back of our own leaflets.
“It was humbling to see how the suggestions of ordinary people were often far ahead of the leaders.
“The most commonly cited demand was for one-man, one-vote. There was a recognition that the country belongs to all those who have made it their home.”
This campaign culminated in “a meeting of elected representatives of all races, coming together from every town and village, every farm and factory, every mine and kraal, every street and suburb, in the whole land”.
The same could be said of this special session of the NCOP. It is special because it is being held with and among the people. As public representatives, we are nothing without the people whose needs and interests we seek to aance through our public service.
You have made us what we are. We are part of you. And so we say thank you to everyone from the Klein Karoo and beyond who made their way to this beautiful place today to show that they want to move South Africa forward.
We say thank you to everyone who has come here to prove that our democracy is alive and vibrant, and that it is driven by the citizens of our country. Here, as in Kliptown in 1955, “all will speak together, freely, as equals”.
Today, many of the demands of the people recorded in the Freedom Charter have been realised. Most important among those is the assertion that the people shall govern, and that “no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”.
Since 1994, we have remade our country. We have refashioned the institutions of the state, ensuring that the views of our people are heard, understood and effectively represented. Our democracy is anchored on the understanding that the state is an instrument through which the people of our country may pursue their shared vision.
We want every South African to be an active participant in our democratic dispensation.
We want to create a nation of citizens that care for each other, respect one another and share a deep love for their country.
We want a nation that is proud of its heritage, its symbols, its flag and its diversity.
We want a nation that understands its past, celebrates its present and enthusiastically and actively builds its future.
Parliament is central to this effort.
Not only does it represent the wishes of the people, but it has the responsibility to involve the people in making the decisions that will affect their lives.
Parliament must therefore position itself as an activist Parliament rooted in the common struggles of ordinary citizens. It must be present in community struggles.
It must ensure that the work of government is attuned to grassroots concerns and aspirations. Through this institution, we must facilitate public involvement, access and consultation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The programme that the NCOP has undertaken this week reminds us that we have achieved much of what the Congress of the People in 1995 envisioned. But it reminds us too that there is much more we still need to do. As we have heard this week, too many of our children are still kept in darkness. Too many of our people still toil on narrow strips of land.
Too many of our people are still struggling to achieve a better life for them and their children. We have done much to ensure that the people shall govern and that all national groups shall have equal rights. We have put in place the mechanisms to ensure that all shall be equal before the law and that all shall enjoy equal rights.
But there is still much that we need to do to ensure that the people share in the country’s wealth, that the land is shared among those who work it, and that there is work and security. After 20 years of democracy, a great deal has been achieved in addressing the needs of the poor and laying a foundation for greater growth and prosperity.
Significant progress has been made in many critical areas – in the provision of housing, electricity, water, sanitation and infrastructure in reduction of maternal and child mortality in access to basic education. As we have heard this week, there is much more that needs to be done.
Too few people have work. Too many people live in poverty. Inequality is stark and social dislocation is pervasive. Our education system is not producing the outcomes required to address the challenges of a modern economy. Many public services are falling short of what people expect and need. Unless we move with urgency and determination to address these issues, we will struggle to realise the vision of the Freedom Charter.
In many respects, the National Development Plan (NDP) is a response to these challenges. The NDP provides a framework for the actions we need to take over the next 15 years to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality, to create work and opportunities for all. The implementation of the National Development Plan has begun.
Cabinet has started to develop the NDP in earnest. In his State of the Nation Address in February, President Jacob Zuma identified nine priority actions to aance inclusive economic growth. Key among these is the revitalisation of South African industry.
Through government incentives for manufacturing, through greater beneficiation of our mineral resources, through local procurement, through reducing the administrative burden on business, we will be able to increase investment in the productive sector of our economy. Another priority action is the revitalisation of agriculture and agro-processing.
This would have a significant impact in a region like this, where there is both great potential and great need. In agriculture there is substantial opportunity to open up new export markets, create employment and uplift communities. But we need to ensure that people have access to land, we need to provide them with opportunities to acquire skills and experience, and we need to resolve the antagonistic relationships that are prevalent in many of our farming areas.
What has become clear from the interactions of the last few days is that we need to improve the provision of services to communities. We need better planning and coordination across departments and between spheres of government. We need better, more efficient, more responsive local government.
We will get the local government you deserve. We need to embrace the ‘Back to Basics’ programme, which aims to restore the country’s struggling municipalities to health. Consistent with the principles of the Freedom Charter, that programme puts the citizens at the centre of effective service delivery, good governance and sound financial management.
It calls for substantive community involvement – regular ward report-backs by councillors, greater engagement with civil society and prompt feedback on petitions and complaints. If there is one thing that has emerged from the interactions of the last few days, it is that the people of this country are not prepared to be passive recipients of government generosity.
They want to be involved and engaged and consulted.
They are asking government to enable them, to empower them and to support them.
They want to improve their own lives.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Freedom Charter says that there shall be peace and friendship.
It envisages a South Africa at peace with the nations of the world, in which the rights and freedoms of all the people who live in this country are protected.
The attacks on foreign nationals that have taken place in parts of our country are an affront to these aspirations. As President Jacob Zuma said in the National Assembly yesterday, these attacks are a violation not only of the rights of the individuals affected, but also of the values and principles that define our democracy.
We must condemn such behaviour without hesitation. It dehumanises us as South Africans. We must act decisively to end such violence and work to ensure that it does not happen again. Those who perpetrate such violence and looting must face the full might of the law.
At the same time, we must engage with the communities in which these crimes are taking place.
Where there are concerns, we must address them.
Where there is conflict, we must find peaceful solutions.
We must build communities that are cohesive and inclusive.
As public representatives, we must be at the forefront of such efforts.
All leaders of our country are called upon to join this effort to ensure that we respect each other and that we respect foreign nationals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me once again commend the NCOP for taking Parliament to the people. For the people are the government. We are their servants.
The National Development Plan reminds us that: “Government begins in the home, grows into the community, expands towards the city, flares toward the province, and engulfs the entire land.”
We are 15 years from realising the NDP’s Vision 2030.
It is a vision that depends on the passion and hard work of every South African.
Achieving this vision calls for courageous and visionary leadership across all sectors of society. I hope that a year from now, as a result of this week’s activities, we will be able to see improvement in the lives of the people we have visited. We are here not just to meet and greet, but to achieve better communities and a better country.
Allow me to conclude with words of the late Guinean President, Ahmed Sekou Toure, when he said: “To take part in the African revolution it is not enough to write a revolutionary song: you must fashion the revolution with the people. And if you fashion it with the people, the songs will come by themselves.”
Thank you very much.
Issued by: The Presidency
Source : South African Government