President Jacob Zuma,
We would like to share with Honourable Members the efforts we are making as the Presidency – working together with all sectors of society – to move South Africa forward.
In his State of the Nation Address in February, President Jacob Zuma called on all South Africans to make 2015 the Year of the Freedom Charter.
Sixty years ago, on 26 June 1955, the largest gathering of the representatives of our people gathered in Kliptown to adopt the Freedom Charter.
These delegates – united in their diversity – presented a vision of a new South Africa that we continue to build today.
It is a vision that guides and inspires the work of the Presidency.
As the apex of government, the Presidency spearheads our national effort to overcome poverty, unemployment and inequality through radical economic transformation.
The Office of the Deputy President executes its delegated responsibilities in support of the programme of action led by President Jacob Zuma.
Our programme is informed and guided by the objectives of the National Development Plan, which are translated into the 14 outcomes of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework.
The National Development Plan not only provides a compelling vision of the South Africa of the future.
It also provides an overarching framework, with a clear set of actions, to advance and achieve that vision.
We are energised by the fact that we undertake our work not in isolation, but in close partnership with our colleagues in the Executive and a broad spectrum of organised formations, communities and individuals.
Through the Working Groups led by the President, and through multi-sectoral forums like the South African National Aids Council, we are steadily forging a social compact for transformation.
Within the state, we utilise inter-ministerial committees effectively to improve inter-governmental coordination, which enables us to deploy resources efficiently.
The drafters of the Freedom Charter, in analysing the situation in our country in 1955, said:
“Our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality; and our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people enjoy equal rights and opportunities.”
It is this historical injustice that we are compelled to remedy.
Remedying this historical injustice has been at the centre of our work as a government for the past 21 years.
If we were to judge by the headlines, Mr President, we may wrongfully conclude that we are failing in this effort of remedying the injustices of the past
But if we look beyond the headlines, which range from the exaggerated to the absurd, a different picture emerges.
In his book ‘The Long View’, the economist JP Landman suggests that in examining progress in society one needs to focus instead on the trendlines.
If we are to appreciate how far we have come, and if we are to understand where we are going, we need to examine the evidence over a number of years.
We have to identify the trends and understand their meaning.
To the discerning and careful observer, these trendlines tell us that South Africa is on an upward developmental trajectory.
These trendlines tell us that millions of children from poor communities now attend no-fee schools. More people are able to access health care.
Many of our people have been lifted out of poverty.
These trendlines tell the story of a nation determined to overcome a past of division, lack of opportunity and conflict – a nation working to build a future of equality, prosperity and goodwill.
We are not on a slippery slope, as some right-leaning people on my left would have us believe.
We are on an upward slope, and we are making steady progress.
And yet, we know that – despite the progress – many of our people still live in poverty, without work, without water, without sanitation, without shelter.
This reality reminds us of the urgent nature of our transformation effort.
We are hard at work to remedy the historical injustice and to improve people’s lives.
As outlined in the budget votes of our various departments, schools are being built, bus rapid transit systems are being deployed, fibre optic cable is being laid, child mortality is declining, small businesses are being established, wind farms are being commissioned, and across the country, the lives of millions of people are changing for the better.
The trendlines tell us, Mr President, that through your leadership and stewardship Siyaquba: We are moving South Africa forward.
The Freedom Charter asserts that: “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people.”
This declaration by the delegates to the Congress of the People captures the essential responsibility that we all have at this moment in our history.
It underpins our commitment to a fundamentally different economy – one in which all South Africans share and from which all South Africans benefit.
The Freedom Charter envisages a developmental state that plays a leading role in promoting growth and ensuring economic access to those previously denied economic opportunity.
This is the state that we are working to build.
It is a state that is capable, efficient and responsive.
It is a state that through its various public entities has the means to make a meaningful impact on the economy.
The Office of the Deputy President has accordingly been assigned responsibility to lead efforts to strengthen state-owned enterprises in line with the recommendations of the Presidential Review Commission on SOEs.
Our priority is to improve governance, stabilise finances, increase productivity and ensure state-owned entities effectively perform the functions for which they were established.
These enterprises command significant resources and hold great potential for employment creation, infrastructure growth, technology development and small enterprise promotion.
Together, they constitute a vital pillar of a vibrant mixed economy.
They must stimulate, support and enhance private investment and expansion.
In a provocative and challenging article in the Business Day newspaper yesterday, columnist Mark Barnes argues that the provision of social goods could be delivered more effectively and efficiently if the public and private sectors pooled their resources and capabilities.
He says that South Africa has an abundance of the technical competence, management skills and financial resources needed to build a better life for all. It’s just not all in one place.
It therefore makes sense for the efforts of state-owned enterprises and private businesses to intersect in a partnership for economic and social development.
There is precedence for this sort of intersection between public and private in, for example, the cogeneration of electricity by private companies and the renewable energy independent power producer programme.
Barnes goes on to say:
“Imagine the sort of skills and education programmes that could emerge were SOEs to regain their positions of strength in economic society.”
Imagine, I would add, the contribution they could make to reindustrialisation and radical economic transformation.
One of those that will regain its strength in our economy is Eskom.
As the supplier of around 95% of the country’s electricity, Eskom is critical to our economic growth and sustainability.
As we are all acutely aware, the company has been experiencing severe generation constraints, exacerbated by significant operational and financial challenges.
With the support of the war room located in the Presidency, progress has been made in the implementation of government’s five-point implementation plan.
The progress to date has been detailed in the budget votes of the departments of energy and public enterprises.
Governance and leadership challenges at Eskom are being addressed. We welcome in particular the appointment of Mr Brian Molefe as acting CEO.
The hard work to turn around the performance of our national carrier, South African Airways, has begun to bear fruit.
The going concern status of the airline has been restored, costs have been reduced and operational efficiency is improving.
We have confidence that the newly developed long term turnaround strategy will ensure that SAA continues to play a crucial role in facilitating commerce and tourism within our country and abroad.
We are also encouraged by progress at the South African Post Office, where the strategic turnaround plan has been finalised for submission to Cabinet.
The administrator appointed by Minister Siyabonga Cwele last year has undertaken a thorough diagnostic review of the challenges at the Post Office and a business model that is better suited to the changing postal services environment has been developed.
This year, six decades after the Congress of the People, we are poised to realise the Freedom Charter’s call for a national minimum wage.
As directed by President Jacob Zuma in the State of the Nation Address of 17 June last year, we are leading a social dialogue under the auspices of NEDLAC to address wage inequality and labour instability.
The work is currently being undertaken by technical task teams overseen by a Committee of Principals, which includes government ministers and leaders from the business, labour and community constituencies.
Drawing on both international and local experience, this work promises to significantly improve the livelihoods of millions of South African workers.
It has the potential to reduce poverty and inequality and contribute to faster economic growth.
Let me commend the National Assembly’s Labour Portfolio Committee, led by the Honourable Lumka Yengeni, for organising a public consultation process on a national minimum wage.
This has raised the prominence of the national minimum wage in public discourse and elicited valuable insights and perspectives.
As we work to improve the lives of workers, we are also pursuing measures to address the circumstances of the unemployed.
In addition to the programmes government is implementing to stimulate job creation, the Presidency, through an inter-ministerial committee, is overseeing the coordination of public employment programmes.
Public employment programmes not only provide job opportunities.
They also provide the means to lift households out of poverty.
The budget vote of the Department of Public Works has provided detail on this work.
Beyond the opportunities identified in infrastructure and in the social, environmental and cultural sectors, we are also focused on areas such as the Jobs Fund, micro enterprises, and co-operatives to improve the impact of these programmes.
The Freedom Charter made a call that: “The doors of learning and culture shall be opened.”
If we are to successfully transform our economy, we need educated and skilled South Africans.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on 26 October 1976, ANC President Oliver Tambo said:
“We will create a South Africa in which the doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all. We will have a South Africa in which the young of our country shall have the best that mankind has produced, in which they shall be taught to love the people of all races, to defend the equality of the people, to honour creative labour, to uphold the oneness of mankind and to hate untruths, immorality and avarice.”
Through our work in the Human Resource Development Council, we are making a contribution to building such a South Africa.
Together, we are building a nation that generates ideas and develops technologies and opens up new markets at home and abroad.
We are significantly expanding opportunities for training and development for young people leaving school.
Our major priority is to strengthen the Technical Vocational Education and Training Colleges – known as TVET colleges.
A number of companies such as General electric and Sasol have joined this effort by adopting TVET colleges to assist with the improvement of teaching and learning facilities, skills transfer, apprenticeships and general governance.
We are today making a call to all companies to adopt TVET colleges to both meet their own skills requirements and contribute to a national skills revolution.
Mr President, the Human Resource Development Council has taken up your challenge to make maths education a priority.
The HRD Council is developing an ambitious Maths National Master Plan that will fundamentally transform the mathematical proficiency of our youth.
The Early Childhood Development Plan is now being revised, ensuring that we establish a foundation for successful learning and achievement from an early age.
We call on parents, care givers and communities to ensure all young children are enrolled in ECD facilities.
We will not realise the full potential of our people unless we also address the burden of disease in our society, and in particular the persistent challenge of co-infection between HIV and tuberculosis.
We have made significant progress in responding to the HIV epidemic as a result of the work of the South African National AIDS Council – SANAC.
Yet, we are far from achieving our objective of an HIV-free generation.
Led by the Minister and Department of Health, and working with development partners, we are undertaking a massive TB screening and treatment programme that focuses on those populations and geographical areas most at risk.
We are also intensifying efforts to reduce the rate of new HIV infections.
To combat complacency and a lack of awareness, particularly among the youth, we are reviving a national communications campaign.
We are stepping up the HIV testing and counselling, condom distribution and the medical male circumcision programme.
We urge all Members of Parliament to lead by example and be tested for HIV and screened for TB.
The Freedom Charter says: “There shall be peace and friendship.”
It says: “South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation – not war.”
We continue to be inspired by this vision and the founding principles of the Organisation of African Unity, whose formation we celebrated yesterday on Africa Day.
Consistent with these principles and acting on the mandate given by SADC to President Jacob Zuma, we helped to facilitate the restoration of peace and stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
We are pleased that the outcome of the elections on 28 February 2015 was deemed to be a true expression of the will of the people, and declared free, fair and credible.
The Southern African community remains ready to assist the people of Lesotho as they reform their constitutional and security architecture to ensure lasting stability.
South Africa continues to work with other countries and political formations to restore peace and stability in South Sudan.
We are guided by the Reunification Agreement signed between factions of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in Arusha in January.
This work is premised on our conviction that peace and stability in South Sudan and the Great Lakes region is a necessary condition for growth and development in East and Central Africa.
South Africa continues to support post-conflict reconstruction and development in Sri Lanka.
We will soon host a Sri Lankan delegation to exchange views with eminent South Africans who participated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and constitution-making process.
We are hopeful that our experiences in forging a united country out of conflict and discord will be useful to the parties and people of Sri Lanka.
The Freedom Charter proclaims that: “No government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.”
Our Parliament remains the most important guarantor that the will of the people informs the work of government.
In a vibrant democracy like ours, there is a dynamic relationship between the Executive and Parliament, as both seek to discharge their respective constitutional obligations.
We may not agree on all issues but we must never lose sight of our common responsibility to improve the lives of the people who elected us.
As government, we remain committed to the mandate that we have been given to fundamentally transform our economy.
We will continue to work with all in Parliament to advance this mandate.
As the Leader of Government Business, I will continue to champion the principle of executive accountability and enhance the work and standing of this institution.
In conclusion, I wish to thank you, Mr President, for entrusting me with the responsibility as Deputy President of supporting you in the advancement of your vision for a better South Africa.
I appreciate your leadership and guidance.
I am grateful to my colleagues in the Executive for their support in Cabinet and the productive cooperation we experience in the various inter-ministerial committees that are led by the Office of the Deputy President.
Many thanks also go to the Director-General, advisers and staff in the Presidency for their support and commitment.
I thank you.
SOURCE: South African Official News