Address by President Jacob Zuma in response to the debate on the State of the Nation Address, National Assembly, Cape Town
Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP,
All Presiding Officers,
Honourable Deputy President, Honourable Ministers, Premiers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Royal Griqua House,
All our special guests including 45 interns from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,
Fellow South Africans.
For more than a century, millions of our people led by the ANC pursued relentless and heroic struggles against the dehumanising system of colonialism and apartheid. They devoted their lives and were always ready to pay the ultimate price for the cause of building a more humane South Africa, underpinned by a better life for all.
It is now almost twenty one years since we started the radical transition from Colonialism of a Special Type to a National Democratic Society, founded on the strategic vision of the Freedom Charter.
Since then we have never looked back.
Our strategic focus remains that of rebuilding and developing our country for the benefit of all South Africans, regardless of who they voted for during the elections. We are on course to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society, as expressed in the Freedom Charter and in the Constitution of the Republic.
We presented before Parliament, the 2015 State of the Nation Address (SoNA) last Thursday, which is a report back on work done during the previous year and an outline of the programme of action for the current financial year.
We outlined the areas of work that we believe are necessary to tackle, for us to ignite growth and create much needed jobs. We thank all Honourable Members for their contribution to the debate.
We welcome and appreciate all inputs that have been made.
Amilcar Cabral once said: “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”
Therefore, our people look to us to provide answers and solutions to the difficulties they face. They look up to us to assure them that the country is on track and that the mission of building a united and prosperous society continues and that life will get better each day. Indeed, the country is on track. Work continues daily to build the country and improve the quality of life of all especially the poor and the working class.
South Africa is a success story. It will continue to be so, despite that challenges and the legacy of apartheid colonialism that we are confronted with. Our task is to contribute in whatever way we can, in our areas of work, to take this success forward. Our democracy remains solid. All our democratic institutions, including government agencies are strong and functional.
Dedicated men and women working in these institutions perform their tasks as they should each day, taking forward the consolidation of our democracy, and providing much needed services and hope to our people.
Improvements must be made in various areas of work within the public service, and government is alive to this reality. Each year we strive to do better and to take the country forward. That is the purpose of the State of the Nation Address, to identify challenges, progress and further work. We mentioned that we would prioritise nine areas this year.
These include energy, strengthening of mining towns, agriculture, small business development and cooperatives, infrastructure development including water, transport and information communication technologies, boosting the industrial policy action plan, attracting investments and Operation Phakisa. Progress is being made in these areas as part of ensuring that the country’s wealth is shared by all as proclaimed in the Freedom Charter.
Honourable Godi correctly pointed out that we have not fundamentally touched the structure of the economy in order to effect true economic transformation. It is for this reason that 20 years into freedom, we are still grappling with poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Inequality is still staring us in the face. Census 2011 informed us that the income of households has hardly changed and that the income of white households is still six times more than that of black households.
In addition, the black majority still owns only three percent of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, pointing to the need to move faster to achieve meaningful economic emancipation. We have called for radical economic transformation.
By this we mean actions such as the industrialization of the economy, boosting and expanding agriculture and manufacturing and adding value to South Africa’s mineral wealth in order to open up opportunities for economic participation for more people and create jobs.
As part of changing the structure and to deracialise the economy, the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Amendment Act was proclaimed into law in October last year. Regulations to give effect to the Act are being finalised. A B-BBEE Commission is to be appointed this year, to oversee the overall implementation of B-BBEE, and ensure effective reporting and monitoring.
In addition, as said in the SoNA a programme to create and support Black Industrialists over three years was launched in November 2014. As Minister Patel pointed out, work to expand ownership of the economy through dismantling cartels and monopolies is also on-going.
The Competition Commission has already taken action against many companies for collusion and corruption. Economic transformation to unlock growth also means improving the support provided to small enterprises especially township and rural enterprises which will promote economic activities at the local level.
Honourable Manyoni, the chairperson of the South African Local Government Association, reminded us of the importance of local government, and in particular the development of small towns, rural towns and townships which are home to 50 percent of the population.
The township or informal economy has been stunted by the lack of basic economic infrastructure and formal support. As a result, the township corner and spaza shops, butcheries and other small businesses are disappearing and need to be revived and supported.
The recent tragic and unacceptable incidents of violence and the looting of shops of foreign nationals in Soweto were a reminder of the need to support local entrepreneurs and eliminate possibilities for criminal elements to exploit local frustrations.
As said before, we condemn attacks on foreign nationals and there can be no justification for that type of conduct in any community in our country. We have announced that we would institute 30 percent set asides for small business, cooperatives and small holders so that they can benefit from government procurement.
Some progress was made last year in supporting cooperatives. As of 30 October 2014, 158 co-operatives were approved for funding to the value of more than forty three million rand.
Five areas were identified for the pilot roll-out during the consultation phase, and they are: Mdantsane (Eastern Cape), KwaMai-Mai (Gauteng), Tshakuma and Modimolle (Limpopo), Mbombela and Lebombo (Mpumalanga) and Drakenstein (Western Cape).
Honourable Lekota, we are taking action to improve the performance of the supply chain management system in government, to prevent the fruitless and futile expenditure, corruption and other problems that you raised.
Government buys goods, services and infrastructure worth roughly five hundred billion rand a year. Often, we pay the highest prices and one part of government does not know how much the other part of government pays for goods or services. The bulk of negative audit opinions arise from potentially avoidable procurement violations. This is also an area where corruption or allegations of corruption, occur.
To respond to these challenges, in 2013, we established the Chief Procurement Office which will become operational on the 1st of April this year. All tenders will be posted on an electronic Tender Portal, which will free access to public sector tenders across the length and breadth of South Africa. This will give small businesses an advantage compared to the current system where they have to pay money for administrative costs in order to obtain hard copies of tender documents.
A centralized supplier database will also be phased in, starting from the 1st of April 2015. Once fully functional, this will replace the six hundred or so supplier databases that currently exist.
The system will offer a quick and more effective mechanism for verifying supplier information such as their BEE status, tax certificates and the like. These are factors that currently give rise to negative audit outcomes for departments.
The economic cluster departments will work with the National Treasury, further to explore practical and effective mechanisms of using state procurement to give practical expression to the National Development Plan and our socio economic objectives, including supporting SMMEs and cooperatives.
Where deemed necessary, we will consider amending existing legal and regulatory frameworks to accomplish this goal.
Improving the quality of education and training remains an apex priority. Progress is being made to steadily improve outcomes in the basic education sector. We believe we have the right formula at last and that results in all grades will continue to steadily improve.
Honourable Lekota spoke about the post-school sector, and referred to the need to reopen education colleges and to provide bursaries to students. The White Paper for Post-School Education and Training provides for the establishment of Community Education and Training Colleges that will primarily target youth and adults who did not complete schooling or who have never attended school.
The process of identifying nine Community Education and Training Colleges for piloting in 2015 has been completed. This initiative will be implemented in collaboration with local authorities, Sector Education and Training Authorities, community organisations and business. This is in addition to the re-opening of teacher and nursing colleges.
With regards to funding, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) remains the most significant instrument available to government, for opening the doors of learning to poor and working class communities.
Many high profile successful South Africans are NSFAS beneficiaries. The scheme is a major contributor to the development of the growing black middle class in South Africa. In 1999, NSFAS paid R441 million in financial aid to students and in 2014, this rose to over 9.2 billion rand to assist 450 000 students at 25 public universities and 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges.
The National Youth Development Agency also runs the R20 million Solomon Mahlangu scholarship for tertiary education which has assisted close to 300 students. We thank other institutions beyond government that provide bursaries and scholarships.
We also welcome and congratulate students that assist others who are less fortunate, such as the Wits University Students Representative Council, working with the Wits Foundation who are running a campaign to raise funds to assist needy students to register. We have also noted the frustrations of many students about residential accommodation in our institutions.
The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission is looking for solutions on this matter. In addition, the Department of Higher Education and Training allocated R1,6 billion between 2012 and 2014, specifically to build and refurbish student residences. The bulk of the money, R1,4 billion has been allocated to historically black institutions.
This allocation, together with the R700 000 contribution from universities, will fund approximately 9 000 new beds for the system. As Honourable Minister Nzimande and Honourable Mahambehlala outlined, we are indeed investing in our young people. We are opening the doors of learning for our youth.
Siyaqhuba kwezemfundo, siyasebenza.
Honourable Holomisa, I assure you that what you called instability at the top echelons of the crime busting institutions is being attended to. This matter is of great concern to us. There is no government that would not be worried even if it was only two or three institutions that are affected.
Even if it was a single institution, it would be one too many, given that we have prioritised the fight against crime and corruption. The head of the Special Investigating Unit, Adv Vas Soni, will be leaving his post at the end of February due to personal challenges at home, in particular the health of his wife. He has done exceptionally well in a short space of time. His departure is a great loss. We wish him and his family well.
A number of Honourable Members from the Opposition benches referred to the Land Holdings Bill. Honourable Members should remember that the Green Paper on Land Reform was first released in 2011 for public comments.
The Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Honourable Cele provided the detail of this proposed Bill. There will be opportunity for comments once it reaches parliament. I have also received emails from concerned members of the public seeking clarity.
Ms Tanya Elston, Ms Carin Smith and Mr Jan Cronje have asked whether a foreign national, wishing to buy a home in Johannesburg, would be able to do that, and if the limit on foreign ownership was confined to agricultural land.
The answer is that the Land Holdings Bill applies to agricultural land. It does not affect those foreign nationals who are planning to buy homes or residences. Mr Roy Cokayne has asked similar questions and also whether the new policy will apply to multinational corporations operating in South Africa.
Multinationals will be affected only if their future property purchases consist of agricultural land. My good friend, Mr Charl Senekal, a sugar cane farmer in Phongolo in KwaZulu-Natal, says that if the law is passed, the country will have a food crisis.
Mr Senekal says that 100 farmers in the country produce 70% of our food, and if they are forced to reduce the size of their farms their production could be halved. This sentiment was also expressed by Honourable Mulder.
There are two answers to this issue. We are taking these actions precisely because the fate of too many is in the hands of too few. We are keenly aware of the contribution of the country’s hard working farmers to the economy and food security.
However, the effective participation of the previously excluded black majority in agriculture and food production will only occur meaningfully, when they have access to land and the means to work it. An inclusive and scientific process will be used to assess the situation in different commodities and in different localities, so as to make sure that nothing is done that will prejudice food security in the country.
Allow me Honourable Members to acknowledge the progressive farmers who have begun to implement the principle of 50/50, where farm workers and farmers share ownership of the farm, as alluded to by Deputy Minister Cele.
I had mentioned in the SoNA that some new labour laws or amendments were coming into effect this year. Honourable Malema raised concerns about workers who are employed as temporary workers for more than 10 or 20 years, and being supplied by labour brokers.
In terms of the amended Labour Relations Act, Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Employment Equity Acts, the issues raised by the Honourable member have been resolved. In terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Acts as amended, all workers will be employed permanently. Temporary work contracts will not exceed three months, as Honourable Makue also pointed out.
In addition Honourable Members, the Deputy President will continue to lead the NEDLAC dialogue relating to a national minimum wage.
Honourable Shenge, thank you for acknowledging the nation’s dramatic successes in the fight against HIV and AIDS. We now have 2,7 million South Africans on antiretroviral treatment. We have three thousand five hundred and ninety (3 590) public health facilities now initiating patients on antiretroviral treatment compared to 490 in February 2010. It is a dramatic increase.
One of our greatest success stories remains the remarkable 67% reduction of mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 8% in 2008 to 2,6% in 2012.
Remarkably, 20 million people have to date been tested for HIV through the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign. This indicates that the stigma around the disease is being eradicated which will assist prevention efforts.
Life expectancy is improving in South Africa and we want to build on this further, by launching the massive Tuberculosis campaign next month. We are also continuing to implement the National Health Insurance scheme at a number of pilot sites.
The scheme is aimed at making access to health equal for all, regardless of class or financial means. Sibonga bonke abantu bakithi ngokusebenzisana nohulumeni ukulwa nesifo sengculazi. Sesivule izikhungo ezidlule ezinkulungwaneni ezintathu lapho abantu bethola khona imishanguzo yaleligciwane. Nomama nezingane abanegciwane bayalashwa.
Impilo isingcono, abantu bayaphila manje, sebephindele nasemsebenzini manje abanye. Asisangcwabi njengakuqala ngenxa yemishanguzo elethwa uhulumeni. Siyabonga kubantu ngokuthatha amaphilisi nokuhlola ukuze bathole ukwelashwa.
UMphathiswa umama uMajodina ubeke kwacaca okwenziwa uhulumeni ukwenza izimpilo zabantu zibengcono.
Ubale ezempilo, izibonelelo ezitholwa abadala nabancane ezingakhethi bala lamuntu ezisiza nabakhubazekile, wabala iyunifomu yesikole, ukudla ezikoleni, nokuningi okuxosha indlala. Impela uhulumeni uyabasiza abantu, wenza izimpilo zibe ngcono kakhulu imihla ngemihla.
Honourable Mulder, Nobody is chasing the Afrikaner compatriots away from this country. I began the address last week with an affirmation of the Freedom Charter pronouncement that South Africa belongs to all who live in it.
The preamble of the Constitution makes a similar profound affirmation. Let us work together to build our country, and leave finger pointing aside. Going forward with the national reconciliation project, allow me to remind government departments and national entities that the implementation of the Use of Official Languages Act must be rolled out by the 2nd of May 2015.
Government departments must communicate with the people in languages they understand. Schools should also prepare to teach African languages to build a new citizenry of youth that will be able to understand and respect one another.
Honourable Waters and Honourable Greyling, we have admitted that load shedding is indeed a serious challenge and an impediment to economic growth.
Honourable Minister Brown further outlined what we are doing to deal with this matter. The extensive short, medium and long term plan to deal with the energy challenge requires that we work together to ensure success.
The country will celebrate 60 years of the Freedom Charter on 26 June 2015. On 27 April,our Freedom Day, we will celebrate twenty five years since the release of President Mandela and the unbanning of organisations, which came about as a result of the relentless and selfless struggles of our people.
We began the journey then, to transform our country from Apartheid and colonialism to a national democratic society. We will also reflect on the road travelled and the successes scored. We are definitely not sitting with a nightmare as Honourable Waters said. We are sitting in a country that is doing well, with a people who are determined to make things work.
We will not allow prophets of doom to downplay the hard work and success of millions of our people. South Africa was privileged to have an icon like President Mandela as its first democratically elected President. However, this does not make South Africa immune to the economic, social or political challenges at certain periods.
Despite the challenges, South Africa is getting many things right. The economy possesses the necessary dynamism to position the country as a competitive player in a difficult global economic environment. Honourable Hill-Lewis, you are correct that South Africa’s GDP growth rate has been lower than other member countries of SADC, but your reasons are wrong.
While the slow growth on our part reflects some domestic constraints that we are facing such as the current electricity constraint, it also reflects the relative level of development of the South African economy compared to the regional economies.
Less developed countries tend to grow faster than more developed countries as there is more spare capacity, underutilised land and generally resources and opportunities that have not been used.
If a country is relatively more developed than other countries, it is more likely that it will grow at a slower rate.
Advanced economies for example grow at a much slower rate than emerging markets. South Africa is not an advanced economy and we face many challenges. However, in some cases our level of development is very high, especially compared to countries in the region. For example our financial sector has similar levels of development to many advanced economies.
The growth patterns observed in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region are not different to other parts of the world. For example, growth in Eastern Europe is much stronger than growth in Western Europe. As the level of development converges between Eastern and Western Europe, growth in Eastern Europe will slow down.
While it is unrealistic to expect South Africa to grow at levels seen in some of the countries in the region with lower levels of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita or low levels of development, we definitely have the potential to grow at much higher levels than the current level.
Government is addressing the bottlenecks in the economy and implementing the National Development Plan. This will allow us to grow at a significantly higher growth rate.
Millions of South Africans want their country to succeed. We will continue to work with them to move South Africa forward. As we conclude the SONA 2015 debate we are reminded of the unfortunate incidents of last Thursday.
We all have a responsibility to make Parliament work. Parliament is a very important institution of democracy where the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all our people must find expression.
Whatever our views are about one another or political parties that we represent, we need to preserve the dignity of Parliament.
We must ensure that our people do not lose confidence in Parliament’s ability to discharge its important constitutional responsibility to produce legislation aimed at improving the quality of their lives. We also have a responsibility to promote the Constitution which is the blood and soul of our democracy.
I therefore would like to reaffirm government’s commitment to Clause 16 of the Constitution which includes freedoms of association, expression and the media. The security cluster has addressed and clarified matters relating to the signal distribution interference in the House last Thursday. It is an unfortunate incident and it should never happen again.
The national Netball Team, Amantombazana, will participate in the Netball World Cup in Australia in August this year. We wish them well and urge the nation to support them wholeheartedly. Let me also join the Minister of Arts and Culture in congratulating musician Wouter Kellerman who won the Grammy award for the best New Age album, last week at the Grammy Awards in the United States.
We remain firmly focused on building a united, non-racial, non-sexist democratic and prosperous South Africa. Let me close with the words of President Oliver Tambo uttered in 1991 at the first ANC conference after the unbanning.
“We did not tear ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them… Even in bleak moments, we were never in doubt regarding the winning of freedom. We have never been in doubt that the people`s cause shall triumph”.
Yinde lendlela esiyihambayo.
I thank you.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS