Pretoria: The Presidency has expressed “disappointment and surprise” at what it calls “the hysteria by some sections of the media” in response to statements made by President Jacob Zuma during the special national conference of the South African Local Government Association in Midrand on Monday.
The Presidency on Tuesday said it stood by Zuma’s assertions that South Africa had made exceptional achievements in the 18 years of freedom and democracy, and that apartheid was to blame for the backlogs and the social ills that South Africa has to reverse.
“Both statements made by the President are factual. The President stands by every word and will repeat what he said at any given time. South Africa should not be forced into amnesia with regards to the experiences of the past, and the President will not be party to the apartheid denialism that is being promoted.
“South Africa has gone through about three centuries of colonialism and decades of apartheid, during which there was a systematic and deliberate underdevelopment of the majority socially, economically and politically.
“The transformation programmes of government since 1994 have been aimed at reversing the impact of colonialism as well as apartheid, which was declared a crime against humanity,” said the Presidency in a statement.
The President said there was almost no local government system for black people before 1994, and no investment had been made in ensuring the economic or social viability of black residential areas before 1994.
In his address to the Salga conference, Zuma noted that most communities felt leaders and officials in government did not engage them about service delivery and did not explain where the problems were with regards to the delivery of much-needed services.
“Having said so, the President in his address at Salga went on to speak out against some ills in local government such as bad financial management and the distance between the people and government… In the absence of information, people become frustrated and use protests as a means of communicating with government, which is wrong. Corruption is another point raised by the President as needing attention, amongst many others,” said the high office.
The Presidency acknowledged that there were some challenges in local government that must be attended to.
“At the same time, we cannot erase the fact that at the source of all this underdevelopment is a deliberate system of dehumanisation that was in place for decades, and that the democratic administration faces the mammoth task of reversing the impact,” said the Presidency.
Achievements of government
As part of its response, the Presidency listed the following as achievements since the dawn of democracy.
peace, stability and democracy.
A Constitution which guarantees human rights for all, the right to a minimum standard of life, including the right to access health, education, social security, food and water;
The right of all people to elect a government of their choice in regular, free and fair elections in a multi-party democracy;
Mobilisation of our people to actively take part in decision-making processes that affect their lives;
an independent judiciary and freedom of expression;
Equality and freedom from discrimination on racial, gender or any other ground;
Workers’ rights, collective bargaining, freedom of association; and Socio-economic achievements
Over two and half million houses have been built for the poor giving shelter to over 10 million people.
Six million households have gained access to clean water since 1994 and electricity has been connected to nearly five million homes.
In 1994, only 62% of households had access to clean drinking water, today 93% do.
In 1994, only 50% of households had access to decent sanitation, today 77% do.
In 1994, only 36% of South Africans had access to electricity – today 84% do. Today the majority of our people are provided free basic services in water and electricity.
By 2010, close to 15 million people were receiving social grants. Of those, nine point five million are children aged under 14 years, compared with just 2.4 million in 1996.
This has contributed immensely to reducing poverty levels in many households
Our programmes have opened the doors of learning. More than eight million children at primary and secondary schools benefit from school-feeding schemes.
We have offered more opportunities for the children of the poor. Student loans are now being converted into bursaries for qualifying final-year students.
Students in further education and training colleges who qualify for financial aid are now exempted from paying fees.
Crime statistics show a decrease in most crimes, including armed robberies, housebreakings and contact crimes. The murder rate, for example, has declined by 8,6% in 2010.
Through the implementation of the major infrastructure programme over the years, government has helped create jobs and protected our communities from the worst effects of the global economic crisis, the Presidency added.
To date, R800 billion is being invested in infrastructure programmes that will change the socio-economic landscape of the country, building dams, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and two universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga.
The President leads the programme through the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.
However, the Presidency said more needed to be done.
“The President and government in general never fail to point out that much more still needs to be done. The legacy of colonialism and apartheid cannot be reversed in only 18 years. That is impossible. But more is done each day to bring about a better life.”
It also said efforts were well underway to improve the performance of government.
“That is why President Zuma instituted the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in his office, so that he can keep track of progress and intervene where necessary. That is also why he visits so many communities to undertake hands-on monitoring of service delivery,” said the statement.
“The President is pleased with the progress made, and will continue leading government to improve the quality of life of all.