Madam Speaker,
The President of the Republic of South Africa,
Honourable Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen

We have just begun the third year of our current democratic government, and are nearing the end of a very intensive session of Parliament. One of the issues that has increasingly come to the fore in our recent debates in this Chamber has been the relationship between the Executive and Parliament.

Our Constitution provides for the accountability of the Executive to Parliament and the need for parliamentary oversight over the Executive. However, ours is a new democracy. Our internationally acclaimed Constitution is barely five years old and we cannot expect all issues to be absolutely and totally defined within such a short space of time.

We are still in the transformation phase, and whilst the principles are clear, we need to accept that it will take some time for us to develop a common understanding of the system, given our different political backgrounds.

The understanding of some of our colleagues in this Chamber is that the accountability of the Executive to Parliament means that the Executive cannot point out shortcomings in the oversight work conducted by Parliament or be critical of the manner in which it has been done. There is also a perception that the Executive does not fully appreciate this necessary role of Parliament.

I really believe that people who hold such concerns misunderstand the nature of our democracy. No sphere of government is infallible, and if mistakes are made, it is entirely within the rights of other spheres and levels of power to point this out. This may lead to tensions, but there is no reason why such interaction should not be healthy in a vibrant democracy.

Whilst our parliamentary legacy may have a number of features of the Westminster system, it is important that we respect the uniqueness of our own South African political dispensation. Our Constitution was forged out of many long years of oppression and struggle, and was further influenced by the nature of the final political settlement.

We value and cherish this democracy as we sacrificed for it through our blood and our sweat. I would therefore like to assure members of this House, that the Executive has no intention of undermining Parliament. If anything, this Executive will fight anyone who tries to undermine this provision.

Madam Speaker, as Leader of Government Business, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that legislation arrives from the executive in a co-ordinated manner. The legislative programmes of Ministries arise from the decisions of the relevant Cabinet Committees and ultimately Cabinet.

At the beginning of each year, Ministers indicate the Bills that are scheduled to come before Parliament and the dates by which this is likely to happen. The complexity of many of the pieces of legislation and the rigour of the consultation process, sometimes throws the timetable out. However, if Bills do not meet the deadlines set by Parliament, requests for fast tracking are not sympathetically received. This is done to ensure the smooth running of the legislative programme.

Honourable members will note that only one Bill has been fast tracked this year, namely the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill, which was fast tracked yesterday. It did not arise from the Executive, but from one of the portfolio committees of Parliament.

Members will also recall that in the first few years of our democracy, Parliament was extremely busy in assisting with the development of policy and the passing of legislation. We passed 534 bills in the first five years. In this, the second democratic Parliament, the pace of legislation has to some extent slowed down.

To date we have passed 101 bills. I hope that Parliament can use the additional time that this provides to ensure proper oversight over the work of the Executive.

Committees of Parliament should not just sit when there are Bills to consider, but should receive regular reports from Ministers and their Departments regarding the implementation of legislation; any problems that may be experienced in this regard, as well as the execution of departmental programmes.

An assessment of the success of these programmes should not just be based on the reports given to the relevant portfolio committee. It should also focus on first hand experiences - either by the committee conducting on the ground assessments, or by individual Members of Parliament as part of their constituency work. The people of South Africa expect Parliament to be the paramount forum for debating matters of national importance. We have had a certain number of such debates.

I believe, however, that the content of these debates has not focused adequately on the programme of action that we should be following as members of this House in addressing these matters of national importance.

Madam Speaker, I would also like to address the House on the issue of clean governance. From 1994 we have made it clear that we will not tolerate corruption. Having said this, the problem needs to be contextualised. The causes of corruption are complex, and are rooted in the specific historical, social, political and economic conditions of our society.

In essence, apartheid distorted good value systems and brought about a culture whereby the respect for human rights, life and property were drastically diminished.

When I addressed this House on 31 October last year, I called upon all parties represented here to give the issue of moral regeneration their urgent attention, and to make it a priority in their constituencies.

I further said that we needed to mobilize all sectors of our society to work jointly with us to eradicate moral decay. I would like to repeat this call today and urge political parties to prioritise this important matter.

I am happy Madam Speaker, to report that this fight was taken a step further last Friday when the National Anti-Corruption Forum was launched at Langa Township, here in Cape Town.

This was an important sequel to the National Anti-Corruption Summit of April 1999, where government, through the Public Service Commission, established a National Anti-Corruption Cross-Sectoral Task Team to take forward the implementation of the Summit resolutions.

The Forum was established to advise on, and co-ordinate the implementation of sectoral strategies for the prevention and combating of corruption. It includes representatives from government, labour, business and civil society.

In addition, the transparency and accountability that has accompanied the new democratic order has created conditions where corruption can be more easily detected.

Madam Speaker, it is not just the health of the spirit that we are concerned about, - the physical health of our people is also important.

It is in this context that the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), was launched, to co-ordinate efforts in the fight against AIDS. We did this guided by the knowledge that our health response should be holistic, and focus on all elements that perpetuate the pandemic.

In a new development, this year, SANAC has embarked on an outreach programme, where we aim to have our monthly meetings in different provinces. In this way, SANAC members representing different sectors are able to interact with the various provincial and local anti-HIV/AIDS community initiatives and programmes. These meetings also give SANAC members an opportunity to get first hand experience of the HIV/AIDS situation at local levels.

A programme of sector summits is being implemented together with the provincial and community outreach programme. Already ten such summits involving more than 1 500 people have taken place in the first half of the year. More are planned. The sectors participating include labour, disabled persons, the hospitality industry, youth, women, traditional leaders, celebrities, business, traditional healers and people living with HIV/AIDS.

On the research front, the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative is, working with international partners, in search of a safe and effective AIDS vaccine. Currently, two hundred and fifty South African scientists are collaborating with one hundred and twenty of their international counterparts on this project.

Madam Speaker, we have also continued with our programme of international engagements over the past year, aimed at strengthening our bilateral and multilateral relations. In doing so, we are guided by our belief that sustainable development in South Africa cannot take place in isolation from developments within the continent. That is why our trade and industrial policy is closely co-ordinated with foreign policy - an integrated effort in which The Presidency plays a leading role. We believe significant progress has been made in international affairs, and that South Africans should be proud of the manner in which our country has graduated from being an apartheid outcast to a serious player within only seven years.

Credit for this must go to our President who has worked tirelessly in fulfilling a promise made to the electorate, that we would actively contribute to creating a better country, continent and world, thereby fully integrating our country into the community of nations.

The South Africa-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC) has yielded results at both political and economic levels. Through the BNC, the two largest and most powerful economies on the continent are enhancing their co-operation. A number of South African businesses have already benefited from the improved relationship between our countries.

Strengthening of bilateral relationships with important trading partners such as Germany also remains high on our agenda. Early next month, the Binational Commission with Germany will meet in Berlin on the 2nd to the 3rd of July. Good relations have also been established between several South African provinces and German federal states.

Madam speaker, returning to the continent, we are also mindful of the fact that there cannot be true African recovery without peace and stability. That is why we are involved in peace initiatives in the Great Lakes Region. We have, over the past few months, been assisting former President Mandela in working towards peace in Burundi.

It is not an easy process but we are hoping to reach a solution soon, so that the Burundians can begin the process of rebuilding their country.

I must stress, Madam Speaker, that we have, during our foreign visits, been humbled and inspired by the manner in which our country is regarded. We are seen as an example to the whole world; that any political conflict can be resolved.

We have also been told that we carry the moral authority to intervene in many of these conflicts. This was illustrated to me during my recent visit to Colombia when their government requested us not only to share our experiences of negotiation, but also to assist them in their efforts to bring about peace with the guerilla movements opposing them.

This shows how seriously we are taken by the world, Madam Speaker. The challenge we face as elected representatives, is to spread the message to our people that there is a lot that they should be proud of about their country.

This pride also arises from the fact that we have, over many decades, stressed our commitment to ensuring that this country becomes a non-racist, non-sexist democracy. This has been demonstrated by the very nature of our struggle, which was all-inclusive and open to all South Africans who wanted to make our country a better place to live in.

Members will also recall that the principle of reconciliation was a common thread that held together all those participating in the negotiation process in the country. It was further demonstrated in the manner in which the interim constitution was crafted, particularly with regard to the constitutional imperative to establish the Government of National Unity.

The long and demanding process of multiparty political negotiations, and the establishment of oversight institutions, make us confident that our hard won democracy is solid and sustainable.

Madam Speaker, this principle and commitment to reconciliation is still a common thread that guides our task of building a new nation. We remain steadfast in our pursuit of reconciliation. With the upcoming United Nations third World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, we as South Africans, have a tremendous amount to offer the world in sharing our unique experiences.

Overcoming apartheid was truly a demonstration of the triumph of the human spirit. That spirit lives on in our people, and sees us through times of great adversity.

That resilience, which has become the trademark of South Africans also inspires us to be tremendously creative and innovative as we work towards forging a common nationhood and pride, and developing a new South African patriotism.

Madam Speaker, we have taken these first tentative steps, but more needs to be done with the challenges ahead of us. In doing so, we need to remind ourselves how we triumphed over what the world thought was impossible.

Hand in hand we crossed that great divide, never allowing the other to falter, and making sure all reached the other side - not unscathed by history, but whole enough to take on the immense challenges which faced us as a country above party political considerations. On that journey, we understood the depth of the economic, political and social challenges we would face on the other side, as we sought to reconstruct this beloved country of ours.

Our coat of arms with its motto of unity in diversity, is a reminder to all of us that we should all embrace the positive and good that exist amongst ourselves in our fundamental task of building a new nation. In this process we should not forget about the challenges, but tackle them boldly and jointly.

This will ultimately result in all of us taking pride in our South African-nes, develop and strengthen the common elements of a South African nationhood and sense of patriotism.

There is a groundswell of South Africans that is convinced, as I am, that what binds us as South Africans is far more powerful than that which may divide us.

We are convinced and know that us a new nation we are one and we share the thread of a common destiny.

Let us nurture our young democracy, allow it to grow and come of age; keeping its central spirit strong; giving it confidence in its ability to excel, and cherishing its many positive attributes. This is the approach I advocate. I therefore call upon all South Africans to work together in ensuring that our ideals of a non-racist and non-sexist democracy are realised.

I thank you.

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