Statement at The Conclusion of The Debate
on The State of The Nation Address, National Assembly,
14 February 2002
When we addressed the National Assembly on the occasion
of Budget Debate of the Presidency last year, we said:
" Since 1994, our parliament has considered various
White Papers and other policy initiatives and approved
hundreds of laws focussed on the creation of the policy
guidelines and the legislative framework that would
guide us as government in carrying through our process
of reconstruction and development...
" The Government is firmly of the view that, substantially,
we have elaborated the policy, legislative and constitutional
base that will enable us to achieve the transformation
of our country...Of course, there are a number of areas
that continue to receive attention as we seek to finalise
our policy and other positions...Work on these and other
issues will proceed apace...
" Accordingly, the central challenge we face as
Government is the task of implementation. The order
of the day is that we take all necessary measures to
ensure that the policy and legislative measures for
the reconstruction and development of our country that
have already been adopted, are further translated into
an actual process of the transformation of our society...
" To summarise the message we seek to communicate
to this House and to the country today, it is simply
this - let us get down to the serious business of work
- working together to create a new South Africa; working
together to build a country free of racism and sexism;
working together to end poverty, unemployment and the
social marginalisation of any of our people; working
together to give an example to the whole world, that,
as a people, we have the capacity to succeed, however
difficult the challenges we face. The order of the day
is to get down to the serious business of working together
Almost eight months later, when we spoke to the opening
of Parliament last Friday, we said:
" Of decisive importance to the millions of our
people and the future of our country, as we meet here
today, the central question we will have to answer at
the end of the day is whether what we are doing as the
legislature, the executive and the judiciary, as well
as the fourth estate and civil society, is helping to
lift from the shoulders of our people, the intolerable
burden of poverty and underdevelopment.
" This fourth opening session of our second democratic
parliament, including the debate that will take place
next week, must answer this question in a frank, honest
and forthright manner."
As we conclude the debate on the State of the Nation
Address, I would like to reiterate these two observations.
The first is that the order of the day is to get down
to the serious business of working together for change.
The second is that the central question we have to
answer is whether what we are doing is helping to lift
from the shoulders of our people, the intolerable burden
of poverty and underdevelopment.
What we reported to Parliament and the country on Friday
was precisely that the government had got down to the
serious business of work. The further programme of work
for the government this year, as indicated in that report,
will be carried out.
I am also very pleased to say that the masses of our
people have themselves responded very well to the call
to get down to the serious business of working together
During the debate, the Hon Douglas Gibson correctly
pointed out the need for all of us to inform the people
of their rights. These people have, in addition, also
understood their duties and obligations to themselves,
their families and the nation and demonstrated this
in many ways.
In the period since I addressed Parliament last week,
there has been a groundswell from ordinary South Africans,
all of them keen to lend a hand for a better life.
In a newspaper report of 11 February, we read that:
"Residents are getting their hands dirty in an
attempt to help curb crime in the country.... More than
500 residents, mostly unemployed, arrived at Moroka
police station on Friday armed with cleaning equipment.They
were joined by plain-clothed police officers in cleaning
up the station. And from today Soweto spokesperson Superintendent
Richard Luvhengo said the volunteers would be distributed
according to their expertise.
"Some [he said] would be taken for roadblocks
and others for patrolling.
"Some will join the police as they patrol the
Soweto area, some will do administrative work in offices
and some will join police who will be conducting roadblocks
and doing searches.
"We feel very proud about the support we are getting
from the community. It shows that the community have
their trust in us and they understand that together
we can curb the level of crime in the area," said
We must thank the people of this area for their hard
work. Such sterling efforts by the people of Soweto
have been complemented by similar initiatives that have
sprung up through the length and breadth of our country
after my State of the Nation Address.
In Kwazulu Natal in Nkaisane, the Primary Schools have
all been cleaned by the community.
In Ward 1 of the Mshwati Municipality, a farmer, Mr
Warner, has offered to electrify and put toilets in
all six schools in the municipality free of charge.
I am told that he has already completed this in one
school and is left with five.
In Bloemfontein, the Batho and Heidedal police stations
were painted and cleaned by the people of these areas
and on this Friday letsema goes to Welkom where there
will also be a march against crime.
In a police station called Breyten in Mpumalanga, 100
people have registered as reservists in the last few
In the Eastern Cape, the Breytbach community in King
Williams Town has started cleaning their primary schools
and in East London on the 9th February alone, about
400 people turned up at the Fleet Street Police Station
to assist as volunteers.
In the North West Province, in the village of Gopane,
members of the community have started moving around
unblocking toilets in schools in the area.
Yesterday, in the North West Province 42 young people
registered as reservists at the Lomanyaneng Police Station
Professionals have also responded in creative ways
to the call. I have been told for instance that one
professional woman auditor has donated funds to be used
for materials needed for the Letsema programme. I have
been also told about an IT specialist in Midrand who
is prepared to go anywhere in the country to assist
with IT problems at schools.
Let us unlock the dormant talent and experience in
our land and field our full team - retired people, working
people, the unemployed, youth, everyone - to lend a
hand for a better life.
These are only a few of many examples that we can be
proud of as South Africans, that enable us to say with
full confidence that our people are prepared to strengthen
their partnership with government to make a difference
and contribute in creative ways to improve their lives.
The Honourable Members of this House and their parties
will have to answer the question for themselves practically
as to whether they are part of the important process
and the popular movement of the constructive engagement
in the reconstruction and development of our country.
In this regard, I would like to express my appreciation
to those members of the House who have in fact already
joined in this campaign of letsema and vuk' uzenzele
and encourage them to sustain this involvement, as indicated
by the Chief Whip of the Majority Party. I would also
like to thank other Members who encouraged continued
involvement in the Volunteer Campaign and those, like
the Hon Mfundisi who spoke up about the need for us
to encourage a spirit of self-reliance among our people.
In the State of the Nation Address, we sought to focus
both parliament and our country as a whole on the critical
issue of the struggle against poverty and underdevelopment.
This is matter of central concern to many millions of
our people, characteristic of the people of the South
about whom the Hon Jeremy Cronin spoke.
Last Sunday, I was interviewed by the national broadcaster
on elements of the State of the Nation Address. In a
programme lasting three-quarters-of-an-hour, not a single
question was posed about this fundamental issue of poverty
It is difficult to tell whether this was a mere oversight
or whether it tells a story of lack of concern and a
dismissive attitude about a matter which, in reality
stands at the heart of the birth of the new society
we are trying to build.
I would like to thank the Hon Dowry and other members
who addressed this matter and assure them that we have
noted seriously the concerns they have expressed. These
include the Hon Members Rev Meshoe, Louis Green and
Pandelani Nofolovodhwe who raised the important questions
of the need to improve the quality of houses we provide
and the communities we seek to build.
I would also like to thank the Hon Members Prof Ripinga
and Langa Zitha for raising the important issue of science
and technology and its relevance to the struggle for
development and pushing back the frontiers of poverty
Under the leadership of the Hon Minister Ben Ngubane
and Deputy Minister Bridgitte Mabandla, the government
will undertake a comprehensive review of this important
sector to ensure that we correctly position and resource
science and technology, research and development as
a central driver the process of the modernisation of
our country and the creation of a better life for all.
Once more, the government has re-committed itself to
pursue the micro-economic programmes we announced last
year, including the necessary private and public sector
investment. Among other things, we will continue to
focus on the expansion and modernisation of our social
and economic infrastructure. I am convinced that the
forthcoming Growth Summit will make an important contribution
to these economic processes.
As we indicated on Friday, important new interventions
will also be made in the areas of micro-finance for
productive purposes, small and medium business and black
Furthermore, more progress will be made with regard
to the implementation of the integrated and sustainable
rural development and urban renewal programmes.
All these initiatives address the issues of economic
growth and development and job creation. Necessarily,
therefore, they are focused on the central question
of pushing back the frontiers of poverty and expanding
access to a better life.
In this regard, whatever the difficulties, the government
will do what it says it will do.
We have also said that we will do everything possible
to ensure that those entitled to receive social grants,
including the elderly, children and the disabled, receive
what is due to them. We will also focus on the issue
of the completion of the work concerned with the consideration
of a Comprehensive Social Security System.
In this connection, the government will also ensure
that the pensioners who did not obtain their pensions
because of delays in their registration also get what
is due to them. An additional appropriation of R2 billion
will therefore be made by the end of March this year
to provide for back payments to these elderly citizens.
I would like to thank the Hon Minister Buthelezi and
others who drew attention to the importance of the grants
for the poor and urge that all Members of the House
join in the campaign for the speedy registration of
those entitled to these grants.
With regard to the delayed pension payments, I must
make the point strongly that it is intolerable and unacceptable
that civil servants see it fit to act in a cruel and
irresponsible manner, such that sometimes it takes up
to two years for pensioners to be registered.
This is in direct contradiction of the letter and spirit
of batho pele and cannot be allowed to continue. Those
who do not want to serve the people should leave the
The special task team convened to examine all available
information on mortality and the burden of disease will
complete its work soon. This will assist the government
to conduct a proper review of its health policies and
ensure that all elements of its work that bear on the
health of our people are properly synchronised and coordinated.
This will also help greatly to focus correctly the
process we mentioned last Friday of our interaction
with the pharmaceutical industry to implement our agreement
with them to provide affordable drugs and medicines
and to strengthen our health infrastructure.
Once again, with regard to these and other matters
we mentioned on Friday, the government will do what
it says it will do.
As agreed with the traditional leaders, a White Paper
on the traditional system of government will be published
this year, among other things dealing with the issue
of the role and place of traditional leaders in our
democratic society. This will enable our country as
a whole to contribute to this important discussion and
the finalisation of all matters in this sphere.
I am pleased to say that we have agreed with the Chairperson
of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Nkosi
Mzimela, that he will undertake a special study of this
matter elsewhere on our continent to assist us in the
correct resolution of all outstanding issues.
Various members, including the Hon Pieter Mulder and
Cassie Aucamp called for continued attention to the
issue of the role and place of Afrikaners in our society.
Our own starting point on this matter is the position
explained by the Hon Advocate Dirk Bakker who said his
children are children of the new South Africa, that
Afrikaners belong to South Africa as much as anybody
else and that they are part of the solution and therefore
not part of any problem. It is as South Africans, who
share a common nationhood and destiny, that we have
to continue to address the issue of national reconciliation
and the building of a non-racial South Africa.
The Hon Minister Buthelezi called on all of us to be
really united to address our common challenges, while
recognising and respecting our diverse voices. Others,
like the Hon Marthinus van Schalkwyk spoke correctly
about the need for us to provide hope rather than promote
hopelessness. This challenge faces all of us. I trust
that all of us will respond positively to this constructive
leadership directed at building a better South Africa.
Urging us to start anew as one people, "to shiver
in the colour of human", the poet and writer Antjie
Krog has written:
"Hoe word jy heel
Hoe word jy vrygemaak in begrip
Hoe maak jy goed
Hoe sny jy skoon
Hoe na kan die tong tilt aan teerheid
Of die wang aan versoening
'n lyn wat se: van hier af
van die moment af
gaan dit anders klink
want al ons woorde le naas mekaar op die tafel
bibberend van die kleur van mens
ons weet nou mekaar
mekaar se kopvel en reuk, mekaar se bloed
ons weet die diepste geluide wat mekaar
se niere maak in die nag
ons is stadig mekaar
en hier begin dit"
Or as the Hon Sunklavathy Rajbally said - Siyaya!