Statement at The Conclusion of The Debate on The State of The Nation Address, National Assembly, 14 February 2002

Madame Speaker,
Deputy President,
Honourable Members

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 for change."

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 for change.

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 Luvhengo."

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 days.

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 in Mafikeng.

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.

Madame Speaker,

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 and underdevelopment.

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 and underdevelopment.

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 economic empowerment.

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 public service.

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 Punt
'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!

Thank you.

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