Address at the Paris City Hall, 18 November
Your Worship, Mayor Bertrand Delanoe,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to meet with the Mayor of the great city
of Paris, a city whose rich history, cultural splendour
and architectural beauty has inspired so many generations
of poets, artists, writers and thinkers.
My delegation and I thank you for your kind invitation
and we bring you warmest greetings from the people of
It is furthermore a pleasure to visit this magnificent
City Hall, the site of many great events in the history
These hallowed halls witnessed the liberation of Paris
from Nazi occupation on 25 August 1944.
Your worship, our country too has lived through momentous
events in its recent history. And as we prepare to celebrate
10 years of democracy in South Africa next year, we
stand back to look with pride at what we have achieved
and to contemplate the task ahead.
Since the dawn of freedom in South Africa, our greatest
achievement has undoubtedly been the creation of a non-racial,
non-sexist democratic state, at peace with itself, its
neighbours and the world. A state in which the rule
of law prevails, in which human rights are valued and
protected and in which freedom and dignity are deeply
treasured and defended. Our people chose a peaceful
transition and reconciliation over the futility of war,
revenge and retribution.
Ten years ago, we set ourselves the task of creating
a better life for all South Africans. Apartheid had
left a devastating legacy of vast inequalities in wealth,
opportunity and human development. The new democratic
government implemented the Reconstruction and Development
Programme (RDP), a framework within which we sought
to meet the basic needs of our people, build the national
economy, democratise the state and society, develop
our human resources and set our country on the road
to true nationhood.
In evaluating our progress, one of the key benchmarks
must be the effective delivery of essential services
to South Africans. Since 1994, state spending has been
significantly increased in sectors such as education,
health and social development. Driven by the twin imperatives
of urban renewal and rural development, South Africa
has in the past 10 years built more than 1,5 million
houses; connected nine million households to clean drinking
water; brought electricity to 80% of homes nationally;
provided free primary health care to women and children
under six and facilitated the transfer of more than
two million hectares of land through land restitution
Your worship, it is at the local government level that
service delivery can be most effective and productive,
as France, with its strong tradition of municipal government,
can undoubtedly testify.
In South Africa, local government has been significantly
restructured and municipal boundaries inherited from
the apartheid era have been redrawn to reintegrate our
cities and towns. The total allocation to local government
from the national budget has risen steadily to provide
resources to ensure effective delivery.
Many of our municipalities have demonstrated an impressive
track record in this regard, but we must frankly acknowledge
that there are still serious deficits in technical and
human resource capacity which inhibit our ability to
deliver a better life to our people.
It is for this reason, Your Worship, that I warmly
welcome your remarks about the opportunities for cooperation
between Paris and Johannesburg, particularly in the
areas of water and sanitation. I also welcome the willingness
of French regions, departments and municipalities to
undertake programmes of decentralised cooperation with
South Africa's provinces, cities and towns. These longstanding
partnerships, we are sure, will be of great mutual benefit.
Your worship, South Africa gained immensely from the
support, cooperation and solidarity of the French people
during the struggle against apartheid. New challenges
now face our country and its people and I am confident
that we will again be able to count on your support
as we build our young democracy and work to improve
the lives of South Africans.
Maxim Gorky, the Russian playwright and novelist, writes
that cities are a prayer to the future.
The future growth and improvement of Paris and the future
growth and improvement of our cities, working together,
constitute our common prayer to a better future.
We are inspired to have the Parisians as our partners.
I thank you.