Address on the Occasion Of Budget Vote 1, 18 June 2003

Madame Speaker,
The President of the Republic,
Honourable Members,
Special Guests in the Gallery,

Let me begin by expressing my very best wishes to the President on your Birthday.

Since we are of the same age, I know exactly what a wonderful feeling it is to enjoy maturity.

Madam Speaker, when we adopted our Constitution in 1996, we laid a firm foundation for a democratic and open South Africa, which belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and a government, based on the will of the people.

I am reminded of this Madam Speaker as next Thursday marks the 48th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter, which set out the vision of our democratic society.

As we celebrate 10 years of democracy in April next year, we will do so with great enthusiasm given how far we have travelled in pursuit of our goals. The restoration of human dignity and freedom to all our people is an achievement we should all treasure.

We now have stable democracy, a growing economy and peace and stability. Most importantly, access to a better life and the provision of basic needs is being expanded day by day to citizens.

As a nation, we have also perfected the art of working together and forming partnerships to deal with any challenge, be it social, economic or political. These partnerships are a recipe for continued success.

With regard to Parliament, we have achieved a lot in nine years, Madam Speaker. If we look, in particular at the accountability of the executive to Parliament, we will see that things are remarkably different, compared to what they were before the advent of democracy.

I see a Parliament that performs effective oversight - whether through interacting with Ministers or officials in committees, or outside Parliament looking at how laws and policies are being implemented.

Parliament subjects legislation introduced by the executive to extensive scrutiny and in most cases, amends the Bills before it. It also holds the Executive to account in the form of, amongst other things, Parliamentary Questions and budget votes.

This very budget vote on the Presidency comes at the end of an extensive and thorough process of an examination of the work and budgets of all the government departments. I am told that in the National Assembly alone, 78 hours and 34 minutes were spent in plenary debating the different budget votes.

This excludes the time spent in the National Council of Provinces or the extensive work done in the Portfolio or Select Committees in considering the budget. Truly, we have a system of government in which the People really Govern!

This does not mean that there is no room for improvement. I am therefore encouraged by the work that Parliament has done, in examining how it should implement the concepts of oversight and accountability. I look forward to a finalisation of that process.

Madam speaker, I believe that in affirming the type of government we are developing, we need to move away from the notion that accountability and oversight can best be performed by an opposition that has to be unnecessarily antagonistic to the executive.

What is required is an opposition that is constructive in its engagement with the executive and which will help us build this country. We need to see executive accountability and Parliamentary oversight as a partnership that is aimed at leading to improved government for our citizens.

The new system of members' statements at the end of which Ministers have the chance to respond has added a new dynamic dimension to the interaction between the Executive and Parliament.

I am aware that the system of Questions still needs to be refined, but it is fair to say that the system we have gives an opportunity to all parties to ask the executive whatever questions they want to, regardless of their size.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the number of unanswered questions has substantially decreased from the levels seen earlier in the life of this Parliament.

The executive remains aware of the need to ensure that all questions are answered at the end of each year.

I believe we have to constantly re-evaluate the effectiveness of Parliamentary Questions, and see how in the spirit of parliamentary oversight and executive accountability, the system can be improved.

I have no doubt that in the second decade of our freedom, this dynamic and vibrant House will continue to grow from strength to strength. Madam Speaker, as said earlier, the thread of partnership runs right through our activities as a nation, even more so with regards to rebuilding the moral fibre of our society.

The Moral Regeneration Movement, a partnership between government and civil society, has been leading the national moral renewal effort, since its launch in April last year. We are delighted with the progress made so far.

In line with the holistic and inter-sectoral approach of the MRM, moral regeneration has become integral to the work of government departments.

Some of the programmes implemented by government include amongst others:

Social Development: the promotion of a caring society, building stronger family structures, and encouraging respect and assistance for the vulnerable members of our society.
Correctional Services: the rehabilitation programmes for prisoners.
Arts and Culture: The Ingoma Choral Project as well as a wide range of initiatives of promoting values through music, theatre and other disciplines.
Health: promoting a healthy nation and care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis and other illnesses through the Khomanani - Caring together HIV/AIDS programme.
Communications Department: encouraging debate about the role that the broadcast media and advertising industry can play in building a new value system - free of violence, stereotypes and other negative influences.
Safety and Security: promoting and strengthening partnerships with communities in building safer neighbourhoods.
Justice: mobilizing the community against violence directed at women and children and strengthening the courts to deal with such cases.
Education: The Values in Education Project, promoting good values from an early age.
Public Service and Administration: promoting Batho Pele principles within the Public Service.
Foreign Affairs: promoting the regeneration of Africa.
The Moral Regeneration Movement is also working with other national initiatives, for example, with the Freedom Park Trust in cleansing and healing ceremonies that seek to symbolically repair the soul of the nation.

These will assist the nation to come to terms with the legacy of the colonial and apartheid systems, Genocide, Slavery, Wars of Resistance and the struggles for liberation. The government is leading this process to deepen reconciliation and national unity.

Three such ceremonies have been held already, in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Mpumalanga provinces. This countrywide process will culminate with national events on the Day of Reconciliation, December 16th.

The MRM is also collaborating with the South African Chapter of the African Renaissance and the Indigenous Knowledge Systems of South Africa in linking moral regeneration with the indigenous knowledge project.

Madam Speaker, I have been heartened by renewal programmes that individuals and various groups have initiated. I am sure many in the country have been moved by the campaign against the abuse of women and children, by the group called "Isililo: a Mother's Cry" led by among others our renowned opera and Afro-jazz performer Sibongile Khumalo.

Isililo was formed as a result of the brutal rape and murder of six-year-old Lerato from Alexandra last year. Its objective is to remind women - mothers in particular - that they must play a major role in providing the moral fibre that holds families and communities together.

Another noteworthy initiative is the establishment of the Makeba Centre for Girls by our Goodwill Ambassador, Miriam Makeba.

Madam Speaker, the broadcast media often gets criticised for espousing what is seen as negative influences in programming.

We must therefore acknowledge the positive influence of programmes such as "All You Need is Love" on SABC 1, which promotes the strengthening of families, as the rock upon which our communities are founded. I hope there are more such programmes being planned.

Madam Speaker, we will run out of time if I were to enumerate all the various initiatives and programmes undertaken by South Africans to achieve moral renewal. We encourage all initiatives of this nature. They give us hope.

Honourable Members, we are most effective when working together in partnerships when facing challenges, especially those of the magnitude of HIV/AIDS. As we all know, there is still no cure for AIDS, and it is our belief that our response to the HIV-AIDS epidemic must be holistic.

Our Five Year Strategic Plan takes this into account, and focuses on prevention, treatment, care, support and research. Although challenges remain, we are beginning to see good results, as outlined recently by the Minister of Health in both this House and the National Council of Provinces.

Having engaged various stakeholders as Chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, (SANAC), I strongly believe that we have national consensus on the national Strategic Plan for HIV/Aids.

We may have some difference in emphasis with regards to implementation, by one or two sectors, but we are all agreed on the need for a holistic response, as enunciated in the national plan. It therefore becomes crucial that we engage each other regularly and work together as various sectors to harmonise our response.

SANAC is fulfilling this role. It has completed its restructuring and has become more representative of various sectors.

The new membership of SANAC includes representatives of Labour, the faith based sector, South African Business Coalition Against HIV and Aids, Hospitality sector, Traditional Leadership, Traditional Healers, People Living with Aids, Sport, Disability, Men's Forum, NGOs, Human and Legal Rights Sector, local government, higher education, financial institutions, Women and the Youth sector. The inaugural meeting of the new Council is scheduled to take place next month. The task ahead of us remains huge, and it is important that we focus all our energies on an effective response to the epidemic.

Madam Speaker, we believe in the need to address the root causes of conflicts and the promotion of lasting peace and sustainable development in Africa, as part of the regeneration of the continent.

We are, as members are aware, involved in a number of peace initiatives in the continent including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Ethiopia/Eritrea and others, as the President has outlined.

As I have previously reported to this House, Burundi is finally experiencing a real possibility of peace after decades of turmoil.

The peace process is on track and the changeover of power at presidential level in April indicated once again the resolve of the Barundi to move forward.

The African Mission in Burundi is also making good progress in its mission of monitoring and assisting in the implementation of the ceasefire agreements.

The preparation for the Disarmament Demobilisation and Re-Integration of former combatants of the various armed groups is in progress. Restricting combatants to assembly points is critical in preventing ceasefire violations.

The commitment displayed by the Barundi make us confident that the second phase of the transition will go smoothly, leading to democratic elections in just over a year.

Madame Speaker, this year has also seen us making progress in promoting multilingualism. As Honourable Members are aware, the National Language policy framework was launched late last year. As a follow up, a well-attended Consultative Conference was held on the 12th of June, focusing on implementation. We await the final report so that we can move this process forward with urgency. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the further development and enhancement of our indigenous languages.

Madam Speaker, I said in the beginning of my address that in the nine years of democracy, we have much to be proud of. We have moved a long way to forge a common nationhood, and all South Africans have good reason to be confident about the bright future of this country.

We are pleased to see the optimism of the youth. The South African Reconciliation Barometer has found, in results from an October 2002 national survey, that eight out of ten youths are confident of a happy future for all racial groups in South Africa.

Madame Speaker, there are many other reasons why we can boldly proclaim that we are proud to be South Africans. For example, over the last two years we have been privileged to host two United Nations Conferences - on Racism in Durban in 2001, and on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. We also hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup. The success of these events further proved the technical prowess of our country. As members are aware, we are competing with four other African countries for the right to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup. We are confident of success and are aware of the enthusiastic support of all South Africans for the Bid.

Certainly, the situation has changed for the better since 1994, and continues to change!

We have come this far, and triumphed over adversity because we were able to put our country first, and because we continue to work together to build a better South Africa. As we move towards the second decade of freedom, let us continue to consolidate the gains we have made.

We will succeed as we have a clear vision of the kind of society we are building together. Yes, the situation has changed for the better, and will continue to change.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa