Response of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, to the
Debate on the Budget Vote of the Presidency: National Assembly, 13 June 2007
Speaker and Deputy Speaker,
Honourable Deputy President,
Apart from the President, the Deputy President and the Minister
in the Presidency, 25 Honourable Members participated in yesterday's debate on
the Budget of the Presidency. I would like to thank all the Members for the support
they expressed for our Budget, and the constructive proposals they made to improve
the functioning of government.
Apart from anything else this emphasised
the need for the Presidency, and the President in particular, at all times to
be conscious of his or her responsibility and accountability to all our people
without discrimination or partisan considerations, consistent with the prescripts
contained in our Constitution.
I would like to believe that in this context
we all heard and agreed with the appeal made by the Hon Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi
concerning the need for all of us to respect the Office of the President. I presume
that Parliament will give itself time to consider whether the route he proposes
to address this matter is correct and therefore examine his Private Member's Bill.
However, whatever the outcome of that process, I do believe that he was indeed
correct, as he has been in the past, once again to put on our agenda the vital
issue of respect for the institutions of state as provided for in our Constitution,
including the Presidency of the Republic.
I must say that I was also very
encouraged by what seemed to be a great deal of consensus among the parties represented
in this House about the challenges we face, and the need for all of us to respond
to these challenges in a manner intended to build the kind of South Africa prescribed
by our Constitution.
On many occasions in the past I have tried to communicate
the message that the most fundamental and historic problems facing our country
and people should be a matter of common concern, transcending the partisan boundaries
that separate us.
Among these are the tasks of:
- building a non-racial
and non-sexist society
- promoting national reconciliation, social cohesion,
a shared national identity and inspiring our people with a feeling of hope
that we develop our economy to end poverty and guarantee a more equitable distribution
- building a government machinery that responds adequately to
the challenge of service delivery and,
- placing South Africa among those
countries on our continent and the rest of the world that fight for peace, democracy,
human rights, tolerance, equality and mutually beneficial cooperation among the
During yesterday's debate I gained the impression that by
and large and if nothing else, at least we had indeed come to understand that
all these are common challenges, even if our responses to them might differ.
the mere fact of recognising that these are problems we must all address together
lays the basis for us to engage one another in constructive debate to see whether
we could develop a national consensus about what needs to be done to change our
country for the better.
Once again, I would like to thank the Honourable
members for their interventions yesterday, which may indeed take us some distance
away from our endless fractious debates to equally vigorous engagement in pursuit
of common national goals, but, of course, without losing our individual party
In this sense the Honourable Members did respond to the plea
made by the Hon Craig Morkel when he suggested that we should replace the word
"Opposition" with the words "Non-Governing Party", citing
the Hon Dr Buthelezi when he said, "The word 'opposition' itself is loaded
with gladiatorial connotations. Confrontation is inferred. Seizing the initiative
often means waiting for the government to stumble or exposing some scandal or
Happily, yesterday, it did seem that, again by and
large, we came into the House without our gladiatorial armour and weaponry.
Hon Mdlalose pointed all of us in the right direction when she quoted from Sandile
Dikeni's poem, "A Love Poem for my Country", as follows:
Feel the millions
See their passion
Their hands are joined
There is hope in their eyes
We shall celebrate
everything I have said, some comments made by the Hon Stanley Simmons and the
Hon Sandra Botha perhaps correctly brought us face to face with the hard reality
we have to deal with, of perceptions we have to confront, centred around what
the Hon Leader of the Official Opposition denounced as "racial nationalism".
Because of the important issues the two Honourable Members raised, I would like
to deal with these two instances in some detail.
The Hon Simmons accused
the Hon Minister Membathisi Mdladlana of making a racist remark directed against
the Coloured people. The Hon Minister is not with us today as he is attending
the annual International Labour Conference in Geneva. I will find occasion when
he is in the House to address the grave accusation against him made by the Hon
The Hon Simmons also criticised my Parliamentary Counsellor, the
Hon John Jeffery. In this regard the Hon Simmons said that in response to his
request "for an opportunity to discuss this issue (of a sense of belonging)
around Brown people", my Parliamentary Counsellor had said "no one is
fit to discuss the issue of coloured people".
Because of the seriousness
of these assertions, I consulted the Hon Jeffery about what exactly had happened.
He confirmed that indeed the Hon Simmons had requested to meet the President to
discuss "concerns experienced amongst coloured people of being marginalised
(sidelined) in the greater South African context".
The Hon Jeffery
then inquired whether this would be a delegation of the United Party of South
Africa (UPSA), arguing that no single political party, including the UPSA, could
claim to represent and speak for the Coloured people. According to the Hon Jeffery,
the Hon Simmons said he was speaking of a non-partisan delegation and mentioned
some of the people who would be in the delegation, all of whom are among our leading
He undertook to speak to these, constitute the non-partisan delegation
and revert back to my Parliamentary Counsellor. This has not happened.
Hon Jeffery still expects the Hon Simmons to come back to him so that he take
the necessary steps to arrange the meeting with the President requested by the
Hon Simmons. I would like to assure the Hon Simmons that the Hon John Jeffery
and I have agreed that I should meet the Simmons delegation whenever it is ready
There is a rule of simple logic which says, two diametrically
opposed statements about the same thing cannot both be correct. I must assume
that the account I have just given represents what is sometimes described as a
breakdown in communication, rather than an example of bad faith or misrepresentation
of the truth.
However I must, at the same time, make the point that the
story also tells us something about the persistence of the issue of racism in
our minds and social reality, which resulted in conclusions being arrived at,
that what was said in good faith in fact constituted a manifestation of vile racism.
Consistent with this frame of mind, the Hon Simmons said yesterday that,
"The United Party of South Africa subsequently came to the conclusion that
the Honourable President concurs with the Honourable Minister of Labour's (racist)
sentiment, putting a question mark behind the sincerity of the Honourable President's
calls for cohesion."
The best I can do in these circumstances is to
assure the Hon Simmons that the President has been involved in the organised and
conscious struggle against racism in our country for over 50 years, and assume
that he and the United Party of South Africa reached the conclusion he announced
yesterday about the anti-racist credentials of the President once again because
of a breakdown in communication.
I am more than ready to meet the non-partisan
Coloured or brown delegation he has presumably gathered, whenever he indicates
to the Hon John Jeffery that the delegation is ready to meet us. I wish the Hon
Simmons success in his work to constitute the delegation, and will formally inform
the House once the requested meeting has taken place.
For her part, the
Hon Leader of the Official Opposition said:
"Here, Mr President, are
two latest examples of how the policies of racial nationalism divide our people
and compromise service delivery.
"Just two weeks ago, the choices
for three top medical posts at two Western Cape Hospitals were rejected by the
Provincial Health department. Why? Because the candidates chosen by the institutions
involved were white.
"The result is a double loss to South Africa,
because one of the candidates has given up hope and is now going - as it were
- into voluntary exile in Australia. This, while disadvantaged South Africans
dependent on the hospitals in question are having to wait longer to get the treatment
they need, because the posts are now empty.
"I cannot, for a moment,
believe that is the intentional outcome of what you would like to achieve. But
it is the outcome and, Mr President, you must take responsibility for it."
First of all I must express my appreciation for the remark made by the
Hon Leader of the Official Opposition that I would not intentionally seek to deny
our people adequate healthcare, as indeed I never would.
Secondly, I must
assume that the Hon Sandra Botha said what she said in good faith, because she
and the DA do care about the welfare of all our people.
Thirdly, I must
presume that the Hon Leader of the Official Opposition based her comments on media
reports and not any noxious concoction of fabrications brewed in the think tanks
of the DA.
The specific media report to which I refer is an article that
was published in the June 3, 2007 edition of the Sunday Times, under the heading
"Race quotas cripple hospitals", with the subtitle "Surgery cancelled
as province insists on hiring nonexistent black doctors".
as the Hon Sandra Botha said, this article does state that the Western Cape Provincial
Health authorities refused to appoint three white doctors to senior positions,
that one of these has decided to emigrate to Australia, and that patients have
to wait for long periods for treatment, because of the imposition of racial quotas.
Again because these, like those made by the Hon Stanley Simmons, are very
serious allegations made by an elected representative of our people, I thought
it was my responsibility to investigate what the Hon Sandra Botha said, in order
immediately to correct what was evidently an eminently unacceptable outcome of
our policies to build a non-racial society.
I would like to inform the
Hon Leader of the Official Opposition and the House that the Sunday Times report,
on which the Hon Sandra Botha based her comments, is entirely false. To repeat
- the Sunday Times report, on which the Hon Sandra Botha based her comments, is
Here are the facts. In 2005 the Western Cape health authorities
published an advertisement requesting applications to fill the post of Principal
Specialist (Anaesthesiology and Critical Care) tenable at Tygerberg Hospital.
Three people applied, but one decided to withdraw before the interviews were conducted.
It was then decided to re-advertise the post in the hope that this would
attract a larger number of applicants. Again only three people applied.
was therefore resolved to consider whether these applicants met some particular
requirements, despite the evidently poor response to the advertisement. Principal
among these requirements was the consideration whether the applicants were registered
with the Health Professions Council of South Africa as Specialist Anaesthesiologists
with experience in all areas of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care. On this basis
it was decided to interview all three applicants, all of whom are white.
two of them withdrew their applications before they were interviewed. The interviewing
panel then went ahead to interview the one remaining applicant, the determination
having been made that the obligation to provide healthcare to our people required
that the post should be filled without further delay.
I am certain that
the Western Cape will shortly make an announcement in this regard, based on the
recommendation of the interviewing panel. I trust that the Hon Leader of the Opposition
and the House will accept that all of us must await the announcement of the Provincial
Government in this regard.
Reporting on this process, the Sunday Times
said that "Dr Fred Mattheyse - one of the candidates whose appointment was
deferred - is now leaving for Australia." It quoted Dr Mattheyse as saying,
"I'm leaving reluctantly but I have reached a ceiling in my career here."
The truth however is that Dr Mattheyse was one of three doctors who were
scheduled to be interviewed for the post at Tygerberg Hospital. He, together with
another doctor, withdrew his application before he was interviewed, and therefore,
naturally, was not interviewed.
In this regard I must repeat that Dr Mattheyse
was competing for the post at Tygerberg Hospital against two white doctors, with
no possibility that he could be passed over simply because there was a black,
and less qualified, black doctor applying for the same post.
may indeed have decided to emigrate to Australia, as the Sunday Times and the
Hon Sandra Botha have said. But it is entirely false, and dishonest of the Sunday
Times, to suggest that this was a result of the implementation of government policies
that the Hon Leader of the Official Opposition characterised as "racial nationalism".
The Hon Sandra Botha spoke of "three top medical posts at two Western
Cape Hospitals (that) were rejected by the Provincial Health department (because
of this racial nationalism)". So far I have spoken of only one of these posts.
The Sunday Times said the Head of Surgery at Groote Schuur Hospital, Professor
Del Khan, had said "the filling of two top posts at the hospital in the last
six months had taken more than two years to finalise because the candidates had
been white." Presumably, these are two of the three to whom Hon Leader of
the Official Opposition referred.
Unfortunately, in the short period between
yesterday evening and now, my office has been able to have only a telephonic conversation
with Professor Del Khan, who confirms that both the posts that he referred to
in the article have been filled with two white candidates. He stated that he had
expressed concern about the delay in the filling of the posts, although he accepts
that in order to redress the imbalances of the past it is necessary to do everything
possible to find appropriate candidates, which may result in delays. The Western
Cape Provincial Government is aware of a few cases where there were delays in
the appointment of some senior medical staff, but, in the absence of particulars
of which posts are referred to, is unable to confirm the allegations made by Professor
However, the Sunday Times article quotes another Professor at
Groote Schuur Hospital, Professor Bongani Mayosi. He, contrary to what Professor
Khan is alleged to have said, is reported to have said that "he had successfully
motivated for three senior posts to be filled by white specialists, while training
black specialists for the future."
This wording is highly tendentious.
It is deliberately intended to convey two impressions consistent with the thesis
alleging "racial nationalism". One of these is that in the Western Cape,
it is always necessary to motivate for the appointment of white specialists, who
would otherwise be excluded from the public service because of the existence of
racial quotas. The other is that the days of the white specialists are numbered,
as they will be replaced by black specialists once these have been trained.
me now deal with the truth. With regard to the three posts to which Professor
Mayosi referred, these being three Principal Specialist posts, (and one Chief
Specialist post), Professor Mayosi has said that in terms of the relevant employment
- the applicants had to be medical doctors and,
applicants had to be recognised as scholars within the medical profession and
registered with the Professional Health Council of South Africa as such.
would only be after these two requirements were met that issues in our legislation
concerning employment equity would kick in as only one of the factors in the selection
process. It was on this basis that the three Principal Special posts were filled
by three qualified white doctors, with no need to persuade anybody about the suitability
of these candidates.
Professor Mayosi also says that, "No appointment
of a deserving candidate has been refused on racial grounds in the Department
of Medicine" at Groote Schuur.
Professor Mayosi insists quite correctly
that our country is experiencing a serious shortage of many medical specialists.
He sees it as his task to train as many young professionals as possible, including
black professionals, to address this shortage. In the future situation of equitable
skills availability across the racial divide, the playing field will have been
levelled, making it unnecessary to invoke the equity provisions in our Constitution
Professor Mayosi also says: "I must point out that we
are striving to normalise the demographic profile of our staff at all levels in
the Department (of Medicine), and we support the employment equity policy of the
Department of Health of the Western Cape. In our search and selection process,
we diligently seek qualified people who were previously excluded from training
and employment opportunities at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape
Town by apartheid laws and racist practice at these institutions. We use the register
of the Health Professions Council to identify suitable equity candidates and invite
them to apply for the positions. We work closely with hospital management in the
process, and also ensure that
an appropriate succession plan is being developed
in all divisions of the Department."
The Sunday Times reported that,
having heard the details of its fabricated story, "The Democratic Alliance's
health spokesperson, Gareth Morgan, said: 'this amounts to playing racial politics
with patients' lives'."
Responding to this story, one of the Sunday
Times readers wrote: "Perhaps the ANC will use this for their next re-election
propaganda speeches, showing that they are determined to give black people a chance
that they'd even sacrifice the lives of other people to make sure that the whites
don't have the opportunity to take their jobs
"They will certainly
spare no lives to make sure white people don't get a job in South Africa, which
I've been saying over and over. It's not about racism or correcting the wrongs
of the past anymore, it's about getting white people the hell out of Africa where
they don't belong."
Let us once again return to the difficult matter
of the truth, contrary to the falsehoods peddled by the Sunday Times, which were
seemingly readily accepted by the Honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
Since last year, 2006, the Western Cape Provincial Health authorities have
appointed 72 specialists, 55 of whom are white and 17 black, to serve in the public
health system. The Sunday Times could have accessed this information without difficulty,
before it published its dangerous falsehoods, as could have the Honourable Leader
of the Official Opposition, before she advanced the extremely serious allegations
she made yesterday.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this was
not done because the false story told by the Sunday Times was, for particular
partisan reasons, too good to check and verify. This same mind-set informs the
persistent negative propaganda about our preparations for the 2010 FIFA Soccer
World Cup, which strives to use the power of the word, conveyed in print and the
airwaves, to present the actual and positive physical bricks and mortar story,
visible to the naked eye at all the relevant stadiums, as being nothing more than
a conjurer's trick, or a desert mirage, even where there is no desert!
believe that anyone among us who decides to resort to untruths, thus to advance
their cause, dreaming that this would indeed promote their cause, should bear
in mind the difficulty to which Shakespeare's Hamlet referred when he spoke of
the false comfort of false dreams and said -
Perchance to dream: ay, there's
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled
off this mortal coil,
Must give us cause.
As I said when I began this
response to yesterday's debate on the Budget of the Presidency, I felt that we
were at last beginning to move beyond the needlessly fractious debates of the
past and had come into this House without our gladiatorial armour.
everything I have said about the unfortunate remarks made by the Hon Stanley Simmons
and the Hon Sandra Botha, I would like to think that I was not wrong.
I would like to say that there are some in our society who see it as their task
to pull us backwards towards a future defined by the racial divisions and conflicts
of the past from which we are striving to escape, the conflicts that killed Steven
Bantu Biko, and Mapetla Mohapi, and Onkgopotse Tiro and countless others, sustained
by the lies that were told then, which have as their kith and kin the lies that
are told today.
I believe that those of us who serve in this House as the
democratically elected peoples' tribunes, have a responsibility to repudiate all
falsehoods propagated to provoke confrontation among our people, that are invented
to impose on us non-existent differences that are impossible to irreconcilable,
and that are designed to abort the birth of the new, by imprisoning our minds
within an inert world of thought, that has no capacity to break out of an age
of darkness that had required floods of human blood to destroy.
that the Hon Mdlalose, borrowing the voice of a poet, and regardless of what might
be happening on our streets today, was correct to say to us:
Feel the millions
See their passion
Their hands are joined
There is hope in their eyes
We shall celebrate
H.E. President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo will address
a Joint Sitting of Parliament and our nation from this podium. Whatever our own
problems, this should give us an opportunity to salute and applaud the sister
Congolese people for the truly great effort they have made and are making to pull
their country out of unimaginable depths of despair.
Hopefully, we will
request him to convey a message to his people that the people of South Africa,
because of their own experience, remain determined to hold hands with their sisters
and brothers in the DRC as they begin their journey along the difficult road towards
transforming the Democratic Republic of Congo into the progressive African giant
it must and will be, towards the resumption by the Democratic Republic of Congo
of its place as a bright star over the African sky, towards its reassertion of
loyalty to the agenda of African renewal for whose accomplishment the immortal
African patriot, Patrice Lumumba, and esteemed member of our National Order of
the Companions of OR Tambo, sacrificed his life.
Yesterday, the Hon Themba
Godi of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania ended his intervention with
the words: "To our Palestinian brothers and sisters, we humbly counsel: Peace
among the Palestinians, War against the enemy!"
I would like to take
this opportunity to repeat after the Hon Themba Godi - to our Palestinian brothers
and sisters, we humbly counsel: peace among the Palestinians!
African patriots, loyal supporters of the noble cause for the recovery of the
national rights of the Palestinian people, the security of the state of Israel,
and a just and stable peace throughout the Middle East, we cannot accept that
the deadly fratricide engulfing occupied Palestine, especially Gaza, is either
inevitable or desirable.
25 years ago, in 1982, addressing our own situation,
our respected national hero, Oliver Tambo, said:
for seven decades to build one, common nationhood, with one destiny. Our shared
experience of collective sacrifices in the struggle for a common goal has knit
us together as one solid block of liberation. The comradeship that we have formed
in the trenches of freedom, transcending the barriers that the enemy sought to
create, is a guarantee and a precondition for our victory. But we need still to
build on this achievement. All of us - workers, peasants, students, priests, chiefs,
traders, teachers, civil servants, poets, writers, men, women and youth, black
and white - must take our common destiny in our own hands."
hour of great suffering to the people of Palestine, which in essence is no different
from the dismal period in our country when enemies of our people, with their collaborators
among us, instigated and sustained what was described as black-on-black violence,
we would like to convey to our brothers and sisters in the Fatah and Hamas the
same message that Oliver Tambo conveyed to the then struggling people of South
Your shared experience of collective sacrifice in the struggle
for a common goal must knit you together as one solid block of liberation. Your
comradeship is a guarantee and a precondition for your victory in the struggle
for the emergence of an independent State of Palestine.
This victory is
not possible on the basis of an internal war for hegemony, fought by the powerless
to gain power over the powerless, at great cost to the masses that have placed
their hopes in the hands of the leadership of both Fatah and Hamas. The incontrovertible
truth is that a just peace with Israel is not possible when Palestine cannot make
peace with itself.
Once more we make the heartfelt appeal - those who have
ears to hear, let them hear - above the din of the guns, the bombs, the mortar
shells, and the angry shouts and the dirges of funeral marches in the desolate
streets of the towns and the refugee camps of Gaza and the West Bank!
all of us learn from the inspiring African example of the Democratic Republic
of Congo that, as the Book of Ecclesiastes says, "To everything there is
a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to kill, And a time
A time of war, And a time of peace."
Again I would like
to thank the Honourable Members for the constructive suggestions they made during
the Budget debate, which we will follow up.
I would also like to join the
Hon Minister Pahad and the Deputy President in thanking all our Members of Parliament,
the Ministers and Deputy Ministers, the patriots in the Presidency who constitute
the hard-working staff headed by the Rev Frank Chikane, everybody in all spheres
of government, and everybody else in our country and abroad who have facilitated
and supported the work of the Presidency, even to the point of lacing their compliments
with words of flattery that feed our vanity.
In particular, taking advantage
of the fact I am speaking in this truly august House of the elected representatives
of our people, which all of us must respect, I would also like to salute and thank
the Honourable Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, whose extraordinary energy
and dedication to her work and the welfare of all our people, whose ability to
demand and get results from all of us without sounding like a shrew, whose humility
and aversion to personal aggrandisement in any form, whose humanity and empathy
shines through in the most adverse circumstances, whose capacity to stand up for
the species of her gender, remain feminine, and still exercise effective leadership
in what is still a predominantly masculine world, whose courage rises with danger,
as the Hon Inkosi Buthelezi said when he spoke of Albert Luthuli, whose training
as a conscientious teacher she cannot hide, and whose instinctive comradeship
and ability to listen and admit her own and the mistakes and failures of the Presidency
all serve as a glue that holds all of us together as one team, even as we see
ourselves as superstars.
I do believe that through her actions she has
taught and is teaching us an important lesson about what it means to be a true
leader of the people of South Africa in the challenging conditions of freedom,
in which it is very easy indeed for the liberators to transform themselves into
self-serving masters and mistresses, rather than servants of the people.
imposes on all of us, the elected representatives of our people, the obligation
to rely on our consciences, our sense of self-respect and personal dignity, and
our minds, beyond party programmes and beyond short-term personal interests, to
decide what is right and what is wrong. On all this will be based the realisation
of the dream that, as Sandile Dikeni said - we shall celebrate.
you for your attention.
Issued by: The Presidency
13 June 2007