Address by President Jacob Zuma in Response to the Debate on the State of the Nation Address, National Assembly, Cape Town, 17 February 2011

Honourable Speaker,
Honourable Deputy Speaker,
Honourable Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members,
Fellow South Africans,

Thank you Honourable Members for a lively debate on the State of the Nation address.

On the 22nd of January 1946, Dr AB Xuma, then President-General of the ANC, wrote to the United Nations General Assembly, opposing a proposal to incorporate South West Africa into the then racist and oppressive South Africa. He felt racist South Africa had to be prevented from annexing another territory, given the oppressive conditions that existed in the country.

Dr Xuma stated that in South Africa, eighty three percent of the land was reserved for two million Europeans, and only less than seventeen percent for the millions of Africans. He added that only 40 percent of African children were accommodated in mission schools. For many others, access to education was a luxury that was beyond their reach.

That is the type of legacy that this democratic government is still working to reverse. That process cannot be completed in only 17 years.

As Honourable Minister Pandor indicated, colonial oppression and apartheid cannot be erased from our history or national discourse, as much as the holocaust cannot be erased from the history of the Jewish people.

We have moved on, and made a lot of progress since that letter to the UN by ANC President-General Xuma.

However, we cannot pretend that racist oppression never happened, even if that makes the opposition feel uncomfortable. We cannot pretend that it did not cause the poverty, inequality, landlessness, illiteracy and other challenges that we are working so hard to correct, with the support of our people.

We cast our votes together as South Africans for the first time in national general elections in 1994.

The democratic government, informed by the vision in the Freedom Charter, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, began to lead the nation away from a racist and oppressive past.  We are making steady progress towards a united, non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and more prosperous future.

In 2009 we decided to focus on five priorities in which we could make a difference within a short space of time. We prioritise education, health, rural development and land reform, the fight against crime as well as the creation of decent work.

Last week we persuaded the nation to make 2011 the year of job creation, through meaningful economic transformation and inclusive growth. We are humbled by the overwhelming support and consensus from all parties. We are all agreed that this is the correct course of action given the levels of unemployment in our country.

We re-affirm that we will pursue growth in six key sectors in line with the New Growth Path. These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism.

There are many possibilities for job creation in these sectors as outlined by the Honourable Minister Patel, and as will be explained further when Ministers present their budget votes.

To achieve these goals, we have to build a strong mixed economy, where the state, private sector, cooperative and other forms of social ownership complement each other, to achieve shared and inclusive economic growth. We must build an economy in which the black majority, women, persons with disabilities and the youth participate fully and meaningfully.

Honourable Ben Turok outlined the need to ensure equal outcomes to enable the disadvantaged to also access opportunities.

He cautioned against so-called equal opportunity policies whose outcomes are usually the continued affirmation of the advantaged. We will continue implementing our equity policies such as affirmative action and broad-based black economic empowerment.

No economy can grow as fast as it should, create jobs and be sustainable, if the majority of citizens are excluded.

Last year’s employment equity report indicated that 10 years after the introduction of the Employment Equity Act, white men continued to hold 63% of top management positions in the private sector. African women are at less than three percent and coloured and Indian women are at one percent each. We clearly need to work harder to close the gap.

We established the Black Economic Empowerment Advisory Council chaired by the President, which began operations last year. The Council has organised itself into four sub-committees whose work focuses on the following areas:

  • Ownership, Management Control and B-BBEE Deals Structuring,  
  • Enterprise Development, Procurement, Access to Finance and Socio-Economic Development.
  • Skills Development and Employment Equity. 
  • Instruments to promote B-BBEE such as legislation and charters.

The Council has made concrete recommendations that we must now take to Cabinet. These address issues such as BEE fronting, refinement of the codes of good practice, regulation of the verification industry, as well as aligning our policies on B-BBEE with policies on preferential procurement.

We need to ensure that transformation does not fall by the wayside, as we forge ahead to build our economy and create much-needed jobs.

Honourable Members,

Honourable Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus took issue with our statement that the mineral wealth of the country belongs to all South Africans.

The Honourable Member would do well to check the law. The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002, promulgated in May 2004, gives effect to the notion of State custodianship of mineral rights.

This is in line with the UN Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, which grants States full permanent sovereignty, including possession and disposal over all their natural resources. This position is further supported by the Constitution of the Republic. We will continue to pursue job opportunities in this sector.

Honourable Speaker,

A number of Honourable Members questioned the capacity of the State to carry out the undertakings we have made. We would like to assure this House that we have been putting systems in place to improve the performance of the State.

The Honourable Minister Chabane gave an outline of measures we are undertaking to build a performance-oriented State through improving planning as well as performance monitoring and evaluation. The Presidency will receive quarterly reports that we will use to monitor progress and intervene where there are bottlenecks, on job creation and other commitments made.

I will meet cluster chairpersons periodically to discuss progress. Honourable Deputy President Motlanthe will assist me in this task.

In April last year, I appointed 25 people to serve on the National Planning Commission. They have a mammoth task to devise a national plan for the country. I have set a deadline of November this year for them to complete the plan.

We also plan to conclude the Macro-Organisation of the State, including the establishment of norms and standards. This should please the Honourable Godi who calls for norms and standards in the public service.

We re-affirm that the filling of funded vacant posts will also be prioritised.  We have directed the public service to fill all posts within three months of vacancies occurring, instead of the customary advertising of a post six months after a vacancy occurs, and filling it within at least one year.
 
Honourable Members,

We have indeed come a long way since Dr Xuma wrote to the United Nations lamenting the state of education. Today we are able to say that we are on track to reach or exceed the Millennium Development Goal target for education before the 2015 deadline.

It is also impressive that the proportion of girls attending primary, secondary and tertiary education has improved significantly. This is important because education is central to development.

The Honourable Minister Nzimande outlined the work we are doing to improve learning and teaching. This includes the establishment of the National Education Evaluation Unit which will ensure that the schooling system is effectively monitored and evaluated.

This will help us to prevent situations such as what is happening in the Eastern Cape. I have received a comprehensive briefing from the Minister and Deputy Minister of Basic Education who visited the province recently. I am seriously considering a sustainable intervention for the Eastern Cape.

We are concerned that the contracts of over four thousand temporary teachers have been terminated, resulting in many schools facing shortages of teachers. The Learner and Teacher Support Materials have not been adequately delivered.  This has led to a situation where there are learners without textbooks. The school nutrition programme has collapsed and scholar transport came to a total halt in many areas.

As of now, the Triple-T call to prioritise teachers, textbooks and time, cannot be implemented in the Eastern Cape. Any intervention will occur with the full knowledge, approval and co-operation of the Premier of the Eastern Cape and the MEC for Education in the province. It will be designed to assist the province to effectively administer education.

Honourable Members,

We have noted the concern by the Honourable Dikobo of AZAPO about the poor infrastructure in some schools. Nationally, we plan to improve about 3 600 schools to bring them to basic safety and functionality levels by 2014. This year, we will replace close to one hundred mud schools and two hundred and forty six inappropriate structures with proper facilities. This has been budgeted for.

We welcome the support for the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign, which makes education a societal issue rather than a matter for individual schools. We agree that the call for teachers to be in class on time teaching for seven hours a day, must be accompanied by parents and communities ensuring that learners are also in class on time, ready to learn and cooperating with their teachers.

We also concur with the Honourable Meshoe that we must promote discipline in addition to the triple-T. The Departments of Basic Education and Police have been directed to work together to prevent and respond to violence in schools.

Honourable Members referred to the important United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change or COP-17 that we will host from the 28th of November to the 9th of December 2011 in Durban. We agree with Honourable Holomisa that the conference should be used as a rallying point to inform and mobilise our communities around issues of the environment.

We are humbled by the confidence shown by the UNFCC in Africa’s ability to host this meeting again after Kenya successfully hosted it in 2006. This presents another opportunity for Africa to rise to the occasion, just like we did when the world gave us an opportunity to host the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup last year.

It is a timely conference for our country. Disaster events have become an increasing burden. Incidents of veld fires are being reported in the Western Cape, severe drought conditions are currently being experienced in the Eastern Cape. Heavy and recurrent rains are being experienced in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal amongst other provinces.

As Honourable Minister Molewa pointed out, climate change also continues to impact negatively on food security, for example the food price increases due to the changes in farming production capacity due to floods, drought, fires and land degradation due to changing weather patterns.

We are preparing ourselves to host this huge event which will bring to our country several heads of state and government and their delegations as well as civil society. Yesterday, Cabinet appointed an Inter-Ministerial committee to lead our preparations. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, who is chairing this committee, will also chair the conference. The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs will lead the South African delegation. Other members are the Ministers of Energy, Finance, Home Affairs, Economic Development, Trade and Industry, National Planning Commission, Mineral Resources, Public Enterprises, Tourism, Science and Technology, the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal and the mayor of Ethekwini municipality.

As a developing African country, we will use the opportunity to showcase the way in which climate change impacts on our country and Africa, as well as the responses we are implementing. We will take forward the good work done by Mexico and will approach the 17th Conference in a spirit of comprehensive and open consultation with all parties and stakeholders. This will enable us to work towards an outcome that is comprehensive and acceptable to all parties.

As we prepare for COP 17, we will also continue implementing strategies towards cleaner technology and the green economy, including clean energy. We reiterate that every South African must save energy to avoid the need to resort to the unpopular load shedding energy conservation method.

Honourable Speaker,

Next week, we have the pleasure of hosting a meeting of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Global Sustainability Panel, which I have the honour of co-chairing with Her Excellency President Halonen of Finland. The Panel has a special focus on climate change as a sustainable development challenge, addressing three pillars, namely economic, social and environmental. The meeting will take place in Cape Town and will help set the tone for the climate change conference later in the year.
 
Honourable Members,

We reiterate our commitment to the fight against crime and against corruption.

Honourable Dreyer of the DA questioned the impact of our anti-corruption efforts and claimed among other assertions, that the National Anti-Corruption Hotline was ineffective. That is incorrect.

Several achievements have been scored with regards to the investigation of cases of alleged corruption reported on the National Anti-Corruption Hotline, which we have shared with this House before.

Since the establishment of the Hotline and as a result of the successful investigation of cases, two hundred and thirty five officials were found guilty of misconduct. Of these cases, thirty five officials were suspended, one hundred and twenty were given final written warnings and eighty officials were dismissed. In addition, a total of one hundred million rand was recovered from perpetrators. 

Against this backdrop, it is clear that the Hotline has had positive spin-offs, not only in terms of monetary value but also in terms of disciplinary action taken against perpetrators.

Our reference to the fact that close to 15 million citizens receive social grants attracted a lot of attention from Honourable Members. Ten million of the recipients are children.

Honourable Dambuza pointed out correctly that while social grants are useful in the alleviation of poverty, they are no substitute for rural development and employment creation. Honourable Matladi of the UCDP raised concern that we did not provide detail on how government is working to link grants to sustainable livelihoods to reduce dependency. 

We have pilot projects running already in a few provinces to encourage self-reliance among grant recipients. By September 2010 in the Northern Cape, sixteen thousand nine hundred and seventy six people had been linked to income generating opportunities, three thousand and twenty four in Gauteng as well as four hundred and fifty women and one hundred and eighty two young people in the Eastern Cape.

In Bokfontein in the North West Province, six hundred social grant beneficiaries have been linked to the local community works scheme programme. In Dutyini village in the Eastern Cape, thirty nine women and one man who are grant beneficiaries are linked to a number of projects such as candle making. Lessons from these pilot projects will enable better roll out of these programmes around the country.

Another key poverty alleviation mechanism directed at children, is the subsidy ranging between twelve and fifteen rand per child per day, for qualifying children from poor households attending Early Childhood Development centres. To date, more than four hundred thousand children receive the subsidy, in sixteen thousand two hundred and fifty centres registered with the Department of Social Development. The plan for 2011 is to increase the subsidised centres to 17 000. The ECD programme, which forms part of the expanded public works programme, provides more than 78 000 jobs.

Honourable Tsenoli emphasised the importance of local government, and recognised many unsung heroes and heroines, some who have passed on, who have worked hard to contribute to our local government system. We echo that tribute, as we should celebrate public servants and public representatives who go beyond the call of duty to contribute to improving the quality of life of all.

Government has spent the past few months reviewing the local government support programmes that have been put in place in recent years, including Project Consolidate. The initiatives provided hands-on support to municipalities and provided key performance areas for local government to work and report on.

The Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs signed performance and service delivery agreements with mayors and MECs for local government last year. These agreements clarify outputs and deliverables that must be met by local government and the provinces.

Government is also implementing the Local Government Turnaround Strategy, which is aimed at helping municipalities to deal with the backlog and complaints from citizens.

As we head for local government elections, we are confident that the measures we are putting in place will improve the functioning of local government, as all players know what is expected of them.

We have noted ongoing protests in Ermelo in Mpumalanga province. The relevant government departments are assisting to restore order. Whatever the grievances are, they can only be resolved through engagement with the authorities and not through violence. The police will continue to act against those who break the law.

Honourable Members,

On international relations, we support the call by Honourable Motshekga to rekindle the spirit of progressive pan-Africanism by mobilising all sectors locally as well as Africa, for African renewal, advancement and development.

South Africa has been asked to help coordinate the New Partnership for Africa’s Development programme infrastructure revitalisation initiative. African infrastructure development is a key priority of our international work because it enables our continent to broaden economic opportunities, facilitate intra-African trade and create jobs on the continent. At the African Union summit in Addis Ababa last month, we agreed on criteria for project selection and have set clear timeframes and targets.

We are optimistic that our championing of the North-South corridor which links SADC, Eastern African Community and COMESA will yield results. I am assisted by Minister Trevor Manuel in running this project on behalf of the AU.

Honourable Members,

We continue to contribute to peacemaking and peacekeeping in the continent. We agree with Honourable Mphahlele that while resolving conflicts is important, it is better to prevent them. South Africa has taken the first steps to establish formal diplomatic relations between South Africa and Somalia. This is a clear signal of our commitment to political and diplomatic support to the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia.

We are also in the process of developing a project of capacity building activities for key Somali ministries. We will provide assistance in the areas of governance, peace-building, constitution building and capacitating the judiciary.

Honourable Members,

We will continue to provide support to the Sudan following the successful referendum, which forms part of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We congratulate former President Thabo Mbeki on the contribution he has made in the Sudan, under the auspices of the African Union. The intervention produced a unique African solution to a longstanding conflict.

We are hopeful that outstanding post-referendum issues such as the referendum for Abyei, border demarcation, natural resources and economic issues, citizenship, security and other issues will be resolved in a manner that will benefit all parties involved.

The international community should provide support to enable the parties, the NCP and the SPLM, to go smoothly through the remaining period until July 2011 and beyond, to ensure that peace and stability prevails. The international community should also continue to provide its support aimed at restoring peace to Darfur. 

Honourable Speaker,

We continue to support the peace efforts of the African Union and the United Nations on the protracted Western Sahara conflict. There can be no lasting solution as long as the people of Western Sahara continue to suffer.

We wish the Egyptians and Tunisians well with the transition in the two countries. We reiterate that the events that are unfolding in North Africa should not impact negatively on Palestine and the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian question. We reaffirm our support for the two state solution, a Palestinian and Israeli state, side by side in peaceful co-existence.

Honourable Speaker,

We will this weekend travel to Mauritania and Côte d’Ivoire to join the deliberations of the High‐Level Panel for the Resolution of the Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, of which South Africa is a member. The panel will meet with the affected parties in Côte d’Ivoire and help them to find a solution to the post-election stalemate.

Honourable Speaker,

The Honourable Minister Dlamini-Zuma referred to a forthcoming milestone that is a historical achievement for the country and the continent, regardless of the political party one belongs to. That is the celebration of the centenary of the African National Congress, the oldest liberation movement in the continent.

Government hosted a centenary seminar on the sidelines of the African Union Summit in Ethiopia last month, attended by Heads of State and Government amongst other guests.

The movement’s former President and national icon, His Excellency Nelson Mandela outlined what the organisation means to the country eloquently at the 78th anniversary celebrations in Bloemfontein in February 1990. This was just a few days after his release from prison. He stated:

“Today, our organisation stands as the most powerful symbol of the global rejection of racism. From very humble beginnings, from a meeting of only 100 delegates 78 years ago, we have become an organisation of hundreds of thousands, embodying the aspirations of millions, and an inspiration to yet more. 

“What have we done to win the respect of kings, presidents, prime ministers and millions of ordinary persons everywhere? We have stood fearless before the guns of apartheid. The blood of our martyrs has stained the floors and walls of apartheid jails. Yet we have never faltered in our quest to create a South Africa where freedom, peace, justice and equality prevail. This is the noble mission of the ANC and one which we will never forsake’’.

As government we look forward to working with the ANC to mark this colossal event that will bring to our shores many Heads of State and Government and other eminent friends of the Republic from all over the world.

Honourable Members and compatriots,

We have had many sectors asking what is expected of them, responding to our call that we should work together to achieve the goals we have set for the country.

The next few weeks will be dedicated to social dialogue to discuss the programme of action for 2011. We will convene a Business Summit on the 10th of March, and will meet organised labour on the 31st of March.

From the 15th to the 16th of March government is hosting a summit on substance abuse.

From the 4th to the 6th of April we are hosting a national nursing summit, bringing together about 2000 nurses to discuss how to improve our health care services.

We welcome the decision of the National Religious Forum and the National Interfaith Leaders Council to form a single National Interfaith movement. We look forward to working with the movement to mobilise society in promoting job creation, skills development and other national programmes.

Honourable Motshekga reminded us of the role of this fourth parliament, to intercede and intervene, with the executive, organs of the state and business on behalf of the people. We look forward to working with Parliament in taking forward this year’s objectives.
 
Honourable Members,

Questions have been asked about what will happen to Umzimkhulu and Bekkersdal following the messages I received from young residents Bongokuhle Miya and Portia Mrwetyana on the Presidency Facebook page. As we speak, two teams from the Presidency are in Bekkersdal and Umzimkhulu respectively, inspecting the conditions. We will continue to interact directly with our people.

Siyathembisa ukuthi ngeke siphumule uma abantu besahlupheka, besaphila kanzima. Singuhulumeni wabantu.

Honourable Members,

Our efforts to expand job opportunities must extend across every sector, all kinds of work and many forms of support. Initiatives that assist the youth in finding their first jobs must enjoy special priority. This includes expanded access to further education and training opportunities. It includes better career information and job placement services.

It includes support for new farming enterprises in rural areas, infrastructure in townships for local traders and service businesses, advice and access to finance for emerging entrepreneurs. As we speak, officials of the Industrial Development Corporation are assessing options for supporting investment in more labour-intensive industries. 

The Jobs Fund will invite proposals from the private sector, from non-governmental organisations and from municipalities and government agencies for innovative projects that will lead to self-sustaining employment opportunities.

Ongoing debate and analysis will contribute, of course, to refining and improving these efforts. 

But 2011 must be a year of action. We will not delay progress.

Our shared commitment is to put South Africans to work. They must find work in fields and factories, in repairing roads and building houses, in caring for children and protecting the environment.

We must create jobs in every possible way that we can. Working together we can achieve that objective.

I thank you.


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