Address by President JG Zuma to Heads of Missions/Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to South Africa, Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House, Pretoria, 03 August 2012
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency the Ambassador of the DRC,
All Excellencies Heads of Missions
Ladies and gentlemen,
Excellencies good morning!
We thank you for joining us today to share ideas on our common objective of making the world a better place for all.
We value our interaction with the international community given the solidarity and support that the world provided to us during our struggle for liberation.
Chief Albert Luthuli, former President of the ANC outlined our gratitude as early as 1961 on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
He said; "Alone we would have been weak. Our heartfelt appreciation of your acts of support of us, we cannot adequately express, nor can we ever forget; now or in the future when victory is behind us, and South Africa's freedom rests in the hands of all her people".
Indeed we can never forget, as Chief Luthuli stated way back then.
We meet during an upbeat period in our country. A South African, and a woman, was elected chairperson of the AU Commission. The election of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is an honour for South Africa.
We know that she will serve the continent with the same commitment and distinction she has demonstrated in her various leadership roles in our country.
Excellencies and Friends,
We meet against the background of a negative global economic climate. While Africa is doing better than most regions, we will no doubt be affected by the contraction of economies in the North and other regions.
Despite the economic climate, we have to grow the economy and provide the basic services that our people need such as housing, water, sanitation, electricity and other basic needs.
To make an impact in our developmental work, in 2009 we resolved to focus on five priorities – the fight against crime, creating decent work, improving health care and education as well as rural development and land reform.
Given the persistent levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment we have decided to prioritise economic transformation and economic development.
The national policy conference of the ruling party discussed economic transformation thoroughly, in order to devise policies that would extricate our people from poverty.
In particular, we have to address the crisis of youth unemployment which is a global problem currently. The ruling party’s national conference in December will discuss an all-embracing strategy on youth employment.
In the meantime, government continues to implement short-term employment programmes such as the expanded public works programme and the community works programme.
We have allocated R77.8 billion to these programmes over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
However, we are mindful of the fact that the largest number of jobs has to be created by the private sector.
Our role as Government is to create an environment that encourages investment and job creation by the private sector.
We are already doing a lot to achieve this. We are changing regulations to make it easy for the private sector to do business.
Departments have been instructed to grant approvals for licences on time. They must pay suppliers on time and generally remove hassles and make it easier for investors to start their businesses.
We are also investing in a massive infrastructure development programme. This programme proved its potential during the build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
We weathered the recession and managed to keep thousands at work in the various projects.
We have now expanded our programme. We are eradicating mud schools, renovating hospitals, building dams, roads, bridges and improving our ports, railways and airports.
While changing the landscape of the country, we also intend to create more job opportunities.
Still on economic development issues, many of you would have been asked by your capitals to explain the debate on nationalisation in South Africa.
The debate arose from a proposal by the ANC Youth League for government to nationalize mines. Instead of suppressing that proposal, the ANC decided to undertake an in-depth research into the matter.
While the debate was started by the youth lobbying for nationalization, we have decided to use this as an opportunity to explore how we can get the nation to benefit more from mining without disrupting the sector and acting within the Constitution.
And the current direction of the debate looks promising and sensible proposals are now coming out of the process.
Blanket nationalization has been rejected, and a view is emerging that the state should play an increased role in selected minerals that are considered strategic to the development of the country.
Such involvement could take the form of part ownership or full ownership of mines for such minerals to help drive development programmes.
There is also a proposal for a tax on windfall profits on mining. This will help facilitate economic growth and employment creation.
The debate is continuing until December when the final policy would be adopted for implementation.
The success of the economic transformation initiatives depend largely on our performance in education, which is our apex priority. From 2008 to 2012 the budget for education on average grew by 14.2% annually.
While we are pleased with some of our achievements, we must do more to improve education outcomes. Amongst our achievements, we have been most successful in facilitating universal access to primary education in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
What is more impressive with the achievement of this target is that the proportion of girls attending primary, secondary and tertiary education has improved significantly. The enrolment of children at Early Childhood Development Centres has also increased remarkably, which augurs well for the foundation phase of school.
The school nutrition programme and the programme of free primary school education now reach eight million children, which is another attack on poverty.
One of our preoccupations currently is to improve the quality of learning and teaching in schools. Last year we decided to test the abilities of our children through introducing an annual national assessment of grades 3 and 6 and piloted grade 9 in all public schools.
This gives us a good indication of how much work we still need to do to improve in particular numeracy and literacy at primary school level.
The Department of Basic Education has prioritised this area. The role of teachers is critical and we will continue to invest in producing more teachers who can teach mathematics, science and African languages.
We have realized that the target of producing more than 40 000 teachers by 2014 is not sufficient to meet the future demand for teachers, particularly at Foundation Phase.
In order to address this, institutions offering Foundation Phase teacher education will be increased from 13 to 21 over the next four years. Some of these will be revitalized former colleges of education.
As we forge ahead to improve education, we also face some problems in some areas.
As you are aware, national government has intervened to deal with severe managerial challenges faced by the Eastern Cape and Limpopo education departments.
The interventions were aimed at correcting problems that had arisen, which related to over-expenditure, accruals of suppliers’ invoices, failure to deal with excess teachers, budgeting, financial management, supply chain management, and lack of delivery of learning and teaching materials. We are working at solving these problems systematically and holistically.
In Limpopo, national government invoked Section 100(1)(b) of the Constitution on five line function departments in all - education; roads and transport; health, public works and the provincial treasury. Work continues to improve governance and re-introduce systems and order in all five departments.
With regards to health care, we are really happy with the strides we are making in the fight against HIV and AIDS, especially the decrease of the transmission of HIV from mother to child from 3.5 percent to 2.7 percent since 2010.
This has effectively saved the lives of more than 100 000 babies. Also impressive is the report on dramatic outcomes in the HIV Counselling and Testing campaign.
The percentage of people tested for HIV has increased from 55% in 2009 to 64% in 2012, giving us a figure of 17.4 million people.
This demonstrates that the testing campaign launched in April 2010 is working effectively. In addition, our extensive treatment programme may also be encouraging more people to test.
To improve the general health infrastructure, the National Health Insurance scheme will be phased in over 15 years. It is being piloted in 10 districts currently.
The fight against corruption continues to form part of the fight against crime.
Building on our success in the fight against crime, we want to focus more intensively on eradicating corruption.
The National Policy Conference in June has made strong recommendations on promoting integrity and ethics within the ANC.
Within government, the biggest problem seems to be in the area of supply chain management and in particular the tendering system, which has caused some harm to the image of the ANC and its government.
There needs to be a clear demarcation of responsibilities between politicians who should not be involved in supply chain at all, and those of officials who do the evaluations.
Preferably, our legal frameworks ought to prevent those involved in decision making on tenders from doing business with government or entities related to it.
Indeed, the Municipal Finance Management Act set a good example in this regard.
We are strengthening the capacity of government to enforce compliance with supply chain laws and regulations.
Accordingly, the Chief Procurement Office will be established during this semester.
This will help to reduce fragmentation in the supply chain management system. And the tax clearance system will be enhanced to ensure that those who defraud the tax system do not benefit from government business.
Your Excellencies, the key objective in everything we do is to reduce and ultimately eradicate poverty and to create a better life for all our people.
And our focus needs to be on those programmes that will make us grow faster, create more jobs, make our economy more efficient and more competitive.
At the same time we must continue to deliver the services like education, health and public transport and basic services at the local government level.
In all these activities we are supported by various development partners around the world. We appreciate the development partnerships that we have with various countries represented in this meeting today.
Africa remains the centrepiece of our foreign policy. The unity and prosperity of this continent remains one of our key strategic priorities.
We share the concern of the international community with the peace and security situation in Mali, Guinea Bissau, Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Madagascar and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We are in full support of the efforts of regional mechanisms such as those of the ECOWAS, IGAD and SADC to restore stability in all these countries.
Africa cannot afford any diversion from addressing developmental challenges standing between us and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, among others.
There are various programmes that bring hope for the continent, such as the NEPAD Presidential infrastructure development programme as well as the continental Free Trade integration project. These will contribute immensely to sustainable development.
Excellencies, as you are aware, South Africa will be hosting the Fifth BRICS Summit in the first half of 2013.
South Africa will utilise its membership of BRICS as a vehicle to advance South- South Cooperation and African continent.
We have good bilateral relations with countries of the South. Trade between us is growing steadily.
We cooperate in the international system to defend our collective interests, working together for the democratisation of institutions of global governance to reflect the rich diversity of our respective nations.
Our partnership with countries of the North is another leg that keeps our foreign policy standing in global affairs. These countries are not only our trade partners.
They also provide our country with the support we need in tackling our five priorities, including the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Excellencies, South Africa is honoured to have been elected to serve on the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the 2011-2012 term.
In so doing, the international community has once again acknowledged our country’s contribution and role in the maintenance of international peace and security.
We believe that during our membership we have striven to bring into full view our national priorities, African aspirations, as well as an equitable and just world order.
We continue to have trust in the role of strong and transformed institutions of global governance and in this regard, our country shall continue to advocate for the reform of organisations such as UN Security Council, the World Bank and the IMF.
Your Excellencies, as we meet the situation is of concern in some parts of the world, for example in Syria.
We continue to call for a Syrian-led negotiated and all-inclusive dialogue to establish a political transition that will reflect the will of the Syrian people.
This was the ultimate aim of the former Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Mr Kofi Annan who has sadly taken leave of this responsibility.
We also continue to support international efforts aimed at establishing a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side and in peace with Israel within internationally recognized borders.
These borders are those based on those which existed on 4 June 1967, prior to the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
A world free of conflict, disease and want is the ultimate goal of all freedom loving people, especially those who have emerged from conflict as we South Africans have. We want to see peace, democracy, freedom and justice in Africa and in every corner of the world.
South Africa has done well in 18 years of freedom. But as a young democracy, there is still a lot of work to do to create the type of prosperous society we envisage.
We believe we can achieve that type of society.
We know that the coming conference of the ruling part in December may cause uneasiness on the part of the international community especially those unaccustomed to robust South African politics.
We would like to assure you that South Africa as a country and the ANC as the ruling party, have the political leadership required to lead South Africa to development and prosperity.
You may also be confused by some voices at times within the Tripartite Alliance as each component expresses its views on any policy issue in line with the culture of democracy within the movement.
However, by December this year the policy debate will of necessity come to an end. The ANC will pronounce on the policies it will implement.
We meet during an exciting period when all nations look to London for glory at Olympics.
We are delighted to have won three gold medals already for swimming and rowing! It has been a good start. We wish all participating countries all of the best!
We are truly delighted to spend this morning with you. We look forward to hearing your views on issues as we cement relations between our country and yours.
I thank you.