Response to the State of the Nation Address debate by his Excellency Mr JG Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, National Assembly
16 February 2010
Honourable Speaker and Deputy Speaker
Deputy President of the Republic
Honourable ministers and deputy ministers
We requested that this year’s State of the Nation Address coincide with the 20th anniversary of Madiba’s release.
We did this both to celebrate that historic moment and to pay tribute to his legacy as a leader, a revolutionary, and the founding President of our democratic state.
We wish to express our appreciation to Parliament for having so enthusiastically accommodated our request.
We thank Parliament as well on having agreed to hold the debate in the evening as we requested.
Indeed the workers, students and all who have no control over their own time and resources, were able to be part of the event.
As we had predicted, the results are phenomenal, according to audience measurement figures.
Last year, when the State of the Nation Address was delivered at 11h00, SABC2 viewership was 1,5 million and ETV viewership was 487 000.
This year the SABC2 viewership at 19h00, shot up to more than 2,5 million and ETV rose to slightly more than 1,3 million.
We wish to thank speakers in yesterday’s debate who paid tribute to Madiba and drew attention to his outstanding contribution to this subject.
Indeed we all came together in unity to pay tribute to this icon of our nation, who continues to inspire us in everything we do.
Madiba remains a powerful symbol of the strides we have made as a nation.
He led us during a difficult period of transition.
He taught us to overcome anger, pain and hatred, and to move forward to build a non-racial, democratic and prosperous future nation.
Thanks to Madiba, this country laid a firm foundation for development and progress.
We have achieved a lot since 1994. Millions of our people have access to many basic services including water, housing, electricity, social security and others that they never had before.
We have consolidated our democracy and strengthened our democratic institutions to provide much needed protection to our people.
However, we still have a lot of work to do, and we never hide this fact.
The debate on the State of the Nation Address has demonstrated the richness and diversity of political engagement in our society.
We also welcome the offers of collaboration from political parties that have chosen to place the nation first.
We welcome the statement by Honourable Patricia De Lille, that the Independent Democrats are ready to roll up their sleeves and dirty their hands to work hard to build our country.
Honourable Mike Ellis, there is no need for anyone to defend the president.
I knew exactly what I wanted to say in the State of the Nation Address, and I said it.
The State of the Nation Address covered the new era we are entering as government.
This is an era of doing things differently, an era of ensuring that our work is determined by clear outcomes, and of increasing the pace and form of service delivery.
That is our new way of doing things.
We are doing it for the millions of the poor who look to this government to work with them to change their lives.
The new outcomes approach that we are talking about will become clearer as ministers present their budget speeches.
As we said in the State of the Nation Address, the president provides a broad overview and direction.
The ministers supply the detail.
We reiterate that we have dedicated ourselves to working harder to achieve a turnaround in education, health, the fight against crime, rural development and land reform and creating decent work.
Additional to this, we will take further our work on human settlements and infrastructure as well as local government.
All this would have sounded familiar to some Honourable members and some sections of the media.
That is because we have not changed our priorities.
What is changing is the method of implementation, so that we can see faster results in this year of action.
As we debate in this chamber, and in broader society, as to how best to respond to the challenges we face, we need to be mindful of some basic facts about our country.
You would have noticed Honourable members that a large portion of the State of the Nation Address focused on youth development.
This was deliberate. Around one-third of all South Africans are under the age of 15.
Half of all South Africans are under the age of 25.
And nearly 70% of all South Africans are under the age of 35, according to Stats SA.
We are a youthful country.
Everything we do must answer the needs of our children and those of the youth.
This has a profound bearing on what we do today and where we expect to be tomorrow.
Unless we appreciate this reality, and unless we understand its implications, we will not be able to make the correct policy choices and pursue the most appropriate development path.
The youthfulness of our population does indeed present significant challenges. But it also provides extraordinary opportunities.
Much of the developed world is faced with ageing populations. Most of the people in these countries are nearing the end of their working lives. There is great concern about how those who reach retirement age will be supported.
By contrast, South Africa is a country in which half its population still have their entire working lives ahead of them.
Like many other developing countries, our most productive years are, potentially, yet to come.
But we will only realise that potential if we pursue appropriate policies now, and if we pursue them with purpose and vigour. Critically, this means that we must focus on the education and training of our youth.
That is possibly the single most important investment we can make in the future of this country. To borrow from the sentiments of Honourable Shenge, we need a ‘national effort of historical proportions, built on education, work, education, work, education and work and more work.’
As we pointed out in the address on Thursday, this is not simply a matter of resources. We have a relatively large education budget.
The issue is what benefit are we receiving for this investment? That is why we have chosen to focus on outcomes.
The emphasis is on getting all the elements of our education system functioning properly and effectively.
We need to ensure that every child who passes through our schools, colleges and universities receives an education that will enable them to contribute to economic growth and development, through the skills they will have gained.
Honourable members, mindful of the youthfulness of our population, we also have several programmes that are specifically aimed at them.
As the Minister of Social Development, Honourable Edna Molewa pointed out; our comprehensive social security system is a critical intervention to tackle the worst effects of poverty.
It provides scores of children and their families a lifeline. It is therefore important that we implement our plans to make the child support grant available to children from poor families, up to the age of 18.
Another important intervention is the school feeding scheme.
It reaches over 6 million primary school learners and another one million secondary school learners each day.
It helps to combat malnutrition and improve the capacity of poor children to learn, and to ensure that no child goes through the school day on an empty stomach.
Early childhood development is essential.
It lays the foundation for all future educational progress, and, as we have seen, reaches a significant portion of our population.
Honourable Enver Surty, Deputy Minister of Education, pointed out that the most critical and significant cognitive development of a child occurs from birth to four years.
Clearly, Honourable members, the quality and capabilities of our matriculants in 2025 is being determined today.
It is also for the same reason that we are focusing on health interventions in early childhood.
Not only will these measures reduce infant mortality, they will also improve the general health of our children, which is important for their success in later life.
In our efforts to ensure a better future for our youth, the fight against HIV and AIDS is crucial.
I am grateful to the Hon Minister Motsoaledi for having reminded the Honourable Meshoe of the treatment and prevention measures that we announced on 1 December last year. We remain fully committed to implement the measures on schedule.
Let me re-emphasise Honourable members, that creating decent work remains at the centre of our economic policies.
The short-term measures we have embarked on to assist our people to survive the recession, do not replace the jobs that must be created by the formal economy.
In my address I said our long-term infrastructure investment programme will be one of the platforms that will underpin our growth in the next four years.
As we proceed with this programme, we will work to maximise industrial growth opportunities by promoting local manufacture of critical inputs for the infrastructure projects.
This will have long term benefits for our industrial capacity and boost job creation.
As part of our effort to tackle climate change, we will be starting a long term programme of developing green industries with a focus on maximising green jobs.
Our rural development and food security drive will absorb rural people into sustainable economic activities.
These and other measures, including a strengthened drive on SMME development, will constitute important elements of our programme towards creating decent jobs.
Many of these issues will be detailed further by the Minister of Trade and Industry and his colleagues in the sector.
We agree with the Honourable Ian Davidson that we need to “open the economy, promote opportunity, create competition and give choice”.
But this does not require the retreat of the state.
Indeed, the resources and institutions of the state can be effectively used to promote conditions for even greater private sector growth and development.
We have noted the comments of Honourable members on the nationalisation debate.
We reiterate that nationalisation is not government policy.
We have noted that political formations, including the ruling party’s youth league, have decided to debate the matter.
This is a democratic society, and as government, we cannot stop political formations from deciding to open a debate on this topic or any other.
Honourable members, in talking about economic transformation, we must also work closely with the agricultural sector and labour to improve the conditions of marginalised citizens, especially farm workers.
Our comprehensive rural development programme is aimed at ensuring that farm dwellers are also able to enjoy the fruits of freedom.
We think in particular of rural youth.
The opportunities for education and skills development should not pass them by just because of their location.
We have noted the comments of Honourable Mphahlele that the comprehensive rural development programme has to involve traditional leaders.
Yes it does, as the Honourable Minister Gugile Nkwinti pointed out. We will officially open the National House of Traditional Leaders on the 23 February.
We look forward to this occasion as it will give us an opportunity to engage with this very important sector.
We have noted the comments of Honourable members about the fight against crime. It is important that this is one of the issues on which we all agree.
We said in the State of the Nation Address that we want South Africans to be safe and to feel safe. We fully understand the feelings and views of South Africans about crime and corruption.
For this reason, we have spent the last nine months working hard to revamp the criminal justice system, and also to ensure a more visible and vigorous policing style.
The Honourable Deputy Minister Fikile Mbalula and Honourable John Jeffery outlined our programme further in this regard.
We have said a few times that crime in our country tends to be violent, whether it takes place in homes, businesses or shopping malls. This increases the feelings of being unsafe.
As Honourable Mbalula and Jeffery pointed out, we have a number of interventions in place to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system.
Let me emphasise that we are improving the skills base and capacity of our police service, in the areas of detective skills, intelligence and forensics.
The bottom line is that crimes must be properly investigated; criminals must be tried, convicted and properly punished for what they have done.
Ministers responsible for the criminal justice sector will provide further detail on this work at a later stage.
Honourable Meshoe, the fight against corruption forms an integral part of the fight against crime.
In the address we mentioned corruption within various programmes of government be it motor licensing, social grants, identity documents and others to ensure that the delivery of services is not undermined.
Honourable De Lille welcomed the discontinuation of more than 30 000 fraudulent social grants, but asked when we are going to prosecute the perpetrators.
More than 12 000 people have been convicted since the inception of the anti-social grants fraud project and the campaign is ongoing.
We thank members of the public who provide information on fraudsters to help us eradicate this practice.
We are working on several initiatives to address corruption in government procurement.
This includes the establishment of a tender compliance unit as well as supply chain fraud audits.
The Minister of Finance will speak further on this matter tomorrow in the Budget speech.
Honourable members, we mentioned in the State of the Nation Address that South Africa is a water poor country.
The demand for water will only increase, and our sewage management infrastructure will come under strain as time goes on.
Honourable Musa Zondi of the Inkatha Freedom Party correctly emphasised this basic necessity especially in rural areas, for example in the UMkhanyakude district in KwaZulu-Natal.
This affects many other parts of the country.
Part of doing things differently in government entails ensuring that whatever red tape stops us from bring services to the people is removed.
We will intensify our programmes of ensuring the expansion of access to clean water to our people, including rural areas.
The challenges we speak about highlight the value of the National Planning Commission.
It is this body that needs to identify likely demographic, environmental, social, economic and other trends into the future.
It needs to assist government and the country more broadly, to plan for this future.
Its work must guide the policies we adopt and the programmes we implement.
Work is underway to ensure that the commission is soon established and operational.
Our performance monitoring and evaluation system guides our delivery agreements and delivery outcomes. We are finalising the establishment of this department too.
We are serious when we say we will do things differently, and we have already begun to do so.
To prepare our civil servants further and change the culture, we will continue our direct interaction with those at the coalface of service delivery.
We will meet with health professionals to discuss how they can ensure that our people receive a more caring and faster service.
We will meet social workers as they have to deal face to face with the impact of poverty.
We will continue to work intensively with the education and criminal justice sector as well to ensure direct support to them in their work to meet our demands for faster service.
Most importantly, Mr Speaker, we plan to hold a discussion with all directors-general in the public service.
Together we will discuss how to ensure that departments respond effectively to our call for faster service delivery, and to create a caring public service.
We reiterate also Honourable Speaker, that we are creating a delivery and performance-orientated State. As Ministers sign delivery agreements, so should we ensure that all public servants finalise performance agreements and workplans.
Our public service performance management and development system has to work effectively, as outlined in the relevant public service legislation and regulations.
Honourable Speaker, we noted the interest shown by Honourable members in the presidential hotline.
We have noted concerns also about the pressure on the service due to high call volumes and other challenges.
We will continue attending to these to improve this valuable service.
The hotline is being transferred to the performance monitoring and evaluation ministry soon.
This will enable us to make this work to form part of the delivery agreements of ministries.
Our government has always derived its strength from the people and from working with various structures of society.
We cannot change the lives of our people working alone.
That is why we say working together we can do more.
Honourable Shenge called for a new national struggle.
We indeed have to galvanise all our people to work together to release themselves from poverty.
We will work with the National Interfaith Leaders Council and other formations to ensure that we remain grounded on promoting humanity and Ubuntu, as outlined by the Chief Whip of the ruling party, Honourable Mathole Motshekga.
We also said in the State of the Nation Address that the defining feature of this government will be that it knows where our people live, understands what their needs are and will respond faster. We will not allow a distance to arise between government and its people.
We do not want to be surprised by anger, nor shall we take our people, especially the poor for granted.
We want to understand issues as they arise and intervene timeously.
We will meet with business, labour, youth, religious sector, women and various sectors between now and December, to ensure that we build this movement for reconstruction and development together.
We want to make this a year of action for everyone, not just government.
We also gain valuable insight from our quarterly meetings with leaders of political parties represented in Parliament.
It helps us to gain a perspective we would otherwise not have.
This week we directed departments to implement some decisions taken at our meeting with political parties on 9 February, relating to climate change, the fight against crime as well as the celebration of national days.
Around 40% of South Africans today were not born when President Nelson Mandela was released.
It is therefore important that we keep alive our history and ensure that successive generations know where we have come from.
We spent last Friday, 12 February, with former prisoners from the ANC, PAC, Black Consciousness Movement and the New Unity Movement.
Honourable Mphahlele, we recognise the role of these organisations and the leadership.
When we say President Nelson Mandela was freed due to the resolute struggles of our people, we include members and supporters of the PAC or Azapo as well.
Honourable Speaker, I have heard and read some very strange interpretations of my reference to former President PW Botha, Kobie Coetzee and others from the apartheid era and their role in paving the way for the release of political prisoners.
To state the fact that they did this, does not mean we are making PW and others heroes.
We are merely stating the fact that there were other players in this process within the National Party, and that Former President De Klerk actually found the process in motion and took it to its logical conclusion.
We were also not taking away from him the fact that he needed courage to take the process forward.
At the same time, we cannot say certain apartheid-era leaders were better than others.
The heroes of Madiba’s release, as stated clearly last Thursday, were the masses of our people who responded to the call to make this country ungovernable and apartheid unworkable.
They forced PW Botha and all others to take the route that they took.
The heroes were the selfless internationalists who fought side by side with us in various countries to ensure that we became free.
It was the African masses in various parts of the continent who braved mass murders and invasions by the apartheid army, because their countries harboured the ANC.
In appreciating our history, we will also need to return to the difficult question of what names we should use to describe the towns, cities, streets and geographical features of our country.
The Honourable Deputy Minister and leader of the Freedom Front Plus, Dr Pieter Mulder, raised the issue of geographic name changes and specifically the name of Pretoria in his speech in this House.
I appreciate his constructive contribution to this problem.
On Wednesday 3 February, the honourable member and I had a constructive discussion in Pretoria about this problem and dealt with the issue.
I agree with him that further talks with all the parties involved will have to take place and that a solution and working method which will be acceptable to all parties will have to be found.
We must also point out that we had earlier decided, as government, not to rush with the renaming of Pretoria as it is the capital city of our country.
We need to move along together on this path to ensure that we all appreciate the significance of the process.
Honourable Speaker, please allow me to use this opportunity to extend the nation’s congratulations to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) which recently celebrated 10 years of peacekeeping on the continent.
We are very proud of the wonderful work that they are doing, flying our flag high for peace.
Thousands of people of all nations will descend on our country during June and July of this year.
Let us welcome them with open arms.
I call upon all South Africans to show our visitors the beauty of our land, the diversity of our culture and the warmth of our people.
This government is already responding to the challenges of tomorrow.
We will work with all South Africans to build a better and brighter future.
It is a non-racial democratic future, a future of unity and harmony. It is the future outlined by our icon Madiba in his statement from the dock in the Rivonia Treason Trial, on 20 April 1964.
He said: ‘It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.’
Let us work together for a common prosperous future.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
16 February 2010