REMARKS TO FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS ASSOCIATION BRIEFING BY ANC PRESIDENT COMRADE JACOB ZUMA, OLD JOHANNESBURG COUNTRY CLUB, October 29 2012
Ladies and gentlemen of the media good morning,
Let me take this opportunity to thank the Foreign Correspondents Association for this interaction.
This interaction takes place just a day after we have concluded a successful 3rd International Solidarity Conference in Tshwane, attended by about 300 delegates from around the world who were instrumental in the struggle against apartheid.
The conference declaration makes unambiguous commitments under the theme ‘United for a progressive, better world'.
The conference has produced a framework for a progressive world order, particularly with a call on progressive forces all over the world to mobilise for the building of a world progressive movement.
Within this context, we remain strong advocates for international progressive solidarity where humanity will be a centre-piece of world governance and development.
The Conference took place in the context of the ANC's Centenary Celebrations and coincided with the birth-date of former ANC President, Comrade OR Tambo on the 27th October, in recognition of his towering stature internationally.
The participants paid a special tribute to Comrade Nelson Mandela as one of the enduring symbols of the struggle for justice, human rights, peace and reconciliation.
They also paid tribute to Comrade Fidel Castro as one of the revolutionary icons in the fight for freedom and equity in a world free from oppression, exploitation and prejudice.
The ANC is about to complete a year-long celebration of its Centenary, which acknowledged the remarkable resilience and consistency of the ANC since its formation.
The campaign has enabled our movement to touch every corner and every locality where the ANC exists.
The centenary flame has served as a reminder of the undying spirit and resolve of the founding leaders of the ANC. It has resurrected the spirit and memory of our heroes and heroines who took the apartheid system head on even if it meant their death.
As we are on the last mile of the stretch of centenary celebrations, our belief in a better society has been strengthened.
The ANC has now started a new journey towards its second 100 years. We have done so in a position of strength, having increased the membership from around 600 000 in 2007 at the Polokwane conference to slightly more than 1.2 million members currently.
This underpins the reality that our people still believe in the ANC and in its ability to complete its historic task of the total emancipation of our people.
With the increase in membership, we must now ensure that our members understand our policies, practices, traditions and values that kept this organisation glued together.
That exercise will be continued as it is important to keep the ANC strong and cohesive.
As a governing party, the ANC continues to do well when it comes to consolidating democracy and improving the quality of life.
Over the past 18 years we have consolidated democracy and have built strong State institutions in the executive, judiciary and the legislature to take forward transformation.
We have extended water, electricity, sanitation, roads, health care and other services to millions who did not have access to these services before.
We pride ourselves in particular on having turned around the situation with regards to HIV and AIDS.
The rate of new HIV infections looks set to decline over the coming years and life expectancy is dramatically improving in South Africa due to important policy interventions.
The rate of new infections has decreased from 1.4% to 0.8% in the 15-24 age group. We now have 1.7 million South Africans on anti-retroviral treatment which has improved life expectancy.
We have reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV from about 8% in 2008 to 3,5% in 2011. Remarkably, 20 million people have to date been tested for HIV through our voluntary testing campaign.
To boost the economy and job creation in particular, our New Growth Path promotes activity in six job driving sectors - infrastructure, mining, tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and the green economy.
We are currently engaged in a massive infrastructure roll-out programme, worth more than 800 billion rand over the next three years.
The programme will create jobs while changing the landscape of our country for the better.
This is but one of many activities by government across all 34 departments, to bring about more services to our people. We are a country at work for a better life.
Ladies and gentlemen, while sharing a few of our successes, we also have challenges. The more we deliver services, the more the demand rises for water, electricity, sanitation and the like.
The backlogs are huge and our people have been waiting for decades during the apartheid period for their lives to improve.
Government has to change the way it works and that is our message in this fourth administration. That is why we introduced the notion of performance and delivery agreements for Ministers so that the speed and quality of work can improve.
We have also witnessed a tragic wave of illegal violent strikes in the past few months which have claimed many lives.
The Marikana tragedy in which 10 people were killed between the 10th and 12th, and 34 on the 16th of August, shocked the South African people and the world at large.
These painful incidents are not what we want to see in a free and democratic South Africa, where people are free to express themselves.
The killings brought into sharp focus the need for government to engage the mining sector more, to ensure the implementation of the Social and Labour Plans in the Mining Charter.
The mining companies must provide decent housing and other agreed to basic services for the workers, in line with their licences.
We concluded an economic package a week ago with business, labour and the community sector. The housing and other community development needs of workers in the mining towns are being prioritised.
Mining remains the backbone of our economy and we will continue to support the industry to make it stronger.
At the same time, the industry must not shirk its responsibility of providing for the people who go underground to extract precious minerals.
The Marikana Commission of Inquiry has begun its work, with the mandate of establishing the truth about what exactly happened in Marikana.
53RD NATIONAL CONFERENCE
We held our national policy conference in June, ahead of the 53rd national conference.
We decided to discuss the policy positions leading to conference openly and robustly as the ANC. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that the views and policies of the ANC can withstand public scrutiny.
As we prepare for National Conference, we also have to contend with the eagerness of the media and commentators to focus on perceived battles in the ANC instead of the important policies that are to be discussed at conference.
We must emphasise that this conference is no different from 52 others that took place before.
The branches of the ANC exercise their constitutional rights to decide on who should lead them.
They are busy with that exercise currently. The thoroughness ensures that the ANC elects leadership after much debate and consideration each time, and emerges stronger.
We wish to emphasise as well that life will certainly continue after Mangaung. The ANC will emerge stronger, ready to lead South Africa towards prosperity and cohesion.
As a party in government, we have noted and do appreciate the role of Alliance partners.
We value our Alliance with the SACP and COSATU. The Alliance partners exercise independence of opinion within the context of our liberation struggle.
If they do not do so, the Alliance would not add any strategic value in ensuring that the ANC remains sensitive and vigilant to the needs of the people.
We remain committed to this tried and tested Alliance, which we believe is stronger currently than at any other moment in our history of struggle.
The ANC has always attached importance to the work of its Leagues due to the fact that they represent important constituencies.
The Leagues of the ANC have always operated within the ambit of the ANC Constitution and advance through their respective sectors, the interests and views of the ANC.
There may be situations where the ANC and its leagues are far apart on any issue but through a process of discussion and persuasion, we have always been able to close the distance.
In this regard we will continue to value and engage the ANC leagues to ensure that their roles in the organisation are not diluted.
However, this must be characterised by high levels of discipline and respect for the Constitution of the ANC.
The Polokwane conference of the ANC in 2007 resolved that the ANC should examine the need for the establishment of a Media Appeals Tribunal.
This was to be done in order to strengthen, complement and support the current self-regulatory institutions such as the Press Ombudsman or Press Council.
The purpose was to promote the equal enjoyment of human rights by all citizens.
In particular, the call related to the balancing of human rights in line with section 36 of the Constitution of the Republic, the need to balance the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media, with the right to equality, privacy and human dignity for all.
A lot of discussion has taken place within the ANC on the matter.
We have also noted the work done by the media itself in response to the ANC call. This has included the establishment by the Press Council of South Africa, of the Press Freedom Commission chaired by former Chief Justice Pius Langa, to review self-regulatory mechanisms.
In light of the above, the ANC resolved at the National Policy Conference in June, to request Parliament to use the Press Freedom Commission report and proposals as a basis for assessing whether anything further is required in order to address the concerns articulated in the 2007 ANC Conference.
The view of the June policy conference was that the Press Freedom Commission proposals have gone a long way towards addressing the issues that the ANC drew attention to at the Polokwane conference.
Any further work should draw on this progressive advance that was influenced by the ANC raising these issues in the public domain.
We will watch with great interest, the extent to which the media implements the recommendations of its own Commission. That will demonstrate the seriousness with which the recommendations are taken within the industry.
The ANC fought for media freedom and will continue doing everything in its power to promote freedom of expression and media freedom.
At the same time, we also remind those who are privileged to have access to the media to respect the rights of others.
Ladies and gentlemen,
South Africa as a young democracy and new nation has done remarkably well in a short space of time.
We still have a long road to travel before we can say we have achieved our goals of a better life for all.
But we remain on track. We are steadily moving towards the type of society outlined in the country's National Development Plan, where everybody has water, electricity, sanitation and indeed basic modern services.
The ANC stands ready to continue guiding its government towards the achievement of these life improving goals.
I thank you.
Issued by the ANC, October 29 2012
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