OPINION

Pieter Mulder denied historical facts - Jacob Zuma

President says FF+ leader handled land question in a careless and callous manner

Address by President Jacob Zuma in response to the debate on the State of the Nation Address, National Assembly, Cape Town, February 16 2012

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

Let me begin by thanking all Honourable members for the contributions to this debate.

We outlined on the 9th of February, a plan that will help us deal with the triple challenge of unemployment, inequality and poverty. We thank Honourable Members for the general support of the plan. We welcome your suggestions on the implementation of the plan.

Some Honourable Members have raised caution about unveiling such a bold plan during a global economic meltdown and uncertainty especially in Europe. While there is uncertainty, there are also opportunities especially in Africa and the emerging economies.

For example, sub-Saharan Africa is expected to grow at an average of 5.4 per cent over the next five years, making it one of the fastest growing regions in the world. With the development of a continental free trade area, the South African manufacturing and export industries stand to benefit significantly from the expanded African market and the removal of obstacles to the movement of goods and people across borders.

In addition, our membership of BRICS is also yielding results.  We have achieved a fourfold increase in exports to fellow members in the BRICS groups of countries, while imports from them doubled. I look forward to the BRICS Summit in New Delhi, India next month where we will be able to share the South African story and our drive to achieve labour absorbing growth.

We are also exploring partnerships in other regions, for example the Middle East. We want to get South Africa working, growing and moving, as accurately outlined by Honourable Minister Gigaba. And we have put before the nation a workable plan that will enable us to do just that.

Honourable Holomisa pointed out the need for the state to intervene in the economy in the interests of the poor. Honourable Godi also welcomed the enhanced role of the state in the economy. We agree with the Honourable Members. In our view, the state must play a central and strategic role, driving investments especially in underdeveloped areas as we are doing with the infrastructure programme.

Honourable Members, including Honourable Umntwana wakwaPhindangene, Honourable Ma-Njobe, Hoosen and Mfundisi, raised sharply the need to improve the performance of the state in order to achieve our goals. In 2009 we took a decision to change the way government works and to improve the performance of the state.

We introduced the performance monitoring and evaluation function in government, with a focus on outcomes, and the results are encouraging in a few departments. I have undertaken a number of visits to the provinces to monitor the performance of education, health, job creation, rural development and local government. Community members are the best monitors.

They tell us outright where the problems are, and where the achievements are. These visits will continue this year as well. We have tasked the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency to continue monitoring progress amongst all departments to ensure compliance with the performance culture.

The Department, working with Offices of Premiers, has also started a joint programme of frontline service delivery monitoring, conducting unannounced visits. They visited 120 facilities last year.

Many departments have internalised the new ethos and are improving the way they deliver services. The Department of Home Affairs has reduced the turnaround time for identity documents from an average of 127 days in 2007 to less than 45 days by February 2011. Similar improvements have been achieved in the processing of passport applications. 

More recently, the Department cleared the backlog of 57 000 permit applications. The South African Social Security Agency has reduced the average turnaround time for processing new social grant applications from 30 days to 9 days. Parallel to that, there is an initiative in place to upgrade 300 social grant distribution centres, and to date 221 centres have been completed.

The Department of Mineral Resources established a new on-line application system in April 2011 which has enabled the department to issue prospecting rights within 3 months and mining rights within 6 months as opposed to the periods of 6 and 12 months respectively, which were the case previously.

With regards to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, between 2009 and 2011, a total of 43 665 cases have been disposed of, as a result of the introduction of additional regional and district backlog criminal courts. We applaud the judiciary for the extra hours put in, to ensure access to justice.

Honourable Meshoe, you mentioned the need to improve support to small businesses.

There are noticeable improvements in the performance of government agencies providing services to small businesses. As said last Thursday we are merging the small business support institutions and a new one stop institution will be launched in April this year.

We had said in 2009 that government must pay small businesses within one month of receipt of a legitimate invoice. To fast track timely payment for SMMEs a call centre was established through the Small Enterprise Development Agency to facilitate payment within 30 days.

As of 15 December 2011, the Hotline Call Centre had answered in excess of 25,000 calls and facilitated payments in excess of R270 million to small enterprises. We continue to monitor the performance of the call centre to ensure continuous improvement.

I met with Directors-General of national and provincial departments in 2009 and 2010 and instructed them to institute changes in the functioning of departments including financial management and oversight.

Amongst the measures that are being undertaken as a result, to further improve efficiency, all departments have been instructed to put in place monitoring systems to track the invoice as it moves through the various stages of approval in the department.

The officials are required to provide a monthly exception report to National Treasury on the number and value of invoices that have not been paid within 30 days.

We are monitoring the compliance of departments with these instructions.

Honourable Kopane, we noted the issues you raised relating to poor service delivery in some public hospitals and clinics. The National Department of Health has developed core quality standards for the availability of medicines and supplies, cleanliness, patient safety, infection prevention and control, positive attitudes and waiting times.

The department has audited compliance with these standards in 4 210 health facilities and quality improvement plans are currently in the process of being developed to address identified gaps. In working to improve citizen care, we want to ensure that health professionals become caring and understanding, and not make a visit to a hospital or clinic to be more traumatic than the ailment that takes a person to these facilities.

Honourable Members, we assure you that we are progressing well in changing the way government works and to improve efficiency and put citizens first. Honourable Davidson raised the issue of the fight against crime. The Statistics SA Victims of Crime Survey, 2011 confirms that the general perception by South Africans is that crime is indeed being brought under control.

More than 40% of households surveyed believe that the level of both violent and non-violent crime had decreased in their area of residence during the period 2008 to 2010. Successive crime reports demonstrate that substantial reductions in serious crime have been achieved.

We must not be shy to congratulate ourselves on this achievement, which is a result of sterling work by our police and the criminal justice system as a whole as well as communities. But, the fight against crime and corruption continues. We will not become complacent.

We are increasing the numbers of skilled personnel in areas such as crime scene investigation, forensic analyses, fingerprinting and investigation, prosecutions and legal aid, which will further improve performance. Already the impact of the improvements in investigative and forensic capacity is evident in the improved detection rates for serious crimes.

Correctional Services has introduced electronic monitoring of offenders who are granted parole and reintegrated into society. To promote access to justice, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development completed the major additions to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein as well as the new wing in the Western Cape High Court.

Three new courts were completed in Tsakane, Ntuzuma and Kagiso townships. The Department will be completing the construction of a new High Court in Limpopo as well as a new court in Katlehong.

We will also be starting with the construction of a new High Court in Mpumalanga, and that of new courts in Mamelodi, Port Shepstone, Dimbaza, Bityi and Plettenberg Bay.

The deployment of the SANDF on the border is yielding results. We are clamping down on illicit economic and crime-related border activities.

Honourable Members raised the scourge of corruption as a serious problem.  We are doing a lot already to combat corruption. Honourable Hoosen, we reiterate our undertaking made in 2009 to combat fraud and corruption in tender processes. Our announcement about vetting supply chain personnel is one of the interventions in this regard.

Honourable Chikunga outlined most of the interventions in the fight against crime and corruption. There is indeed a lot that has been done. The Anti-Corruption Task Team constituted by representatives from the security agencies is currently investigating 45 corruption related priority cases against 151 accused persons, and assets in excess of R600 million have been seized.

More than R1 billion worth of assets obtained through illicit means have been forfeited by the state in the past two years. Meanwhile, since the inception of the National Anti-corruption Hotline which is managed by the Public Service Commission, a total of 1 499 officials were charged with misconduct for corrupt activities at national and provincial government levels.

We thank all who use this Hotline to report alleged corruption. In addition, the Special Investigating Unit is probing cases arising from 23 proclamations, relating mainly to procurement irregularities in government departments nationally, provincially and also in some public enterprises.

We have split the function of heading the SIU and the Asset Forfeiture Unit to improve focus and output.

Honourable Members, it is important to emphasise that most of the corruption you read about in the media is exposed as a result of the work of government and its agencies.

Let us work together to promote clean governance and remove corruption in the public service and society in general.  We are one of the countries in the world that has a dedicated programme of fighting corruption.

Honourable Speaker,

The courts, led by the Constitutional Court, through their judgments, continue to make an indelible mark in the transformation of society to realise the vision set out in the Constitution. As outlined by Minister Radebe, an initiative to assess the impact and effect of the decisions of the superior courts, in particular the Constitutional Court, will be undertaken in this year. 

This assessment is with a view to reflect on the impact of the constitutional jurisprudence in the past 17 years of our democracy towards the realisation of the 
transformation goals envisaged by the Constitution.  The assessment will also focus on the role of the other arms of the State in giving effect to the court judgments.

We reiterate that this exercise must not be viewed as an attempt by government to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law which are entrenched in our Constitution. It is in reality the enhancement of our constitutional democracy. We reaffirm our firm belief in the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary and of all three arms of the State. 

Honourable Meshoe, we wish to emphasise that this exercise, as decided upon by Cabinet in November last year, falls within the mandate of the Executive, of formulating and reviewing policies of government. There is nothing unusual or untoward about it.

The Chief Whip of the Majority Party, Honourable Motshekga in fact reminded us that Constitutions the world over are dynamic and subject to review. In recognition of this fact, our Constitution provides that it must be reviewed at least annually by parliament, in terms of Section 45 (1) (c). That is why there is the Constitutional Review Committee in parliament.

Honourable Speaker,

Honourable Mulder stunned all of us and the whole country yesterday with his bold denial of historical facts about land dispossession. We recall the words of Sol Plaatje on the impact of the Natives Land Act of 1913.

He said; "Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913 the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth"

John Langalibalele Dube stated around the same period:

"Most Europeans would not know, and will never know the bitterness of being driven from one's birth place".

The land question is one of the most emotive issues in our history and present, and must be handled with utmost care, and not in the careless and callous manner that Honourable Mulder handled it. As a responsible government, we resolved to address the land reform problem through restitution, redistribution and tenure reform within the confines of the Constitution, informed by the national policy of reconciliation and nation building.

We felt it was not going to help the country for us to be emotional about the land question. We therefore urge Honourable Mulder to tread very carefully on this matter. It is extremely sensitive and to the majority of people in this country, it is a matter of life and death.

We have introduced a Green Paper on Land reform. The three fundamentals for land reform, that will apply, are the following:

- The de-racialization of the rural economy;
- The democratic land allocation and use across gender, race and class; and,
- The strict production discipline for guaranteed food security.

Another lesson learnt over the years is that the process of  acquiring and distributing a particular piece of land is often lengthy, and this  escalates the cost of redistribution because the former owner stops investing in the land.

Many of the farms are therefore in a poor state of repair at the point of acquisition with very low productivity. This led to the adoption of a recapitalization programme in November 2010 run by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

By December 2011, about 600 farms were in the process of being rehabilitated through this programme. The centenary of the 1913 Land Act is just a few months away. It is the interests of all South Africans, black and white, and in the interests of national reconciliation that we proceed faster, guided by the Constitution, to transform our policy framework.

Compatriots,

Our leader and father Honourable Mlangeni emphasised the need to improve the education of African working class children. We are working tirelessly to bring about change in education and to make our education system pro-poor, as outlined by Honourable Minister Motshekga. 

The Eastern Cape education intervention is clearly of great interest to Honourable Members from the Opposition Benches.

We are assisting the province to deal with the following urgent matters:

  • The National School Nutrition Programme.
  • The allocation and appointment of teachers.
  • The supply of stationery and textbooks, especially to non-section 21 schools.
  • The provision of scholar transport.
  • Infrastructure development, especially the eradication of mud, inappropriate and unsafe school structures.

We sent the Deputy Ministers of Basic Education, Finance, Justice and Constitutional Development, Public Service and Administration and Higher Education to the province recently to monitor and evaluate progress.

They will facilitate the implementation of the recommendations in a problem-solving and solution-oriented manner, working with the Presidential Task Team on the Eastern Cape intervention.

In promoting our pro-poor education policies, Honourable Members, we are investing in children and the youth from toddlers to tertiary.

In addition to the Grade R enrolments which have doubled, which we mentioned in the State of the Nation Address, our Early Childhood Development programme is also growing.

The numbers of centres registered with the Department of Social Development have increased to 19 331 last year, from 16 250 last year. This programme now reaches more than 800 000 children, with government subsidising more than 500 000 children at between R12 and R15 per child per day depending on provinces.

The subsidies enable children from poor households to also benefit from early childhood support and education.

May I take this opportunity to inform Honourable Members about the marking of Child Protection Week, from 28 May to the 1st of June. We invite all to participate in this worthwhile campaign.

Honourable Minister Patel pointed out the scarce skills which could impact on the infrastructure programme, such as engineering, project management, financing,
procurement and technical skills such as artisans, technologists and technicians.

It is for this reason that we have programmes such as the Youth into Science Strategy to encourage learners to pursue science, engineering, technology and mathematics studies at tertiary level. In particular we need to increase the numbers of graduates in engineering and the sciences.

The Department of Higher Education is working with the deans of the relevant faculties at tertiary institutions to determine short to medium-term strategies to achieve the 2014 graduate output targets for these scarce skills. I will meet with the principals of Further Education and Training Colleges in April to discuss their role in producing the skills that will make our economy grow faster and be sustainable.

Honourable Pandor shared the work we are doing to promote a knowledge economy and innovation. Government set itself the task of increasing broadband penetration, reducing information communication technology costs, developing national broadband legislation, developing wholesale backbone infrastructure, rolling out Digital Terrestrial Television and local loop unbundling.

To date more than six thousand rural and urban schools have access to the internet in South Africa. Honourable Bhoola and Honourable Lekota, proposals for a youth employment incentive were published in February 2011. Discussions are currently in progress under the auspices of NEDLAC. We trust that stakeholders will find an appropriate design quickly as this is an urgent and important matter.

Honourable Members,

We announced an extensive heritage programme, to contribute towards shared values and a common national identity in the country. The programme will also boost cultural tourism and economic activity in the areas where the monuments will be located.

Honourable Mphahlele questioned the representativity of the heritage sites selected and argued that government had not honoured PAC heroes including the youngest prisoner to be hanged by the Pretoria regime, Bhekaphansi Vulindlela, who was tragically executed at the age of 18 years on the 3rd of July 1964.

Honourable Members will recall that on 15th of December we launched the Gallows Museum in Pretoria, honouring the 134 former political prisoners.

The names of all, including Bhekaphansi Vulindlela are engraved at the museum for generations to know their contribution to the attainment of this democracy we enjoy. The process of proclaiming heritage sites is inclusive and involves extensive public participation. Anybody can approach the South African Heritage Resource Agency with suggestions on naming and proclamation of memorial sites.

Honourable Dikobo and Honourable Godi, we are indeed determined to change the leadership of the African Union Commission, and we thank you for your support. Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as a candidate for chairperson of the AU Commission, carries a mandate from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Since the formation in May 1963 of the Organisation of African Unity, the SADC region has never been represented in the continental body at the level of chairperson of the Commission.

Secondly, South Africa has never before made an attempt of holding this position. We believe our candidate can build on the good work done by previous leaders as well as consolidate achievements made in the last ten years of the existence of the AU.

There are many things we want to do. There is a need to consolidate the institution of the AU as a formidable, premier, Pan-African institution. We must ensure that Africa's developmental agenda is collectively advanced. Issues relating to integration and the operationalisation of the African Peace and Security Architecture and enhancing cooperation between the AU and the United Nations in conflict resolution need to be attended to. We have to ensure that NEPAD programmes are implemented.

We also believe that the AU, having declared 2010 to 2020 as the Decade of Women, must ensure full implementation and consolidation of programmes aimed at ensuring the emancipation of women. Our candidature will also enhance the health, education and skills development of children and youth in Africa so as to ensure adequate future human resources for Africa's economic development.

We also want to remain vigilant on Africa's continued advocacy for reform of the global governance architecture and for a global deal on climate change. More importantly, we seek to reaffirm the independence of Africa from neo-colonial influences and interference from outside the continent, particularly by former colonial powers and other parties.

It is for these reasons, amongst others, that we are going ahead with standing for the position for AU Commission chair as South Africa.

Honourable Members, let me take this opportunity to thank you for supporting Census 2011. The results of this massive operation will be released in November this year. We congratulate Minister Manuel and his team for the success of this huge project.

Honourable Speaker,
Honourable Members,

I invite you to join me in extending good wishes to Mama Epainette Mbeki who turns 96 years old today. We wish her a very happy birthday! With regards to anniversaries, the legendary Alexandra Township in Johannesburg is marking 100 years this year.

The South African Hindu Maha Sabha, the representative body of Hindus in South Africa is also marking 100 years.

Honourable members,
Compatriots,

The Presidential Infrastructure Coordination Commission has developed a roadmap to finalise the components of each Infrastructure Project, relying on the results of technical and feasibility studies. We are meeting tomorrow, the 17th to work further on the implementation plan. There is no time to waste.

I will convene a Presidential Infrastructure Summit in April, to brief potential investors and social partners. We will also draft a new Infrastructure Development law to simplify administrative requirements and promote cooperative governance across the three spheres of government, building on the soccer world cup experience.

Honourable members,

Allow me to thank the South African public for participation in the State of the Nation Address development process through the Presidential Hotline, social media and mainstream media. We also thank those who joined us during the broadcast. Almost three million people watched the State of the Nation Address on SABC2 and more than 1.3 million on e-tv. 

This is an increase from 1.5 million for the SABC and just under 500 000 for e-tv in 2009, when the State of the Nation Address was delivered in daytime. The address was also broadcast live by SABC radio stations, reaching even more people in the most remote areas of our country and also community radio stations.

We have charted a new course for our country. We want to see cranes, we want to see workers in every corner, we want to see dams, bridges, roads, railway lines mushrooming around the country. We want to see infrastructure that enables the rural areas to have water, electricity and roads.

We want to see an improved quality of life for all. Together we can successfully drive back poverty, unemployment and inequality. Former ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo said as much at an ANC rally closing the National Consultative Conference in Kabwe, Zambia in 1985. He said;

"Working together as fellow South Africans, we have it within our power to transform this country into the land of plenty for all, where the nightmare of apartheid will just be a faint memory of the past".

I thank you.

Issued by The Presidency, February 16 2012

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