Text of Jacob Zuma's address to editor's luncheon

Speech by the ANC President, Wanderers Club, Johannesburg November 11 2008

Statement by ANC President Jacob Zuma to the ANC President Editor's Luncheon, Wanderers Club, Johannesburg, November 11 2008

Editors, political editors and political writers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us today. We felt it important to update you on what we are working on as the ANC, as we work towards elections.

At the end of November, we will hold our crucial national Manifesto conference.  The substance of the conference will no doubt generate a lot of debate within the media and society.  We are drawing up the Manifesto with confidence, given the exceptional service delivery and leadership record of the ANC government over the past 14 years. The new administration will be building on the impressive legacy of Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, who laid a solid foundation for socio-economic and political development.

We can record the following amongst many achievements:

  • The longest economic expansion recorded in history - averaging 4.5% since 2004.
  • There has been a decline in unemployment - from 31% in 2003 to 23% in 2007.
  • We have made an impact in the fight against poverty. More than 12.6 million people now receive social grants, 2.6 million RDP houses have been provided for 13 million people, and 18.7 million people now have access to water, and 10.9 million to sanitation.
  • On health, progress has been recorded through the expansion of primary health care.

Our government has also focused on the revitalisation and refurbishment of hospitals, the scaling-up of anti-retroviral rollout and the combating of smoking.

The role of the new administration in 2009 will be to further improve service delivery and to fight unemployment, poverty and inequality. We also need to take account of changing international conditions, particularly the on-going global financial crisis.

The consequences on our side could be a slowdown in production, potential job losses and rising food prices, which we must anticipate and manage.

Our policy framework, as you know, was finalised last year in Polokwane, so there are no surprises. We remain consistent in saying that there will be no fundamental policy shifts.

The conference resolutions, on which our Manifesto will be based, indicate the need for continuity, while providing room for us to change the way of doing things to enhance delivery, as well as re-prioritise our focus areas to make a difference.

Our key priorities as you would be aware are education and health, rural development, land and agrarian reform, the fight against crime and economic transformation. The various NEC sub-committees are working tirelessly to prepare for the Manifesto conference.   We have also been criss-crossing the provinces, flagging various issues to solicit public responses.

Over the past two weeks I have attended public meetings and smaller opinion makers meetings, and also undertook door-to-door visits in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West and the Western Cape.

I will be going to the remaining provinces as well, starting with the Northern Cape on 12 to 13 November and Mpumalanga this weekend. We are sending the message that the ANC government has done well, and that we will seek to do even better from 2009, to deal with the challenges that remain.

This week, we will be launching a popular campaign, inviting ordinary South Africans to make suggestions on what they would like to see in the ANC's election manifesto.  Under the theme, "My Future, My Vision", it will encourage people to submit contributions that can be collated and considered as the ANC finalises the manifesto.

Various principles and proposals are being discussed in the build up to the Manifesto conference. I will touch on just a few, as there will be regular briefings leading up to the conference. With regards to economic transformation, some of the proposals and principles that are being looked into include the following:

  • The creation of decent work will be the primary focus of economic policies and all economic programmes must seek to create decent jobs to alleviate poverty.
  • We must improve access to quality education and training to enable the unemployable to gain the necessary skills.
  • We should not shy away from importing skills from other countries, in a way that supports growth and enables skills transfer.
  • We must develop our rural areas, and especially promote small-scale agricultural producers.
  • We must improve public transport to enable workers to get to work with minimal hassles, and to ensure that they spend less than 5% of their income on transport.
  • Government should play a more active role in job creation, directly through the public service. We therefore envisage the expansion of public sector employment.

We will request the labour movement to help us mobilize public servants to produce the work ethos and service delivery that will be required in return.

Some of the proposals being put forward to aid the fight against crime including the following:

  • To increase the number of police officials and review the retention strategy to keep them on the job.
  • Improve remuneration and provide relevant training on skills such as finger printing or forensic investigations.

We are also promoting the view that a balance should be found between protecting human rights and the fight against crime. The Alliance Economic Summit for example moved that we should debate the "right to remain silent" and other aspects of our criminal procedure laws as part of exploring solutions. We will obviously tread very carefully on such discussions in our structures.

We have noted concerns that in opening some aspects of the criminal procedure act to debate, we may be creating a perception that we want to violate the Constitution. This is not the case.

We remain committed to every word in the Constitution. We feel that we strengthen our Constitution by allowing the population to re-examine and discuss certain provisions on certain occasions. They can then recommit themselves to defending and protecting this supreme law of the land. Our people are the best custodians of the Constitution.

We also want to promote and establish a new value system in the fight against crime. Some aspects include getting the public to shun stolen goods, as purchase perpetuates crime, and to get the public to develop a habit of informing the police when crimes are committed.

The campaign to establish street committees continues as these will assist us to promote public participation in the fight against crime. Health and education will be a key priority for the next five years. We will be putting forward proposals for the transformation of both the public and private health sectors. These will include the refurbishment of hospitals and improvement of service standards. There will also be renewed emphasis on reducing HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and child mortality.

We have to improve the quality of schooling, particularly performance in maths, science and technology.  We must enhance access to education by ensuring that children do not pay fees in at least 60% of schools from 2009. We must also make our children take a positive view of Further Education and Training colleges. They are pivotal to skills development for the workplace.

On rural development, we are working on proposals for Government to embark on an integrated programme of rural development, food security and land reform. 

Our social transformation work will have nation building as its central thrust. We are scheduled to host a religious summit on the 27th of November, which will help fine-tune our moral regeneration strategy and focus.

The Freedom Charter laid the framework for the post-apartheid Constitution of the country and influenced many of its provisions. 

The preamble of the Constitution of the Republic, like the Freedom Charter, provides that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in [their] diversity".  We will promote our diversity and all the traditional values that make our society what it is.

The primary values include respect for the next person, for elders and all human beings regardless of their station in life. Our children and youth should be taught not to stray from that basic value of respect for their parents and for every adult in their community and society. 

These are the basics, which keep our communities together, and which enhance the moral fibre of South African society. We will be working with the ANC Youth League to promote these values and messages amongst the youth. Our children are our most precious resource. We will promote services to children including early childhood development, access to schools and health care.

Our social workers will have to ascertain why some children do not go to school and recommend remedial interventions and psycho-social support where needed. 

Our social workers, religious and community leaders will also have to help government to identify households with vulnerable children so that assistance can be provided. These include social grants and necessary welfare services.

While government builds a caring society for our children, parents and society will have to support us and put down certain non-negotiables on the table for them.

These will include school attendance, respect for elders and engagement in healthy lifestyles. Our life skills programmes in schools will become invaluable in moulding the children to become confident well-adjusted citizens when they grow up.

On international relations, our Manifesto conference will most likely propose that we continue to prioritise the focus on peace and stability in the region and continent.  Areas such as Zimbabwe, DRC, Darfur, Somalia should also continue receiving attention.

We are looking forward to a fulfilling Manifesto development process. Our election and communication teams will keep you informed throughout the exercise.

Alongside the Manifesto development, the process of selecting the ANC's candidates for parliament and the provincial legislatures has started in branches across the country.  This is an extensive and thoroughly democratic process, giving ordinary members an opportunity to decide which members are best suited to become MPs and MPLs.

From branches, the nominations will go to provincial list conferences, and culminate in a national list conference on 13-14 December. The ANC is confident that arising from this process, we will have a cadre of candidates that will inspire confidence and earn the trust of the South African people.

It promises to be a vibrant and exciting election.  We reiterate that we expect the elections to be as peaceful as always. In our view, our population has the maturity to deal with any political turbulence without resorting to violence.

We expect the ANC to emerge from this election with a clear and certain mandate to further continue the work to build a better life for all.

Thank you

Issued by the African National Congress November 11 2008