SPEECHES: Address by L N Sisulu, MP, Minister for the Public Service and Administration, during the debate on the President’s State Of the Nation Address,19 February 2014, Parliament

Date: 20 Feb 2014

Mr Speaker

Mr President

Mr Deputy President

Honourable Members

I want to start off by expressing my disappointment with the performance of the opposition parties during yesterday’s debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address. After all that media hype over the weekend about the opposition bringing out the big guns, I did not even see a water pistol. Because none can refute the basis of what the President asserted here on Thursday: that today is better than 1994. This is such an irrefutable fact, it is almost like saying today is Wednesday! And they all know that! Gradually, as their own arguments and voices became hollow, the debate changed to conceding that some gains have been made. It is now argued that the gains of Presidents Mandela and Mbeki were reversed by President Zuma. This is as nonsensical as it is illogical.

You must admit it, only your prejudice stands in the way of your admitting the President gave us a very good speech on our good story. But because most of you are conditioned by instinctive negativity, your immediate response was negative. The combined opposition has dishonestly and opportunistically sought to appropriate President Mandela and President Mbeki for giving themselves some credibility. This, I want to remind the House, is the same opposition that opposed the ANC, even in President Mandela's time. The DA in particular made the same scurrilous allegations of non-delivery, as they do today.

You were as unapologetically here to represent vestiges of past privileges, as you are now. It is for this reason that President Mandela then called you a Mickey Mouse party. Infact, he was being very generous. Mickey Mouse is a popular, likeable character and you are just a damp squib, an empty excuse of a party, a one person party with no tangible policies or ideals. It is just Helen Zille, the pied piper leading you nowhere, just hunting down any black face that is willing to be bought.

The DA could not have created a greater circus than what played itself out in the public domain over the past three weeks. The message you sent out was clear; “we are perceived as so entrenched in the image of the protection of vestiges of white privilege that we have to have a black face”. The desperation played itself out for all to see. Honourable Olliscomes here yesterday with what he thinks is a bombshell, and tells us Helen Zille is standing against President Zuma in the upcoming elections. What in the world would drive anyone to such public, self inflicted lynching?

But I digressed. My aim is to tell you what we have achieved, not only in the 20 years since 1994, but specifically in the last 5 years and you will see that the President’s good story is in fact a remarkable story. Sit back and learn.

The African Union took a decision in 2003 to set up an African Peer Review Mechanism believing that the prosperity of any country starts with solid and good governance.

Through the APRM a panel of eminent experts is sent to each country under review. The review of a country is conducted by the citizens of that country itself. In our case the country review was done by a National General Council comprising of civil society, religious organisations, the business sector, youth, and labour.

Our first report in 2007 was a harsh judgment on us and since then we have worked on those issues on which the panel of experts pointed out were problematic.

Several months ago, after scouring the length and breadth of the country to find out how our citizens assessed us, the National General Council presented to me the final report. And I want to quote from their report what our people think of their government.

“South Africa is the greatest country on the continent. Nowhere else has democracy been so embraced by its people. Overcoming our great evil – apartheid – has left our citizens better off than ever imagined. As a nation, we hold a torch for our beloved continent for what can be accomplished through the efforts of a committed government, committed people, committed business and committed civil society sector. The people of South Africa have a way out of poverty in a land where opportunity is for all. And if that way does not work government stands as a safety net for its people.”

This is not us, the ANC, this is a report of our people across the spectrum. They continue to say:

“In this process, we are reminded of the works of Tata Nelson Mandela giving his first speech as a democratically elected president when he said, “Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty. Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud. Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity’s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.”

The report continues:

“It is these words that have been a lighthouse for us all. As a country, we are building infrastructure that links our people to each other, Africa and the world. We are establishing schools and providing education to each and every child. We are providing healthcare where it is needed and we provide a social safety net for the disenfranchised through social welfare programmes. We continue to provide an electoral process that is free and fair, where our people can express themselves through their vote and a judicial system that is independent and works.”

They concluded: “Minister we are proud of what this government has done.”

This is a report from civil society, business, faith based organisations about us as government. This wonderful story doesn’t end here. Listen to what Professor Sawyer, the Eminent Panel member who was reviewing us, had to say:

“The challenges that were identified previously have been accomplished. Therefore in the last 20 years remarkable progress has been made by the government. Democracy is palpable, with a consolidation of public participation. The government has integrity with strong anti-corruption efforts. We congratulate South Africa for its success. We congratulate it for its infrastructure projects. We congratulate it for spearheading good governance, for its protection of consumers. And its progress on issues of HIV, which puts it at number 1 in the world in the roll out of ARVs.”

"Equally notable are continued efforts by government and civil society to fight xenophobia and racism and entrench the values of “ubuntu” and peaceful co-existence in South African society. The steps taken to ensure accountability of public office holders are commendable steps and will help a great deal in addressing the challenges of service delivery. Anti-corruption institutions and mechanisms continue to be strengthened to fight the scourge of corruption. The Panel commends the many initiatives and partnerships with civil society and the private sector in fighting corruption."

"In Corporate Governance, South Africa continues to set standards and best practices, which are internationally recognized. Important legislations and institutions are in place to stimulate private sector growth. We congratulate South Africa."

That is not us speaking, it was the man who had overseen the assessment, independent of the civil society process.

The President presented our report to the AU on behalf of the people of this country. It was not us as government assessing ourselves. This came from our people and the people have eloquently expressed their views on us. A more authoritative barometer of our performance you cannot find than the people themselves.

Mr President, through the APRM, the people of this country record not only a good story but an amazing story of success.

Yesterday, Members of my party gave concrete facts about our successes, based on statistics, collated by reputable agencies and therefore irrefutable. Let me give you a few more to digest. These come from someone who does not necessarily like us, but has the honesty to admit truth.

Let’s start with the economy. Our economy is 63% bigger today than it was in 1990. Our per capita income is 27% higher today than it was in 1993. According to the World Economic Forum’s index for Global Competitiveness, for the year 2012-2013 South Africa ranked 52nd out of 144 countries and we are ranked the best or among the best in the first criteria used. In our auditing standards we held the number 1 spot, but currently at number 2, we are doing fantastic. We are at number 1 on legal rights, we are at number 1 on the efficiency of our corporate boards, on the soundness of our banking system, we are number 2. I could go on the whole day – this is what this government has achieved. Mr President, it is not just a good story, it gets better.

Mr President,

You tell a good story of the past 20 years. It is a good story, all things being equal. But in our case it would be downright a-historical not to indicate what the then Minister of Public Service said of the state of the public service: “the National Party ruled for 50 years, producing nothing but the chaos we now found here”. We had to start from this chaotic arrangement. In those 20 years we had to first establish the state and all its governance infrastructure. We had to begin from the base of a centralised government that served the interests of only 3 million whites, amalgamate it with 11 bantustan administrations – all tribally based and except for one or two, these were nothing more than tin pot, makeshift dumping grounds to bolster the Apartheid ideology, hardly able to run spaza shops. From these we had to create the State, reorganise these into 9 provinces, designate responsibilities, create institutions and ministries, right-size the Public Service and begin the process of transforming it to suit the needs of a democratic state.

It took well beyond 1999 to establish what we now call Public Administration. Put against that background, you will understand that what we have achieved now is a wonder. From a quagmire to a wonder. The resistance to the new order was evident everywhere in government. In that time we repealed and replaced more than 800 pieces of legislation. Today we have a government that works as efficiently as any in the developing world, in less than two decades. And instead of us celebrating a milestone achievement of 20 years that we could all lay claim to, having been part of, we allow spiteful negativity to take this glow away. But we in the ANC don’t mind at all – we will take the victory if you are too blind to see. Because indeed the victory is ours.

Within this context, let me tell you what our President here has done, as he himself has often so eloquently put it.

  1. He split the Education Ministry to allow us to pay more attention to the competing demands of basic education and higher education. The results speak for themselves;
  2. He split Land Affairs from Agriculture, to allow us to pay particular attention to the very important issue of land and its redistribution. And, on the other hand, to allow Agriculture to ensure our food security. Again, the results speak for themselves;
  3. He created the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation. The results are all clear to see.
  4. He created the Unit for National Planning in the Presidency and it produced our blueprint, the National Development Plan, which has emphasised the role of an efficient public service and a developmental state. We all applauded it, right here in this House. It was his initiative. All of these are his initiatives.

We have begun to implement that plan. It starts with an effective and efficient state. That’s what we are doing and amongst other things:

  • We have launched a Public Service Charter
  • We have put more emphasis on corruption strategies. We are now no longer allowing Public Servants from doing business with the state.
  • We are now restructuring our supply chain processes.
  • We are taking tough action against all who break our anti-corruption regulation.

Here is a clear and incisive deepening of democracy and the creation of a more efficient state, and you tell us of a reversal of gains? Where have you been, honourable Mazibuko – Thandi in the wilderness!!

Under President Zuma’s Presidency we hosted the Soccer World Cup. Amid a great deal of skepticism, we pulled off a spectacular event. Even Bafana Bafana rose to the occasion then, making the Members on my left the real bunch of losers. The Minister of Sport and Recreation had it wrong, these are the real bunch of losers, right here in this House.

You complain about service delivery. The President conceded there is still much to be done. But, if for you service delivery protests are an index of failure, then let me desegregate matters for you. In the last five years there have been more problematic service delivery protests here in the Western Cape than anywhere else. Nowhere else have we had a Premier so out of her depth, she had to call for national intervention and the Defence Force to solve her problems. That, for me, would be an index of failure.

An index of a failed province is one that spends R10.3 billion on consultants. R10.3 billion! Why do we need a government at all in the Western Cape? We might as well let Helen Zille run it with her cronies of consultants. They are after all paid much better than the Provincial Executive. The Auditor-General’s finding on the rampant looting of public funds in the Western Cape, through the use of consultants by the DA-led provincial administration is abhorrent.

But more importantly, this is the one province that in all the restructuring that had to be done after 1994, remained intact. In our Skills Audit we have found that the Western Cape has the highest level of skilled personnel. The main reason why departments use consultants is to make up for the skills deficit. In the Western Cape there is no excuse whatsoever and to spend R10.3 billion rand is so exorbitant as to be scandalous.

It is a fact that delivery of services in the Western Cape is skewed in favour of the privileged. The delivery of government houses in the province will rank as President Zuma’s greatest failure in administration and I can speak authoritatively on this matter as the former Minister of Housing. There is a drastic drop in the housing delivery in the Western Cape of almost 25% year on year since the DA took over controle of the province. The statistics are there should you care to check. Farm evictions continue with gay abandon and the squatter areas grow phenomenally and crime escalates. That is the Western Cape for you, that which we are told is the model province.

But just so that you know what this administration of President Zuma is doing to improve service delivery every day. Here are a few statistics to mull over:

  • It now takes 7 days to get your identity document. This administration delivered that. Right here in this House you were all glowing with praise for Minister Dlamini-Zuma on how she turned Home Affairs around. It was done by this Administration, under this President. How easy is it to forget you applauded these successes.
  • It now takes 2 days to register and receive a grant. This administration delivered that.

In an effort to make services more accessible:

  • On average, 70% of our people have a Home Affairs office within 25 kilometres from their residences.
  • Over 75% of our people have access to a SASSA paypoint within 5 kilometres of their homes.
  • Over 80% of our people have a primary school within 5 kilometres of their homes.
  • Over 80% of our people have a secondary school within 5 kilometres of their homes.

Mr President, you might have to change your story. We have a very good story to tell.

When you look at what we have done in the last 20 years we have a good story but when put against a backdrop of what we found in this country when we took over, we have an amazing story to tell.

  1. We promised freedom. There is not a single South African who does not enjoy freedom. We even freed our oppressors from themselves.
  2. We promised a right to vote. Not a single South African is denied this right.
  3. We promised a better life. The President has very ably sketched out how we have achieved this and added “but there is still much to be done”

None of the matters raised in the House contradict this.

We have a vision encapsulated in the Freedom Charter. A vision that all shall be free from the yoke of apartheid and that we shall all be able one day to exercise our right to freedom. We fought for that freedom and most along the right hand bear the scars of that fight.

We fought for you so that you should be liberated from the stupidity of apartheid. We dreamt of a better life even for you, we fought for you and today we have delivered that dream to most – all in 20 short years. You are free of even the guilt of the past. We forgave even those that tortured and killed our people. We have delivered to you the best country on the continent.

I will tell you what your vision is, vacuous criticism. You have created nothing, achieved nothing.

Mr President, Amartya Sen, the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, in his book, Development as Freedom, argues for broadening the objectives of development policy. Instead of a narrow-minded focus on per capita income growth, he calls on us to focus on the reduction of inequality, and especially putting in place policies that enhance and promote human capability, income levers and thus equalization in the levels of human services such as healthcare and education as a means of enlarging the scope and levels of human agency and effectiveness. His main thesis is that these equalization measures are at the heart of development as the ultimate expression of attaining of human freedom. We could have written the book for the Nobel Prize winner because we are living that path of attainment of human freedom.

The ANC recognised very early that dealing with these challenges could not be accomplished by minimalist state based on privatization, deregulation, downsizing, decentralization, etc. Our path had to be a developmental one with robust state institutions playing a leading role and informed by our successive electoral mandates, to promote transformation at all levels of state and society in pursuit of social and economic justice for all. The policy mix to achieve this include pro-poor income strategies, a strong collective bargaining system between labour and employers, a reliable and effective public service, an expansive welfare grant regime, capped subsidies for basic services such as water, to promote public-private partnerships in the fight against poverty and unemployment. This is important for addressing market-induced inequalities and for promoting equal opportunities. We cannot therefore over-emphasise the validity and timeliness of the NDP because it provides us with a strategic and normative compass to navigate our way towards a better and sustainable future.

Mr President, you gave a good “State of the Nation Address” on Thursday. You made all rational South Africans feel good about themselves and their country. It was clear right there that the opposition saw the election was a clear win for the ANC. They spent the whole weekend trying to rake up what to say in response. Of course, being an election year, they had to fight back. It is all hot air, no substance.

We say these things not to boast but to correct the deliberate distortion of our history, and to say to the desperate and clueless groupings, hands-off our history and our leaders.

I thank you

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