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Remarks by Minister Jackson Mthembu at the Mandela 100 Global Citizen Celebratory Reception, Morningside, Johannesburg

Ladies and gentlemen

Good evening everyone. 

It’s a pleasure to be here with you, and thank you for having us join and provide remarks at this Global Citizen Mandela 100 Anniversary Reception. 

The President of South Africa sends his warmest greetings, best wishes and again sent me here to underline his heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the Global Citizen team for hosting the Global Citizen Festival on South African and African soil, a year ago, on this day. The President is unfortunately not available to attend and as such, I am the bearer of his wisdom. 

This celebration happens just as we laid to rest one of the country’s King, His Majesty King Mpendulo Sigcawu (Ah! Zwelonke Ah! Zwelonke Ah! Zwelonke). Lala ngoxolo Tshawe. This is also the period where as a country we are during the period of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December.  

As President Ramaphosa said last week when launching the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in Lephalale, “The crisis of violence against women and children is a great shame on our nation. It goes against our African values and everything we stand for as a people.”  With this year’s campaign, we say enough is enough – 356 days to Gender-Based violence and femicide (GBVF). We can no longer stand on the side lines and watch how women and children continue to fall victims of gender-based violence and femicide. We must all take a stand and rebuke those in our circles who continue to abuse women and children. The perpetrators of abuse are people who live among us. We know them and sometimes protect them. We must do better.  

On Sunday, 2 December 2018, South Africa hosted the first-ever Global Citizen Festival in honour of two of our greatest icons-the late former President, His Excellency, Dr Nelson Mandela and Mrs Albertina Sisulu who stood for justice, equality and non-racialism-amongst many other things. 

Let us appreciate the efforts of Global Citizen as a movement that seeks to support global efforts at bringing an end to extreme poverty by 2030. This, all as part of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. We must all keep working tirelessly across the 17 global goals including food and nutrition, water and sanitation, girls and women, the environment, health and finance and innovation. We salute your efforts unreservedly. 

The President, in briefing me, fondly recalled the festival. It was an exhilarating day-long experience of music, song and dance, in front of a capacity ground of over 90 000 people inside the stadium and thousands more on the outside of the stadium. It was an unprecedented experience. Performances sought to convene and bring together “pop and policy”, and this turned out to be an extraordinary success. Again, well done to the Global Citizen team.

Yet, while entertainment was the order of the day, at the heart of the concert was something more profound too. For our President, at a deeply personal level, it gave great pleasure to stand in front of our people, Africa and the world, on home soil, ushering in the festival. It was the realisation of a magnificent dream that started way back in New York, USA in 2016. It was a dream we had harboured in honour of Madiba and Mama Sisulu. The 100-year anniversary afforded people all over the world an opportunity to recommit themselves to reflect on and revisit the legacies of Madiba and uMama. It was an opportunity to reignite and reconnect ourselves to their virtuous personalities, noble characters and outstanding values. It made us more determined to build the nation we all envisioned at the birth of our democracy. 

It is fitting and apt too that we again recall Madiba’s words: 

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. … But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” 

Madiba and uMama uSisulu, amongst many others, came to us, as part of a generation, to remind us – the walk will be hard, long and arduous. And so it is. But, they brought us hope too, to free us from our preceding nights of despair and gave us a common cause. It all appeared impossible until it was done. Now, again, we need urgency, conviction and action. 

Allow me to make the observation: we must never forget where our journey of renewal started. It is important to note: it was only in 1994, for the first time, that South Africans from all walks of life voted a new democratic government into office, ushering in a new era defined by a shared vision of a free, non-racial and equal society. In doing so, they brought about an end to generations of oppression, humiliation, hurt and division, and set out on a new path to end racism and sexism.

For the past 25 years, as part of restoring human dignity, government has worked to provide all South Africans with basic services, water and sanitation, housing, electricity, social support, education and health care. 

It has sought to build an economy that provides work and opportunity to all in pursuit of the dream of a new and equal society. It is thus appropriate, when we look at South Africa, to stock of the progress over the last 25 years in overcoming the legacy of apartheid. Human lives did not have equal value! And, if you were born a black child, chances of success were devastatingly stacked against you. These challenges include social inequality, the enduring connection between race and poverty, gender and class disparities, unequal economic opportunities, and spatial exclusion. Our challenges include skills disparities among races, persisting youth unemployment, unequal health and academic outcomes and social fragmentation.

Thus, Sunday, 2 December 2018 should also serve as another line in the sand, we must bring new hope, give new inspiration and adopt more courage to change South Africa, Africa and the world for the better, wherever we may find ourselves. This is all in line with our lodestar-the National Development Plan to take us to a future that is vastly different and improved to the one we have inherited. 

I was also asked to share some updates, on behalf of the President: 

At the Global Citizen Festival 2018, we committed ZAR157m to Menstrual Hygiene Education and Free Sanitary Products for Poor Learners in Budget Financial Year 2019. We have introduced a number of interventions to ensure that indigent women and girls are able to manage their menstrual cycle with dignity. In the 2019/2020 budget, National Treasury made available ZAR157 million to provide free sanitary pads to quintile 1-3 schools across the provinces of the country. In January 2019, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS) decision to allocate R275 per month to students for personal care was hailed as a victory for Women’s Rights in South Africa. 

The allowance, disbursed to nearly 800 000 students, for incidental or personal care needs will most certainly be used for personal hygiene as well as sanitary products. This allocation takes into account the whole life of the student, who are typically black; comes from an economically poor background, and offers support to both young men and women to take care of their personal hygiene requirements.

We continue to champion the Sanitary Dignity Programme to provide free sanitary products to indigent women and girls in quintiles 1-3 schools. This Programme is guided by the National Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework (SDIF). The aim of the SDIF is to promote sanitary dignity and to provide norms and standards in respect of the provision of sanitary products to indigent persons. It furthermore seeks to promote social justice and emphasises the basic human rights of indigent persons.

The affordability of sanitary products for women to manage their menstrual cycle has always been an area of concern for us. The Minister of Finance announced in the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) that sanitary pads would be zero-VAT rated from 01 April 2019.

Globally, girls and young women are forced to miss school and classes at tertiary institutions due to a lack of sanitary towels. This monthly pattern of missing out on education has devastating long term effects, not only in terms of educational development, but also on the psyche of young women. Young women make up 56% of beneficiaries of the NSFAS programme who benefit from the personal allowance allocation.
We recognise that the issue of women and girls being able to manage their menstrual cycle with dignity is a human rights issue. Part of restoring this dignity is to break the stigma that exists around menstruation by ending the silence, through education, advocacy and awareness campaigns. 

Also, at the Global Citizen Festival 2018, we committed ZAR2.8bn to Eradicating Unsafe Pit Latrines in Budget Financial Year 2019. In this regard, ZAR700m of the ZAR2.8bn has been allocated in the Financial Year 2019 Budget. 787 schools had received appropriate sanitation facilities (with 1000 targeted for 2019). We are working on eradicating all unsafe toilets in schools over the next three years. We will spend ZAR800 million in the 2020 to 2021 financial year and ZAR1,3 billion will be spend in the 2021/2022 financial year. 

School infrastructure provision remains a contentious matter that requires agility, innovation for effective delivery to accelerate the achievements that have already been registered. Out of the 25 762 public schools in the country and despite the fact that more than 10 000 schools have been provided with appropriate sanitation, the last audit confirmed that 3 898 schools still had inappropriate sanitation facilities at the time, especially pit latrines and an additional 3 040 schools where pit latrines were not demolished when they were provided with safe, age- and grade-appropriated sanitation facilities. We have prioritised this issue.
Our President is leading the crusade of eradicating pit latrines and other unsafe and inappropriate sanitation facilities in our public schools. All available resources are being mobilised, including the participation of the private sector, strategic partners, and the build industry professionals, in our quest to heed the President’s call for the eradication of inappropriate sanitation facilities.

Since the President launched the SAFE Initiative, 787 schools have been provided with safe, age- and grade-appropriate sanitation facilities, with the old pit latrines demolished; and safe, age- and grade-appropriate sanitation projects in 1 062 schools are either in the planning, design or construction stages.

We are appreciative for the indicative budget allocation announced in the MTBPS over the 2019 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, and for the pledges made by the private sector, our strategic partners and generous South Africans, who heeded the President’s call at the launch of the SAFE Initiative. There is renewed energy and urgency to address the dire state of school infrastructure.

In conclusion, I want to thank President Cyril Ramaphosa for his unrelenting support, guidance and leadership to make this dream of hosting the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa a reality. Drawing on our collective successes as a nation, we need to do more to improve our present. 

On the current trajectory, there is a need for faster progress, more action and better implementation. The future belongs to all of us and it is up to all South Africans to make it work. The approach of our National Development Plan revolves around all of us - citizens being active in development to be the change agents for that better future we want to see in our lifetime, for our children, grand-children and for future generations. This all dovetails with the UN SDGs and Agenda 2063-the Africa we want. Madiba and uMama uSisulu are indeed testimony to the fact that good can triumph over evil and they conveyed this fundamental, self-evident truth in their daily struggles, toils and life. 

I thank you.