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Reply by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the debate on The Presidency Budget Vote, National Assembly, Cape Town

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Madame Speaker, Ms Thandi Modise,
Deputy President David Mabuza,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members,
Distinguished Guests,
Fellow South Africans,

As the sun rose today in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Europe and Middle East, people woke up to celebrate the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela by performing good deeds. As it sets on the islands of the Pacific Ocean, there will be millions who do the same. 

In doing so around the world, people are not only paying tribute to the contribution that Madiba made to the cause of humanity. They are also reaffirming through their actions the timeless values he embodied – values such as unity, compassion, service and solidarity.

These are among the essential values that must guide us as a people, as leaders, as public representatives and as a government.

These are among the essential values that inform the work of the Presidency and which have underpinned this debate on Budget Vote 1.

I had the privilege of spending 67 minutes earlier today with children from the Red Cross Children’s Hospital here in Cape Town.

I was interviewed on Rx Radio that they run as children, a station that broadcasts from the hospital, by Saadiq, Athule and Talitha, three inspiring children who bring hope, light and joy to their listeners.

I met several of the patients at the hospital, many of whom have a disability or chronic illness, who taught me about the meaning and value of Mandela Day.

Like Madiba, they have been confronted with great adversity, and, like Madiba, they have remained hopeful and enthusiastic.

They have retained an unwavering faith in humanity and have the potential to realise their dreams.

Members of this House also took time spending 67 minutes of doing good deeds in honour of Madiba. The Chief Whip told me that they spent time at different schools in different townships. We honour and celebrate Honourable Members who took time off and did good deeds. 

I am glad that nearly all the Honourable Members who took part in the debate yesterday invoked the memory of Madiba in a very positive way.

It demonstrates not only an abiding affection, recognition and respect for the great person that he was, but a common identification by Members who spoke here with what he represented.

Today, as we celebrate 101 years since Madiba’s birth, we are challenged to ensure that we advance the vision of a free, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous, just and united South Africa to which he dedicated his life.

As we grapple with the challenges that are deeply-rooted in our unjust and humiliating past and as we confront problems our country currently faces, we must place the principle of unity at the centre of our efforts.

For it is only through unity and what Madiba stood for – collaboration – that we will succeed in overcoming our challenges.

It is only through unity of purpose and unity in action that we will overcome troubles that today seem intractable.

Our country still carries the scars of a deeply fractured past.

It is our shared responsibility to bridge the social and economic divide that still largely separates black and white, women and men, skilled and unskilled, urban and rural, included and excluded.

As Hon Dlakude reminds us, it is our shared responsibility to strive every day, through our every action and pronouncement, to build a united nation.

And I am delighted that Hon Maimane agrees with me that it is our shared responsibility to strive towards consensus on a programme for fundamental transformation.

It may at times seem that our society is becoming more fractious, that attitudes may be hardening on all sides, that we are becoming more of a divided society and that inequality is becoming more entrenched. But ours is a clear mission – to achieve a united nation. It is a mission from which we should not retreat.

Indeed, it is at such moments that we must reaffirm our resolve and intensify our efforts.

Unity is not the same as conformity nor uniformity.

As this Budget Vote debate has demonstrated, our desire for unity does not prevent a vigorous exchange of ideas.

Rather, we should seek through dialogue, debate and honest engagement to achieve broad social consensus on the fundamental values that bind us together and the essential actions that we must undertake.

This requires that we build trust and understanding, not just between black and white, but between employers and employees, between farm workers and farmers, between young and old, between members of established communities and new arrivals.

It requires that we address grievances where they arise and that we engage with those who feel alienated or excluded.

We must recognise the value of building a South African identity that is more than a sum of its parts, where we reach across the boundaries of language and culture to forge new ways of expression.

We were reminded this week of the ground-breaking work of artists like Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu in challenging and transcending social barriers.

Like many who came before them, and many who have followed in their footsteps, they demonstrated the potential of collaboration and the power of an inclusive vision.

They provided us with a glimpse of a new, better society, where the equal worth of each person, of each culture, of each language, is respected and valued.

Honourable Members,

At this moment of grave economic difficulty – as we confront worsening youth unemployment and deepening poverty – the unity and cohesion of our nation presents the most powerful means at our disposal to transform our economy.

If we are united and cohesive, if we work together and direct all our resources and efforts towards a common goal, we will succeed.

From the Presidency, we are working to mobilise all sections of society – from business to labour, from public entities to civic organisations, from NGOs to political parties – behind an urgent, ambitious and comprehensive programme to grow the economy and to reduce poverty.

In the State of the Nation Address and through the budget votes of the various departments, we have articulated the key elements of such a programme.

This programme is firmly based on the electoral mandate we have received – to grow South Africa together – and has been enriched by the contributions of various sections of society, including from Members of this House.

It builds on the progress we have made through our investment drive, through the agreements of the Jobs Summit and in the implementation of key elements of the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Plan.

We are increasing the breadth and depth of our engagement with all sectors of society in giving effect to this programme, working to build meaningful partnerships that have real and lasting impact.

This is the collective action of which Madiba spoke and to which several Honourable Members have lent their support.

Building the South Africa we want means that we never, ever lose sight of the impact of the past on the endeavours of today. 

There cannot be a lasting peace without justice, and in a country that still bears the scars of inequity and skewed development, there can be no peace without social justice. 

As much as our eyes are fixed on the horizon, we are remain firm in our conviction that we have to make right the wrongs of the past. 

We have a Constitutional duty to redress the imbalances of the past in all aspects of South African life including the economy.

Redress is not some call to a higher morality, it is in the interests of justice.

So, Honourable Maimane, we are not going to scrap Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment, because it has brought real material benefits: to black South Africans, to women and to persons with disability.

It has contributed to the significant growth of a black middle class, to improvements in employment equity and enabled black people and women to become owners and managers of businesses.

Whilst we acknowledge that the pace of change has been slow, it has not been insignificant. Far from abolishing it, now is actually the time to strengthen it, to make it more effective and to ensure that it is aligned with our efforts to promote investment and increase employment.

But it is clearly not enough. The pace of change has been slow, yes, but it has not been insignificant.

Now is not the time to scrap BEE, but to strengthen it, to make it more effective and to ensure that it is aligned with our efforts to promote investment and increase employment.

Honourable Members,

It is essential that we are united as a nation in our determination to fight corruption. 

In the last 18 months, working together, we have made significant advances in tackling corruption and ending the capture of our public institutions.

But the struggle is far from won. 

The road ahead will be long and difficult.

We will continue to encounter resistance from those who have benefited from acts of criminality and wrongdoing.

As a society, as public representatives, as individual citizens, we must stand firm, we must keep our nerve, we must maintain our resolve.

Through our actions and through our utterances, we must reinforce the rule of law and show respect for due process.

We will continue to together ensure the independence and impartiality of those institutions given the task of safeguarding our democracy.

We will continue to accord them the necessary respect and dignity.

We will continue to take decisive action to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to effectively execute their constitutional mandate without fear, favour or prejudice – and to ensure they are properly resourced.

It is these institutions that must investigate allegations of corruption and state capture, and, where required, they are the institutions that must prosecute those responsible.

This cannot, should not and must not be the responsibility of the Presidency.

Our responsibility is to give these institutions the means and the space and the capability to do their work, and that is precisely what we have been doing and will continue to do precisely that. 

I urge all of us to allow these institutions the time and space to do their work. The Presidency cannot interfere in any way or shape in the work of these institutions. 

We welcome the firm support expressed by the Hon Holomisa for the work being done by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture and the commission into the Public Investment Corporation.

The work of these commissions is absolutely necessary if we are to decisively end state capture and effectively fight corruption, and we call on all South Africans to give them their support. 

It is for that reason that I have stated publicly on several occasions – and in replies to Parliamentary questions from both the Hon Maynier and the Hon Lekota – that I am available and ready to testify before the Commission. That I am able and willing to do and it is an affirmation I reiterate today.

The fight against corruption will not be successful unless all South Africans are involved.

We need to forge a broad coalition against corruption that draws together formations and individuals from across society, and that empowers citizens to act and see justice done. The same goes for fighting crime in our country. We need to get all people involved in fighting crime. 

Honourable Members,

The extraordinary attack by the Hon Malema on Minister Gordhan requires a response.

It is a fundamental tenet of our democratic constitutional order that no person – no matter what position they hold – is above the law.

No person is above scrutiny. Every person must answer for their actions. That includes the President, that includes Honourable Gordhan and that includes even Honourable Malema.

By the same measure, every person is equal before the law and must have recourse to the law.

Every person must be able to enforce their rights, whether that means approaching the courts or any other competent authority.

I am in no position to express a view on the findings that the Public Protector has made against Minister Gordhan.

That is a matter that is now before the courts.

But I can express a view on the character of Minister Gordhan and the contribution he has made to the liberation of our country.

I have appointed him to a critical and demanding position in Cabinet because I know him to be a person of commitment and integrity.

He has endured and withstood extreme pressure – both under apartheid and in the democratic era. He has been under pressure to abandon principle and to forsake his responsibility to this nation.

If Minister Gordhan – or any member of this administration – has anything to answer for, they must be held to account, without exception. They must be held before any court and they must go and answer. 

But allow that determination to be made by the appropriate judicial institution after due process. Let the law take its course.

That is what our Constitution demands.

Honourable Members,

We are united in our desire for a society free of crime and violence.

We need to be similarly united in our efforts to build such a society.

There can be no meaningful progress until the police work more closely with communities, until government agencies collaborate and share information more effectively, and until individuals take responsibility for their actions.

It is important that members of our community, where crime occurs, they should be the first to come forward and work with the police. 

As part of an integrated approach to tackling the most extreme incidents of violent crime, I have authorised the employment of members of the South African National Defence Force to assist the South African Police Service in the prevention and combating of crime in this province.

As required by our Constitution, I have been in correspondence with the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the NCOP with regards to the SANDF deployment in certain areas in the Western Cape. The SANDF members will be deployed to support the police to restore law and maintain order in communities that are being terrorised by gangsterism.

We need to save lives.

Let us be clear that the SANDF is not the defence force of old. It is not the Defence Force of the apartheid time, which used young people as targets for shooting.

This is the defence force of a democratic South Africa, a defence force that has been involved in peacekeeping operations in various parts of the continent, and which has played a critical supportive role supporting the South African Police in similar crime-fighting operations.

Ultimately, the success of this effort depends on the cooperation and the contributions of many within various organs of the state, within civil society and within the affected communities.

On the issue of gender-based violence and femicide, we agree with the Hon Prince Buthelezi that the women of this country are facing a war.

That is why we have been hard at work together with our social partners to implement the declaration arising from the Presidential Gender-based Violence and Femicide Summit that was held last year.

Among other things, we are establishing an additional 16 sexual offences courts in this financial year to bring the total to 95.

Work is underway to physically map the Thuthuzela Centres for survivors of gender-based violence to ensure that they reach the areas most affected by such crimes.

The Department of Social Development has received R50 million from the Criminal Assets Recovery Account to strengthen civil society organisations working in the victim empowerment field. 

Work is being done. Progress is being made. But there is still much more that we need to do to bring an end to this scourge.

As if to underline the great need to build trust and understanding within our society, the Hon Groenewald asks when, as the President of this country, am I going to condemn farm murders.

The question is a measure of the distance we still need to travel as a nation towards effective reconciliation and the appreciation of the equal worth of every life in our country.

It is a measure of the inability of some within our society to see beyond the ethnic enclaves of our past.

As a matter of record, on 2 November 2018, in reply to a Parliamentary question, I said the following:

“Throughout South Africa, violent crime is a matter of serious concern, regardless of where it occurs or whom it affects…

“We strongly condemn all murders in the country, including of farmers and farm workers, and are committed to do everything possible to defend every citizen of our country, regardless of where they live and work, from all forms of violence.”

I do, I have and I will continue to condemn murders on farms. When farmers are killed and when farm workers are killed – I will continue to condemn that.

Every life in this country has equal value and every murder, every violent crime, must be equally and unequivocally condemned.

Hon Groenewald, elke lewe in hierdie land het ‘n gelyke waarde en elke moord en elke gewelds-misdaad moet sonder onderskeid en veroordeel word.

Dus: ELKE moord en ELKE geweldsmidaad word sonder onderskeid veroordeel!

Honourable Members,

A principle that is fundamental to our celebration of Nelson Mandela Dayis that of solidarity, the willingness by those who have to share with those who do not have.

In a country of severe inequality, where a life of deprivation was the direct and intended consequence of a life of privilege, the practice of solidarity has a profound and a practical meaning.

We share a moral imperative to confront inequality and poverty by directing our national resources towards the poor.

For the past 25 years, we have pursued a pro-poor fiscal policy, where our national revenue has been directed towards education and health care, towards low-income housing, towards social grants, towards public employment programmes.

It is the principle of solidarity which informs our approach to the NHI, ensuring that the substantial resources that are directed towards health care benefit all South Africans equally.

Solidarity takes other forms.

It is about the established white farmer providing support to emerging black farmers by sharing skills, experience, equipment and access to markets. I am pleased to say there is a number of farmers who are doing precisely that but it is not enough.

It is about the experienced business person mentoring young entrepreneurs or university graduates establishing a bursary fund to assist deserving students from poor families.

Solidarity is about confronting, as a society, the many ways in which so many of our people are excluded and marginalised.

It is about a comprehensive programme of land reform that places assets and economic opportunities in the hands of those who do not have land.

It is, as the Deputy President observes, about providing young black South Africans with the skills they need to thrive in a modern, globally integrated and competitive economy.

It is about the contribution that businesses are making towards preparing young people for employment through work experience and training.

Despite the difficulties of the present moment, we are hopeful for the future.

Day by day, against great odds, our young people are being given the space to reach out – they are being given pathways to succeed.

Young people like Siya Xuza, who dreamt of rockets as a boy, then went on to invent them – and has a planet named after him.

Young people like Vuyo Mavuya and Vuyolwethu Nkomo who rode rickety bikes on the streets of Khayelitsha as youngsters – and are now off to prepare to compete in the Tour de France.

Young people like our star soprano Pretty Yende, who is making her mark in concert halls in Italy, London, New York and around the world, and Bonolo Mathibela a research scientist whose work is now affiliated to the multinational giant IBM.

These are the 20 students from Nova Pioneer High School in Ormonde, who built a plane themselves in just 10 days, and who flew it to Cairo. 

Today we have young people who have taken up seats in this House and have been appointed as Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

The young people of our national netball team, the Proteas, who, thanks to an outstanding performance, have advanced to the semif-finals of the Netball World Cup in England.

This country’s young people are breaking barriers everywhere, as inventors, as entrepreneurs, as CEOs, as scientists and as artists, as Deputy Ministers, as Ministers and as Parliamentarians. We need to give them more and more space.

Madam Speaker,

The Hon Buthelezi asks a very important question about the increase in the Presidency’s budget for consultants.

This budget item relates to the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, which is housed in the Presidency. 

The Commission, through various legislation passed by this very Parliament, has assumed increased responsibilities without the accompanying budget to increase staff in its secretariat. 

The only viable option left for the Commission to do its work is by bringing in external expertise and by bringing in consultants. 

The ideal way of enabling the Commission to do its work as mandated by this Parliament is to vote sufficient funds to hire sufficient staff to enable the Commission to carry out what currently amounts to an unfunded mandate.

Honourable Members,

We agree with Minister De Lille when she says: 

“There are good women and men to be found in every city, town and village across our land who want to contribute to fixing South Africa.”

That is indeed our experience. 

That is the South Africa we all know – a land of talented, enthusiastic, generous, compassionate, honest people, who seek nothing more than a better future for themselves and their compatriots.

These are the people who embody the values of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. These are the people who bear his legacy. 

And these are the people who will build the South Africa we all want and which our people all deserve.

Let us be those people who are committed to build the SA that we all want. Let us rise to the occasion as members of this Parliament to show that we want to build the South Africa we all want. I call on all of us – let us, in a very positive way, make South Africa a great nation.  

I thank you.