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Reply by President Jacob Zuma to the debate of the Presidency Budget Vote; National Assembly, Cape Town

Honourable Speaker,

Honourable Deputy President,

Honourable Members,

Thank you very much for the opportunity given to us to present the Presidency Budget Vote yesterday.

We would also like to sincerely thank all the Honourable Members of Parliament for their comments.

Thedebate allowed us an opportunity to focus our attention on thefundamental role of the Constitution of our country, as the foundationof the nation that we seek to build and admire.

Itis this profound policy document and law that defines who we are, wherewe come from and our vision for the future. The Constitution is thenational vision statement.

We therefore cannot accept assertions by some Honourable Members that we do not have a vision.

TheManifesto of the ruling party, the programme of action of government asa whole and the strategic plans of government departments are derivedfrom the national vision statement, the Constitution of the Republic.

TheNational Planning Commission and other structures are established toassist us to work better and more efficiently to implement thatnational vision.

You will recall, HonourableMembers that this vision is derived from decades of hard work andforesight by the ANC. The formation of the African National Congresswas an act of great foresight.

The adoption bythe same organisation of South Africa’s first Bill of Rights in 1923,which was 25 years before the adoption of the United Nations UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights in 1948, was similarly forward looking.

Bythe same measure, the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955, during atime of great oppression and ruthless repression, was an act requiringgreat vision.

Honourable Minister Naledi Pandorreminded us of that vision yesterday. We have to promote the fullestablishment of a united, non-racial, non-sexist democratic society inwhich the inherent dignity of every person is honoured, respected andupheld.

When we implement programmes designed toexpand access to socio-economic rights such as ensuring access towater, electricity, sanitation, education, health and others, we areimplementing the vision stated in the Constitution.

We are also proud of the fact that our Constitution is one of very few in the world that enshrines socio-economic rights.

Manycountries avoided committing themselves to that extent but this nationdid, because of the strong belief that all South Africans are entitledto dignity.

Honourable Speaker,

Themembers of this Parliament have been elected by the people of thiscountry among other things to hold the executive to account.

We expect therefore that the work of the Presidency, and government as a whole, will be subjected to intense scrutiny.

Butwe should also remember that this government has been elected by thepeople of this country with a mandate to lead a national effort toadvance the achievement of a better life for all.

Thepeople of this country have placed in the hands of this government theresponsibility for implementing a programme of fundamental socialtransformation.

Having spoken about the national vision, we should ask ourselves what we are doing as political parties to advance that vision.

These questions are important in the consideration of the Presidency Budget Vote.

It is critical that the resources we commit to the work of this office are used effectively and efficiently.

It is critical that they are properly used and accounted for.

But the Presidency Budget Vote cannot be limited to a simple accounting exercise.

Itis fundamentally about how we mobilise the capacity of the state toadvance the interests of our people, not just for the five years ofthis administration, but for the next generation and the one to follow.

One of our critical tasks is to promote national unity and social cohesion.

Iagree with Honourable Naledi Pandor that our country continues to bechallenged by the need to strive for greater cohesion and strongerunity irrespective of race, gender, religion, culture and politicalphilosophy and contribute to creating a better society and improvedquality of life.

She is correct too that eachleader has a responsibility to work for this cohesion; it cannot beleft to the President or Deputy President only.

Wemust also continue to remind each other about our painful past, and ourcollective effort to make sure that we will never take our country backto the divisive past of racism and hatred.

During our address to this house yesterday we said when we buried apartheid, we also buried racism.

Wereiterate that we must discourage anyone, regardless of theirgrievances, who tries to take our country back to the divisive past ofracism and division.

South Africans both black and white have accepted each other as compatriots and live in harmony in the country of their birth.

Wetherefore disagree with the assertion of the Honourable Pieter Mulderthat many South Africans experience uncertainty with regards to thefuture of this country.

South Africans areoptimistic about this country. Despite the challenges, they remainhopeful that things will get better each day, simply because they knowthat there are programmes in place, and that work is continuing tochange their lives.

It is our responsibility asleaders to nurture that hope and work together to create a positiveclimate in which people can work together, and in which our country cansucceed and thrive.

It is our responsibility too as leaders to defuse tensions and correct wrong perceptions where they occur.

Wemust all make all our people comfortable and secure and not seek tomake one section of society insecure, for example by exaggerating fearsof the minority community.

We want to believethat we passed that era during the 1990s. We now have structures andplatforms to work together to discuss such issues without whipping upemotions.

Honourable Speaker,

Webecome worried too when Members of Parliament, who are importantambassadors of this country, fail to appreciate the achievements andsuccesses of this nation, simply because they do not want to be seen tobe giving credit to the ruling party.

TheHonourable Malusi Gigaba raised the question whether or not theOpposition had helped the Presidency in discharging its mandate or ifthey had used the debate as a platform for media soundbites and fingerpointing.

The Budget Vote debate is meant to help the Presidency to perform better. A number of speakers yesterday took up that challenge.

UmntwanaWakwaPhindangene, the Honourable Prince Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi spokeabout the need for a continental marketplace that would unleash theeconomic potential of Africa, and would accelerate our own development.

His contribution provides guidance to the Presidency in the definition of its priorities and in the deployment of its resources.

Itprovides a context in which we can place our ongoing efforts tocontribute to the resolution of conflict in a number of countries.

Overthe past year, the Presidency has dedicated much energy to thefacilitation of such processes, in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and elsewhere,precisely because peace and stability are critical to the kind ofeconomic development to which Hon Shenge has referred.

We agree that the biggest challenge to Africa’s economic integration and development is infrastructure.

Infrastructureis not only important to facilitate the movement of goods and peopleand intra-trade, but also a vehicle to create much needed jobs.

Forour part, we will continue to play our role in the region and thecontinent, guided by our foreign policy to contribute to the struggleto build a better and just world.

A centralmessage that we took to the World Economic Forum meeting in Dar esSalaam, Tanzania last week, that the Honourable Shenge referred to, wasthat in this changing, and somewhat uncertain world, Africa matters andSouth Africa matters.

South Africa is a provenconnector and a bridge, not just to the last great investment frontier,Africa, but between old and emerging powers.

The economic indicators are positive and are in our favour at this point.

TheWorld Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010 notesthat there has been a significant improvement in the evaluation ofSouth Africa’s financial markets, which have increased in rank from24th last year to a very high 5th this year.

Wemust use our competitive edge and our resources to the fullest toachieve our goals of creating decent work and improving the quality oflife.

And we must not be shy to acknowledge or speak about our achievements and positive attributes.

Oneof these attributes is that South Africa is rich in intellectualcapital, as evidenced by our world renowned universities, researchinstitutions, centres of excellence, technologically advancedbusinesses and creative sectors.

South Africa’sinnovations in areas such as banking for the poor, astronomy, ICT andothers areas are recognized as playing an important role in theregion’s development. South Africans should be proud of theseachievements.

This country’s achievements,especially the size of its economy relative to the rest of the Africancontinent, and the extent to which its businesses are integrated intothe economies of Southern Africa, makes it a critical economic andpolitical player in Africa.

The impact of onepercentage economic growth in South Africa is said to contributebetween 0.5 and 0.75 percent growth in the rest of Africa.

SouthAfrica will therefore strive to play a positive and constructive roleon the continent through its drive to promote intra-Africa trade.

Itwill continue to increase levels of competitiveness with the objectiveof making Africa an attractive trade and investment destination andgrowth pole.

Honourable members,

Wemust really appreciate the fact that economic conditions continue toimprove in South Africa. Data released this week confirms that themanufacturing sector is growing faster than some analysts expected.

Ourmacroeconomic projections in the Budget presented by the Minister ofFinance in February expected GDP growth to rise to 2.3 per cent in 2010and 3.6 per cent by 2012.

The Minister indicatedin the Treasury Budget Vote this week that those estimates wereprobably too conservative, and might be revised upwards at some point.

Weneed to take advantage of the fact that investors who are coming out ofa recession are looking at opportunities, and given that our economy iswell-managed.

Having said that, the employmentfigures released last week also showed that some of the apparentemployment gains of the last quarter of 2009 were short-lived.

Somesectors of the economy are still weak, and we again urge employers andworkers in affected firms to use the measures we introduced to savecompanies and save jobs.

These measures that weas government, organised business, the trade unions and the communityput in place to counter-act the effects of the crisis would remain inplace.

Honourable members,

Anothergood news story is that various research agencies are indicating animprovement in the quality of lives of South Africans.

TheBureau for Economic Research at the University of Stellenbosch recentlyreported that our economic growth since 2003 has benefited many SouthAfricans, not just a few.

The number of blackconsumers identified in the poorest three categories of the LivingStandards Measure fell from nearly eleven million to under six millionin the six years from 2003 to 2009. The standards of living areimproving.

The number of black consumers in thetop four categories of the Living Standard Measure grew from underone-and-a-half million to nearly four-and-a-half million.

While welcoming that progress, we also note that much more still needs to be done.

Therefore,the Hon Bantu Holomisa is correct to ask:”For how long, Mr President,will the millions that live in the desolate former Bantustans andtownships, that were the dumping ground of Apartheid, accept their lot?”

Indoing so, he touches on the most critical issue that this House, thisgovernment and this Presidency must confront more vigorously, thegeneral living conditions of our people.

This isnot only a matter of social cohesion and stability. It is a matter thatgoes to the heart of our assertion that South Africa belongs to all wholive in it.

This is not just about citizenship.It is about all South Africans having an equal claim to the country,its land, and its resources.

On the 18th of May,I will meet with Premiers and their MECs responsible for humansettlements, in a special Presidential Coordinating Council to focusspecifically on human settlements.

We willponder questions such as what is our understanding of the ideal livingconditions of our people, what should our communities look like andwhat are the challenges?

We have provided freehousing. The indications are that we have met the housing backlog inmost provinces. However, in a country where many are unemployed, thehouses are rented out for regular cash flow. People move back intoshacks in areas where the services are not planned for and demandservices there.

This requires a nationalcohesive approach. We have to go beyond appealing to the people not torent or sell the free houses. We will discuss how to ensure that eachhouse allocated is occupied by the people it was allocated to.

We look forward to a fruitful session using the experiences of all nine provinces.

Honourable Speaker,

Weconcur with the Honourable Themba Godi who reminded us that we shouldensure the continuous pursuance of transformation and good governance.

Wehave noted his reminder on accountability in the use of publicresources, and also that there must be pride in serving the people.

Thatis the message we are sending to our public servants as we move in anew direction of doing things differently, putting people first.

TheHonourable Dene Smuts raised serious concern about the restructuring ofthe National Prosecuting Authority, especially reports of thedisbanding of specialized units.

MinisterCollins Chabane outlined yesterday that after signing performanceagreements with the President, Ministers will in turn negotiatedelivery agreements with all partners that are responsible for aparticular outcome, and these would be concluded by July.

The Justice Crime Peace and Security cluster is in the process of negotiating its delivery agreement.

Any possible restructuring of the NPA has been deferred pending the finalisation of what the cluster must first conclude.

Letme assure the Honourable Smuts that we will put the interests of thecountry and the Constitution first in going about this very importanttask of ensuring that justice is dispensed fairly, impartially andeffectively.

The Honourable Patricia De Lillewants us to release the performance agreements signed with Ministers.The process is still ongoing, as explained by both Minister Chabane andmyself.

Ministers are still to conclude deliveryagreements within their clusters. These detailed delivery agreementwill clarify roles, mandates, resources and other critical information.

Weurge Honourable Members to bear with us while we conclude thisgroundbreaking process which will truly change the way government works.

Wetrust that the Opposition wants access to the agreements so that theycan provide advice on how to strengthen implementation, and not togenerate media headlines about who is performing, who is not and whoshould be fired.

That is not the purpose ofthese agreements. The purpose is to improve and change the waygovernment works. It is not a punitive exercise.

Wereiterate that the defining feature of this administration will be tochange the way government works. We want government to work faster,better and more effectively.

We would greatly benefit from suggestions from Members of Parliament on how to make this exercise a success.

Honourable members,

You will agree with me that the 2010 World Cup spirit has truly ignited unprecedented displays of national pride.

Thisvery House turned colourful yesterday, due to the beautiful scarves inthe colours of the national flag that we all wore yesterday, courtesyof the International Marketing Council.

Weacknowledge the good work of the International Marketing Council, whichreports to the Presidency via Minister Chabane, the Department of Artsand Culture, GCIS, Sports and Recreation, SA Tourism and other agenciesthat are part of a massive campaign to promote the World Cup amongstSouth Africans.

The branding and marketing is visible and successful, keep up the good work.

Weurge Honourable members to help us take the campaign to every corner,to mobilise South Africans to deliver memorable and successful event.

Honourable Members,

Let me re-emphasise the need for us to work together to build our country.

We have achieved a lot in the past 16 years, we just have to build on it. This country belongs to all of us.

In closing let me again borrow from Inkosi Albert Luthuli’s speech to the Congress of Democrats in 1958.

“Itis often suggested, quite rightly, that democracy was developed inhomogeneous communities - in Europe, possibly in Asia to an extent - incommunities that were homogeneous in colour. Here in South Africa weare not a homogeneous community, not as far as race and colour areconcerned nor possibly even in culture. It is suggested that people inhomogeneous communities can very well speak of democracy being shared;but in a community like ours, diverse in very many respects, you can''thope to share democracy.

But I personallybelieve that here in South Africa, with all our diversities of colourand race, we will show the world a new pattern for democracy.

Ithink there is a challenge to us in South Africa to set a new examplefor the world. Let us not side-step that task. What is important isthat we can build a homogeneous South Africa on the basis not of colourbut of human values”.

I am sure we are all up to the challenge. Working together, we can do more!

I thank you.