Hon. Speaker / Chairperson of the National Assembly
His Excellency, The President of the Republic
Hon Deputy President of the Republic
Hon Members, and representatives of our people across political affiliations in this Parliament
Fellow South Africans, Comrades and friends
Mr. President, the African National Congress aligns itself with the majority of South Africans, who have welcomed the tone of your SONA 2017, as a breath of fresh air - focused, tangible and inspiring hope.
Following the outcome of the Local Government elections last year, where results in certain municipalities could not produce an outright winner, the ANC heard loud and clear he message from our supporters. They sent a clear directive to their movement, the African National Congress, to do something about their plight; to do it now, without delay, in as decisive a manner as possible.
We have been interacting with our people and our supporters and they have been telling us, across the board, that they did not vote for the opposition during the elections. They wanted, in the most dramatic way, to send a message to us to address the deprivation they are still confronted with – twenty-two years since South Africa’s 1994 democratic breakthrough.
They therefore simply stayed away from the polls and, in that manner, denied us their votes.
Their cry was that: Many of them still live in poverty, still clean homes and tend to gardens in white suburbs for meager salaries, work on the mines but are kept away from the wealth generated at those entities because their class enemy – the bosses and owners of those places of work – see them only as units of labour.
I should also say at this point that we welcome the signing off on the minimum wage by the Honourable Deputy President last week on behalf of our government.
We could not but pay attention to the concerns our people wanted us to hear, about their life experiences after such a long time since we attained freedom and introduced democracy in our country. Of course, they have seen some of the deliverables that have improved their lives, from the most extensive social welfare programme the country has ever experienced, housing delivery, to electricity and water, to mention just a few.
But, it is not enough and has not inspired them to say: Our ANC has truly delivered a better life to us.
The clear trajectory you emphasized in the State of the Nation, Mr President, talks to the ANC’s own resolutions on the matter of radical economic transformation. Our radical stance must address, quickly, so that we correct the situation where the economic benefits from the wealth of the country continue to elude our people, the struggling masses.
Within the context of the Department of Defence, we are also taking seriously the marching order you have given us, Mr President, to address the matter of the economic exclusion of South Africa’s military veterans, whom we have defined as a designated group.
Following many years of frustrations, and a lack of adequate institutional capacity to alleviate the plight of our military veterans, we have now developed a package of economic benefits in partnership with industries to fast track the alleviation of the economic plight of our veterans.
We will be unveiling the outcomes of this package of work and details in the department’s budget vote speech.
Mentioning the Department of Defence enjoins me to address, albeit briefly, the concerns that have been raised regarding the deployment of some units of the South African Natoonal Defence Force on the day of the State of the Nation Address.
Honourable members and the public are certainly correct to raise these matters if they observe what may seem to be deviations to the established requirements in our area of work. I have taken the allegations seriously and, consequently, I have started an investigation and when concluded, I will report to the Presiding Officers.
Honourable Members should also be aware that the matter has been subjected to judicial processes, the conclusion of which will assist all of us to deal better with matters pertaining to the role of the SANDF during key national events, including the SONA, the inaugarations, state visits and so on.
I do, however want to assure you that Members of Parliament are not regarded as a security threat requiring the deployment of our National Defence Force. The SANDF has always been an integral part of the ceremony revolving around the State of the Nation Address and other key national events, where it plays multiple roles.
It is unfortunate that in the past three years, we have all had to perform our roles under a charged political atmosphere. Greater awareness and understanding by our population of the various roles and functions of the SANDF can only serve to enhance the function of oversight to ensure accountability for all operations undertaken in the name of our defence force.
In dedicating this year to the memory of Oliver Reginald Tambo, the ANC and the government, have defined President OR as the lodestar of our revolution and therefore, thoroughgoing transformation, on the basis of the values under which he led the ANC towards the attainment of our people’s aspirations.
As we honour Cde Oliver Tambo this year, we also acknowledge the symbolism that the year of the centenary of his birth, coincides with the 27th anniversary of the release of Cde Nelson Mandela, his long-standing friend and comrade, once upon a time, partners in a law firm whose function was to defend our people.
Amongst those that they will now share their new meeting place, will be another father figure of the Revolution, El Commandante Fidel Castro, founding father of a free Cuba, and a true friend of our people and our country.
It is the solidarity of the Cuban peoples that has and continues to inspire us as part of the peace and friendship we have forged with other nations, strengthened by the bond of President Oliver Tambo and Fidel Castro.
It is the inspiration derived from the unbreakable bond shared by these great leaders, their teachings about the friendship of nations and the role of international solidarity that I rise to speak on South Africa’s role in building peace in our continent, within the context of common economic benefits between our people and the entire region of Africa.
Mr. President, as per your observation during the 2014 State of the Nation Address, Sub-Saharan Africa’s importance as a dependable trade partner for our country, continues to increase while the trade environment has also shown greater stability.
Our government’s projection is that intra-regional trade and economic activity will further grow with investments from countries of the continent on the back of conditions of peace and stability.
It is for that reason that we committed ourselves, as we started this term of government, to build our capacity in line with the trajectory adopted in the 2014 Defence Review, to continue to promote the building of a better Africa and a more just world.
Our country continues to support regional and continental processes to respond to and resolve crises, promote peace and security. Our work is premised on the support for our foreign policy objective to strengthen regional integration, significantly increase intra-African trade and champion sustainable development in Africa, all of which require an atmosphere of peace and stability to prosper.
In this regard, we welcome your interventions in buttressing the programme to ensure that government finds a sustainable way to resource the SANDF mandate, without exerting undue strain on the limited resources of the fiscus.
As you are aware, the SANDF has an inherent capability that is deployed to contribute to economic development and social upliftment. The SANDF also has a constitutional mandate to support the attainment of our foreign policy objectives, and it is regarding this responsibility that we have been asked to address today.
Since the advent of our democracy our country has depended on the SANDF to support foreign policy objectives when required. This has been borne out of our conviction that peace and stability are the cornerstones for human development and prosperity on the continent.
Today, the Defence Force is credited as a midwife for peace, and has reinforced South Africa’s standing as a country at peace with itself and with its neighbours. This is very important, considering South Africa’s history before 1994, where the armed forces of the country played a destabilising role in the region, creating conditions of insecurity and suffering amongst those who dared to support the struggle for democracy and freedom in our country.
In line with the values of our foreign policy, the SANDF has always ensured that any of its peacekeeping interventions in the continent, are done as part of a mandate of multilateral institutions. We will not become a lone aggressor interfering in the affairs of other nations in terms of the injunctions of the ANC’s Freedom Charter that a free South Africa would never use its vast resources, human and otherwise, to impose its dictates on other countries. Instead, South Africa would always strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation – not war.
On the other hand, it is our view that our engagements in the peace efforts of the continent are not separated from the task of building a better life for our own people. There always has been a realisation that stability in South Africa cannot be sustained if most parts of the continent remain blighted by armed conflict and human suffering.
Our commitment to the renewal of the African continent, and to the promotion of peace and stability, which will lead to sustainable development in Africa, is based on the understanding that our national interest is inextricably linked to what happens in the region and the continent.
In this regard we can look back at a proud record of the SANDF’s support to peace in the continent, giving all our people a chance for conflict-free development, encouraging the nations of the continent to design their future on the basis of their dreams and interests. The Freedom Charter continues to say:
“The right of all peoples of Africa to independence and self-government shall be recognised, and shall be the basis of close cooperation.”
The SANDF is therefore, not just a tool for mayhem and war. It is an instrument for peace which creates fertile ground for the stimulation of vibrant economic activity. Our country, since independence, has benefitted from the intra-regional trade which has been supported by the conditions of peace that the Defence Force has helped to cultivate.
The peace dividend in financial terms to South Africa reads as follows for the Financial Year 2014/15: Contribution to the GDP for South African exports in the region, averaged a total of R73 billion, while the relevant economic activity generated 481 000 quality jobs for South Africans.
The biggest single contribution by country was the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a contribution to the GDP of R24.2 billion, accounting for a third of the total sum of R73 billion, which accounted for 160 000 of the 481 000 jobs.
The numbers demonstrate a direct relationship between the economic stability derived from our peace efforts in that country, and the size of return and contribution to our own economy. Of the R73 billion generated into our GDP from exports, R19 billion went directly into the fiscus.
Our expectation, given the consideration for a new and self-sustainable funding model for defence activities, with less strain on the National Treasury and the fiscus, is that planning for a future peace dividend will be more structured and integrated within government to extract maximum economic benefit for our country, including a higher contribution to the fiscus.
This will in turn enhance the country’s resource base for radical and accelerated economic transformation and the provision of services to improve the lives of all our people.
In addition, joint planning at regional and continental level, will allow the cross pollination of economic benefits across the peoples of the region, and solidify adequate capacity for our common economic future, including our shared food security pool.
According to the UN, the trend of results in countries such as Cote d’Ivore, Sierra Leon, Burundi, and recently DRC, shows a recovery of economies as a result of peace support missions in those countries, directly translating into direct foreign investments and growth.
With the defence imperatives and capacity that we are building for our new Defence Development Program, envisaged by the Defence Review, we expect an even greater output in a future peace dividend.
Our current estimations are that if macro-economic impact is deliberately planned as part of driven outcomes for our defence activities, there will be better support for South Africa’s industrial activities in the continent.
It is our view, Mr President, that the future Defence Development Programme of the SANDF, creates a Force that unlocks value than it costs, while supporting socio-economic benefits in our politics, security, infrastructure and technology for South Africa and the continent. Our role is part and parcel of ensuring that we secure our national interest, and this at the same time challenges us to confront the question of what it should be.
As part of the JCPS cluster here at home, we continue to be involved in the government national security strategy and the imperative for public safety, as well as the fight against crime and corruption.
Honourable members…the task of accelerating radical economic transformation is intrinsically linked to that of ensuring that our people continue to live in conditions of safety and security - the utmost importance that the state takes serious is its responsibility of ensuring public safety.
As we move towards the ANC’s National Policy Conference this year, the JCPS has outlined various policy interventions to respond to developing trends and causes of insecurity amongst our people. Recent events where our people have, at times taken to the streets, have necessitated a relook in the functioning, structuring and capacity of our criminal justice system.
Although community protests are provided for in the country’s legislative framework, of national security concern is the planned violence accompanying the protests. However, since 1994 the triggers of community protests have not changed and these include demand for water, electricity, housing and employment opportunities.
The plans that are being outlined for intervention in the socio-economic conditions of our people, should assist us in addressing the key causes of these triggers.
The National Crie Prevention Strategy adopted in 1996 require review to address new challenges and trends that confront the criminal justice system. The incidents of the Marikana tragedy, the violence and torching of schools that erupted in Vuwani and the damage to institutions of higher learning have overstretched the criminal justice system and we need to plan better for these.
I want to once more, pick up the name of Oliver Reginald Tambo, as an icon who dedicated his life to the pursuit of freedom for his people, and consequently, to bring about a society of equals in South Africa, both before the law and in human interaction across the board. President Tambo was clear in his understanding that whatever we do in the tasks ahead of us, we should emphasize the importance of unity as the glue that keeps our people together.
Speaking at Georgetown University on the 27th January 1987, Tambo said:
“It is our responsibility to break down barriers of division and create a country where there will be neither Whites nor Blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity."
It is important therefore that as leadership of the country all of us gathered here, should never compromise on the unity of our people and always guard ourselves against the temptation to divide them.
Our country's Legislature has been convened once again, to deliberate an important question about the kind of society our people have fought for, and whether as the leadership, we are still on the track towards the attainment thereof.
Parliament is serious business because the work that we are supposed to do here, that of improving the lives of our people, is a serious one.
Speaking at Georgetown University on January 27 1987, President Tambo further said,
“We seek to create a united Democratic and non-racial society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity. Using the power you derive from the discovery of the truth about racism in South Africa, you will help us to remake our part of the world into a corner of the globe on which all -- of which all of humanity can be proud." -.
The question for us, having been part of the disturbing scenes that continue to overshadow the true business of parliament, is whether we depict that corner of the globe, in which our people and the world can be proud.
It was not by coincidence that those of us who fought for freedom, placed the unity of this national in the forefront of the definition of our goals. This is because we know too well the pain and suffering of a nation at each others’ throats, killing one another for a cause only known by leaders of agitation.
We have lived the words of OR Tambo, when we breathed them into our constitution, whose preamble says…
”We the people of South Africa Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”
Given the divided history from which our country has come, our cardinal responsibility as leaders is to unify our nation.
It is for this reason that we do not keep on emphasizing that which seeks to divide our people. A new dangerous brand of politicking is rising in our country, characterised by a mentality of "Phuma sbethane", and it is incumbent upon all South Africa to reject it for what it is - destructive, counter-productive, counter revolutionary, bordering on the juvenile tendency of throwing toys out of the court bed with no regard for what they may break.
We cannot deteriorate into a new trend where serious debate can deteriorate into a shouting match and slang. Even in the manner in which we engage with one another, no matter how deep our differences, we have a responsibility to exercise high levels of political maturity.
Being a member of parliament, to be bestowed the responsibility to be the vise of those who cannot be here, means that you are supposed to represent the best we have.
I know that the problems I speak of cannot just be attributed to one party, and it is for this reason that I want to appeal to the conscience that once made us all to ever choose to serve our people by being here.
The fifth parliament is about to become the term of parliament during which our people lost the opportunity to be served at all. For us, leadership is not only about being blinded by the quest to achieve what you want, but our ability to put our people first!
If we are truly the descendants of Tambo, Mandela, Ghandhi and Fidel, we should remember their examples and their words when we’re united and serve our people. Only then can we say we have been deserving of our seats and the honour to be called their leaders.
Honourable Members, I thank you….