Ambassador Princeton Lyman,
Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, South African Ambassador to the United States,
Ambassador Eric Bost, US Ambassador to South Africa,
Distinguished members of the CFR,
The South African delegation,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We thank you for this opportunity to interact with you on this occasion of our visit to the USA.
We felt it important to visit this country ahead of the general elections in the United States next month, and the elections in our country next year.
The objective is to strengthen relations and ensure that incoming administrations in our two countries build on the sound foundations of cooperation that are already in place.
The United States is a key player in the South African economy and we want our economic relations to grow from strength to strength.
We also want to further explore cooperation in areas that will be the priority of the incoming administration in our country. Our top priorities are to improve health and education, drastically reduce crime, maintain financial and macroeconomic stability, substantially improve efficiency in the public service by instilling discipline and accountability, and work with business and labour to create decent jobs in the private and public sectors.
As we head towards our elections, we reflect and celebrate our achievements since the dawn of freedom in our country.
We count on the Constitution of our country, which is one of the most progressive in the world, and which goes further than most Constitutions as it enshrines both political as well as socio-economic rights.
It guarantees to citizens the right to participate in the manner in which they are governed and to determine who will lead that government. That may sound pretty standard to external audiences, but to the black majority in South Africa it is a new and much cherished right and achievement as they could not vote 15 years ago.
We are proud to have a sound, stable and very robust democracy with democratic institutions that are in tact and effective.
We will continue to ensure the independence of the judiciary, the supremacy of the rule of law, the freedom of the media and to support all institutions that protect our citizens, such as the Office of the Public Protector, South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission on Gender Equality and others.
South Africans use the provisions of the Constitution very effectively. Freedom of expression is key feature of the new South Africa. Our compatriots express themselves in various forms on any given day ? from staging protest marches to participating in radio talk shows, from public meetings to publishing their views in the media.
Freedom of association is another much-celebrated right. Citizens are free to found any organisation that they feel expresses their wishes and views better as long as it does not violate our Constitutional principles.
Currently, political parties are gearing up for elections and there is fierce competition for political space.
There are some elements within the ANC who say they are mobilising for a splinter political party. The grouping is led by some few ANC members who failed to get elected to leadership positions at the ANC's national conference in Polokwane in Limpopo Province last December and in provincial congresses.
We respect the right of this small group to organise and form any party of their choice.
Their ability to speak out against the ANC, no matter how fictional the accusations, and to organise support is another example of the maturity of the South African democracy, which allows freedom of association, assembly and speech.
However, like any organisation, we will not allow the dissidents to mobilise dissent within our movement. We will take disciplinary action against those who use ANC structures to sow conflict within the organisation. It is part of organisational procedure and has nothing to do with intolerance of opposition.
There is a lot of hype around the dissident group. The media is highly attracted to it because of the alternative they feel it provides to a highly dominant ANC.
We, however, maintain that the ANC will govern South Africa for many decades to come. That is because no other organisation has put forward policies that convincingly counter those of our movement. Most opposition parties spend their time criticising the ANC instead of putting forward convincing policy alternatives. The dissident group has fallen into the same trap, exploiting anger at losing leadership positions.
November marks the beginning of our campaign to get people to register to vote. We will spend the month mobilising support throughout the country.
Our 2009 Election Manifesto will outline our vision, backed by the solid achievements of the past three terms under the leadership of Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.
Even though the ANC requested former President Mbeki to resign, we acknowledge his sterling leadership of our country's government.
We also applaud the manner in which he handled the debacle around his resignation, which added another feather in our democracy cap. We were able to change leadership in the executive in a smooth and speedy manner. This certainly demonstrated that our democracy is maturing.
We have said consistently that there will be no change in the policy direction of our country simply because ANC resolutions from the Polokwane conference spell out what we want to achieve.
Central to our mandate from Polokwane is to achieve economic growth that will allow us to create decent jobs and decisively deal with poverty.
The ANC has worked hard to build a strong, resilient economy over the last few years. Due to regulations such as exchange controls and tight banking regulation, our country has not been heavily affected directly by the global financial crisis.
However, we are likely to be affected by the worldwide-reduced demand for commodities, reduced consumer demand for products and services, and reduced financial liquidity. Our Government will remain prudent and alert.
As part of preparing to govern and improve the way we govern, the ANC and our Alliance partners held an economic summit last weekend.
The purpose of the Summit was to translate economic resolutions from the Polokwane conference into concrete proposals to be considered by any new government.
We agreed on various initiatives at the Summit, including the imperative to create decent work as defined in the International Labour Organisation, in terms of both quality and quantity of the jobs and the rights of workers. We have heard comments by political analysts in our country and beyond that ANC policies in the post-Polokwane period will be dictated or decided by the SA Communist Party and Cosatu.
ANC policies were decided upon in Polokwane at an ANC conference, not a Cosatu or SACP conference.
The resolutions are well known, and are public knowledge. ANC policies are not decided by an individual or a clique, but by a collective through well-defined policy development processes. What we are doing now is to flesh out the detail for implementation.
In designing our Manifesto, we are backed by the achievements of the last 15 years.
We have made great strides in education. However, we have to improve the quality of our educational institutions and encourage skills development in the fields of engineering, education, health care services and research to name a few.
Investment in the teaching of maths and science in our schools is an undisputed priority, as is the training of teachers to teach these subjects.
We have provided over 2.6 million homes for South Africans, but the demand is still increasing and we are working to provide relief.
We are re-investing in community initiatives to fight crime, such as reviving street committees in support of police work. We will also be looking into means of providing our police with the resources and modern skills to fight crime.
We must ensure qualitative change in the rate of arrest and convictions for criminals.
We will soon be outlining the detail of our anti-crime strategy in our Manifesto, suffice to say for now that we will be tough and decisive in our response.
The new ANC administration will demonstrate more visible action in the fight against HIV and AIDS at every level. Prevention measures will continue to get attention. However, with 5,5m people already known to be infected, much attention and effort must be devoted to treatment.
To improve treatment, the primary health care segment of public health care, which is the first line of support, must be resourced and strengthened.
Our Government will also benefit from partnerships with significant donors such as the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) and the Global Fund on HIV and Aids and TB. We will be meeting US officials responsible for the PEPFAR programme during this visit.
We are also exploring significant partnerships with Virgin Unite.
We met with Sir Richard Branson yesterday to discuss the establishment of a Centre for Disease Control and other possible health and development ventures. As said, we are preparing to govern and govern better from 2009 through successful international partnerships.
On the regional front, Zimbabwe remains an important priority for South Africa. We are continuing to support and assist Zimbabweans in their efforts to find urgent political solutions to the current situation.
South Africa cannot afford Zimbabwe to remain in a state of near collapse for long as a meltdown in that country impacts on us directly. We fully support the mediation efforts by former President Mbeki.
We urge the international community to support South African efforts in this regard, and to trust us to deliver a workable outcome.
Ladies and gentlemen, our tourism sector continues to expand and is now a huge contributor to the South African economy.
This should increase through the holding of the Fifa Soccer World Cup in 2010.
We invite you to explore the country, if not during the World Cup, at any other time to sample the unique South African experience.
Let me emphasise that the ANC is already preparing to govern for another term next year.
We are ready to partner the international community to create the conditions for the eradication of poverty in our country, and the creation of a better life for all.
I thank you.
Province Or State