We find ourselves faced with great difficulty in properly exercising our parliamentary duties as they relate to the approval of the budget of the Presidency which is before us today.
We are here to scrutinize whether the amount of money to be allocated to the Presidency for next year is adequate and sufficient in relation to the Strategic Plan submitted to Parliament. As we do this, at the same time we review whether the funds allocated last year were adequately spent.
This is a process Parliament undertakes in respect of all other Departments. This process takes place within Portfolio Committees, which go through how last year's money was spent and interrogate how next year's money is
intended to be spent.
However, when it comes to the ever-increasing budget of the Presidency, we are not enabled to perform any such review, control or scrutiny, because this Parliament has steadfastly refused to establish a Portfolio Committee
on the Presidency.
We are faced with having to approve today a budgetary allocation for the Presidency without any work having been done in any Portfolio Committee to interrogate what this figure means. All we know is that it has skyrocketed beyond anything one would have expected just a few years ago. This is an untenable and impossible situation.
It is not just Parliament that is being disempowered by the lack of a Portfolio Committee on the Presidency, but it also the people of South Africa who are being disempowered, as we are merely their elected representatives. The fundamental principle of 'no taxation without representation' has been weakened.
Also the Presidency has been weakened by the lack of a Portfolio Committee. All of us have experience of how the interaction between a Portfolio Committee and the relevant Minister ends us strengthening the ministerial
function, the Minister himself and delivery by the relevant Department. Every time a Minister comes to Parliament, he or she leaves enriched by the exchanges with the Portfolio Committee. However, there is no such a thing
for the Presidency. Why is that?
It is not that the Presidency does not need strengthening and guidance. On the contrary, we all realize that the Presidency could benefit from stronger interaction with Parliament.
In the past years, the role of the Presidency has become broader and broader. It began with President Mandela, who located within the Presidency the Reconstruction and Development Programme, thereby placing within the
Presidency the function of driving social and economic development at the macro level. This has now flourished into a placing within the Presidency of the National Planning Commission, which has been tasked with defining a plan and a policy framework for the whole of the country, for all the Departments, for the next thirty years. This is no minor task.
In addition, the Presidency has established within its own Department a new function of monitoring the performance of the whole of Government, which ordinarily would have been exercised by the Department of Public Service and Administration.
I realize that some of the additional functions accumulated in the time of our President's predecessors, but they are still accumulating. If one considers that there are only 365 days in a year and there is only one President, clearly at times all these functions must be overwhelming.
Both the planning function and the performance monitoring function are inherently executive functions which, if not placed within the Presidency, would be exercised by one or more Departments, which would be subjected to the oversight function of a Portfolio Committee and would have a constant beneficial interaction with such Committee. However, at this juncture, they are taken out of the accountability which comes when Parliament exercises its oversight function.
Exercising the oversight function is not a matter of choice for Parliament. It is a duty expressly cast upon us by the Constitution. In the absence of a Portfolio Committee on the Presidency, we are falling short of abiding by our duty to exercise this function.
The same applies to the fact that the functions of the Presidency have now increasingly expanded in respect of the direct management of ever-increasing portions of our international relations, which are handled directly by the
President, who participates in meetings of the G20, in African Union meetings, and in SADC meetings, while having direct personal contact with a number of world leaders. Parliament is greatly impoverished by not being able to interact with the Director-General in the Office of the Presidency on these and other matters.
The IFP has raised this grave institutional shortcoming for many years, and cannot really understand why there is an obstinate refusal to do what is constitutionally required and politically necessary to strengthen Parliament, strength the President, strengthen accountability and strengthen our democracy.
Therefore, we speak today without the benefit of having interrogated many of the questions we have, and against the backdrop of a general negative perception of the President. The general perception is that the President has failed to provide the necessary leadership in giving policy direction and dealing with the many problems faced by our country in a timely, effective and competent manner.
Even in respect of small things, which often reveal the status of the big things, we cannot help but notice how correspondence is not answered and promises are not kept. In respect of the big issues, we cannot but point to the failure of the Presidency to exercise leadership on all the issues that matter, ranging from the economy to unemployment, corruption, failure to deliver essential services and the lack of a vision for the future of the country.
This echoing criticism is not answered by creating more processes, institutions, workshops, summits and commissions. Indeed, that is an old technique used to cover impotence, lack of vision and lack of political
resolve. He who knows what to do, just does it. He who doesn't, throws the problem into the sandbox, letting sufficient people kick it around in the hope that someone, somehow, will kick it hard enough to crack some form of
solution. Our country is facing too many and too great challenges to be governed in this fashion.
In 1994, the world looked upon South Africa in great expectation, admiration and approval. By the time the 20th anniversary of our liberation comes, the world, including many of our African countries, will be looking on South
Africa with disappointment, concern and disapproval. How did we come tothis?
Unfortunately, it is in the Presidency that the buck stops.
We have suffered policy schizophrenia, trying to pursue all policies in spite of them being at odds with one another. We are trying to promote economic growth while pursuing a number of social programmes and policies, including the expansion of an untenable welfare state, which are at odds with economic growth.
We have committed ourselves to promote world-class infrastructure, and yet none of our infrastructure has been prioritized. Instead, it has fallen below even the highest standards in Africa. Even in respect of our Internet capability we are behind four other African countries, Nigeria being far ahead of us. The same applies to our ports and harbours, railways, electricity supply, education system and all that which forms the backbone of both our economy and our social fabric.
The same lack of leadership has emerged in respect of crucial issues such as traditional leadership, where the actual policies implemented by the Government over the past 18 years have been at odds with its political understanding and even the constitutional imperative.
We cannot continue to run a country saying one thing and doing another. Or worse, saying everything in the hope of pleasing everyone, while often doing nothing, in the hope that things will come right by themselves.
We need a profound change in the way the Presidency operates. The President can no longer be a figure head and a point of political reference. The Presidency must become an actual engine of work, policy and delivery. And, to this extent, it requires an active and constant interaction with a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.
Let me reiterate what I have said before; I will always support the President and Government when they do the right thing for the people. Yes, I am the leader of an opposition party. But I can assure them I have no sinister plans which would warrant the bugging of my phone.
Intelligence sources have leaked information that my phone is bugged even now, just as it was before 1994. I am at a loss to know why. I must say, though, that the job of the spies would be much easier if my home phone line
were reinstated. I haven't had the luxury of a home phone since I was Minister of Home Affairs. Perhaps someone in authority could get me reconnected.