Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP, Ms Thandi Modise,
Honourable Members of the NCOP
National and Provincial Chairpersons of SALGA,
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders,
I am honoured to deliver this Annual Address to this august House, our National Council of Provinces.
We meet under the theme “Deepening unity in action for inclusive growth and Africa’s Renewal – reclaiming the legacy of OR Tambo”.
We have dedicated the year 2017 to celebrating the legacy of Oliver Reginald Tambo, the illustrious leader of our people and freedom fighter who gave up his adult life to ensuring that this country is free.
We thank all who participated in the celebrations of the legacy of the OR Tambo in various ways during the year.
As we end the year, we reflect on the road travelled on the journey to deliver on the promise of a better life for our people, especially the poor and working class majority.
In 2009 I said we wanted to build a caring government, a government that knows where people live and which does its best to improve their lives working with them.
A lot has been done this year to achieve that goal, in spite of difficult economic conditions.
As we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the National Development Plan in September, we received good news that there was positive growth in the South African economy, taking us out of the technical recession.
This was a significant affirmation, which encouraged us to focus on positive developments and provide the necessary support to the sectors that can help us reignite growth.
If we continue in this path, our nation will reap the economic benefits and there will be significant change in the living conditions of our people.
We need to provide the necessary support to the sectors that can help us reignite growth, and we are doing this through our Nine Point Plan focusing on areas including manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, mining, telecommunications and others.
Also important is the need to bring industry and economic activity closer to where people live and to boost investments in other centres of the country.
Boosting the township economy and ensuring that economic activities that put food on the table are supported remains critical as we fight poverty.
Attracting investments also remains key. We continue to launch our investment one stop shops which are aimed at improving the ease of doing business for investors.
They are able to apply for licences and permits in one centre. We have launched these centres in Pretoria and Cape Town and will be opening one in KwaZulu-Natal this month.
We are also implementing incentives and support services for investors through our Special Economic Zones programme.
The six Industrial Development Zones established between 2002 and 2014, have attracted about fifty nine investors with an investment value of more than ten billion rand.
We also announced fourteen measures to build confidence recently through the Minister of Finance.
This includes improving the governance of state owned enterprises so that they start becoming sustainable and not rely on government bailouts perpetually.
Progress is being made in this regard. We have a new Board at the South African Airways and the SABC and a new Board will be appointed for Eskom soon.
Government will continue to support the new Boards as they move towards sustainability.
I established a Presidential Fiscal Committee last month as we prepared for the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.
This small team is working with the Ministry of Finance to help us prepare for Budget 2018 and in particular, to help us find ways of meeting our fiscal targets in a difficult economic climate, with high debt levels and lower revenue.
We are confident that working together as a team in Cabinet and as the three spheres of government, we will be able to steer the country in the right direction in spite of the difficulties.
We also urge unity among key stakeholders during this difficult time.
We have a responsibility to promote our country externally, and to solve whatever problems we have internally in a patriotic and responsible manner. Attacking South Africa and badmouthing the country when she is most vulnerable is irresponsible, especially if done by South Africans themselves.
While speaking about difficult economic conditions and less money to spend, we remain fully aware of the need to cushion the poor from the hardships, especially extreme poverty.
Government has created a wide network of social protection services such as social grants, free and subsidised health care, free basic education for children of the poor or free basic municipal services.
This is designed to support our people and to enable them to withstand the difficult economic climate and legacy of apartheid which has created a huge gap between the rich and poor, the haves and the have-nots.
We know that many among the privileged classes become angry when we speak about the reality of the apartheid legacy as they want it to be forgotten.
We will continue to work hard to reverse the horrible impact of this legacy. It is incorrect that the income level of a white household remains six times higher than that of a black household. Together we must fight and defeat this inequality as it seriously affects our path towards true reconciliation.
To improve living conditions, I would like to mention a few basic services that government provides to cushion the poor.
The Free Basic Services programme run by municipalities currently supports more than three million poor households throughout the country.
Over two point six million beneficiaries receive potable water, electricity and free basic sewerage and sanitation. Free basic refuse removal is provided to over two point four million households.
Uhulumeni uyasibona isimo esinzima sokuntengantenga kwesimo somnotho. Ngalokhuke, uhulumeni uletha izibonelelo kulabo abangasebenzi ukuze ikati lingalali eziko.
Uhulumeni ubabonelela nangokuthi bathole isikali esithile sikagesi, amanzi nokuthuthwa kwendle mahhala komasipala.
Ngalokhu, uhulumeni wenza okusemandleni ukuba impilo ibe ngcobo nakubo abampofu.
A home to call one’s own is very important for any human being.
It is for this reason that this government has since the dawn of democracy delivered over 4,5 million houses and subsidies, thereby restoring dignity of millions of our people and is still doing more.
Over the past few months we have delivered over fifty four thousand housing opportunities. These comprise of housing units and serviced sites.
With the limited resources at its disposal, government, through the Department of Human Settlements will continue to prioritise the elderly people, people living with disabilities, military veterans and child-headed households for houses.
To respond to rapid urbanisation,
Government provides decent affordable social housing.
New settlements have been opened such as Westgate social housing in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, Thembalethu in Tshwane, Scottsdene in the Western Cape, Willowdene in Port Elizabeth and Chris Hani Social Housing in Ekurhuleni.
The Gauteng province has launched a number of integrated mega city housing projects expected to deliver more than ten thousand housing units. These projects include Daggafontein, Westonaria Borwa and John Dube in Duduza.
Work continues indeed to build a better life for our people, especially the poor and the working class.
Imfundo ibaluleke kakhulu kuhulumeni wethu nakubantu bonke. Yingakho nje uhulumeni exhasa izingane eziphuma emakhaya antulayo. Izingane ezevile kwizigidi eziyisishiyagalolunye zifunda mahhala ezikoleni, futhi zithola ukudla mahhala ukuze zifunde kahle. Abafundi abampofu bafunda mahhala emakolishi abizwa ngama-TVET, awemfundo yamakhono.
As we improve teaching and learning, and the physical condition of schools, indeed the results become visible. The matric pass rate improved to seventy two point five percent in 2016, up from seventy percent in 2015. Bachelor passes also increased.
I am quite confident that these figures will improve this year. I am aware of the anxiety regarding the funding for higher education.
As the matric pupils pass, the challenge becomes funding for further education. The Inter-Ministerial Committee responsible for higher education funding, chaired by the Minister in the Presidency, working with the Presidential Fiscal Committee, are assisting me in processing the report of the Heher Commission. I will be making an announcement soon on the report.
We are also mindful of the need to begin our investments much early on. That is why government pays subsidies enabling more than one million children to attend early childhood development centres.
Lohulumeni eminyakeni edlulile usesebenze ngamandla ukwenyusa isibalo sezingane ezifunda ezinkulisa, ama-Early Childhood Development Centre.
Nezingane zabantulayo kufanele zikwazi ukufunda kulezizikhungo zojahidada ukuze imfundo ziyiqale zisencane zilungiselele ikusasa lezwe.
Care givers receive stipends from government through the Expanded Public Works Programme which helps to alleviate poverty.
Indeed we continue building a better life for our people, especially the poor and the working class.
On health care, life expectancy increased by six years and reached 63.3 years in 2015. South Africans are definitely living longer and are healthier than before. This is because of improved access to treatment for diseases such as HIV and AIDS and TB.
However some diseases need attention such as cancer and heart diseases which are becoming more prevalent and this calls for more awareness about healthy lifestyles.
I visited Steve Biko Academic Hospital last week and was impressed by the facilities and services provided by a government hospital. I wanted to see first-hand what facilities exist in a best performing hospital.
The Department of Health is aware of the complaints about the condition of many other hospitals nationwide. We urge all provinces to ensure that services and facilities are improved in all hospitals in our country, and that our people are treated with courtesy and empathy. In that way we will truly build a caring environment for our citizens in distress.
Many families would be unable to put food on the table were it not for the social grants provided by government. They have become our most effective poverty alleviation mechanism.
The social grants are received by seventeen million people, of which twelve million are orphans and vulnerable children.
The investment in the 12 million children has yielded returns as some have even graduated at universities. Over and above the social grants, government also provides support through the Social Relief of Distress programme to individuals and households faced with destitution, undue hardship and disasters such as fires or floods.
This support includes cash, food parcels or food vouchers and school uniforms that are provided to the distressed family for a minimum period of three and up to six months.
Through the government’s Household Food and Nutrition Security Programme, more than 200 Community Nutrition and Development Centres provide over six million meals to more than three hundred thousand beneficiaries per annum.
In some communities, lunch is provided daily for our older persons by government, so that they do not take their medication on empty stomachs.
Uhulumeni uzoqhubeka nokuxhasa izingane, abadala, nabakhubazekile ngezibonelelo ukuze baphile kangcono.
We know that there is concern about the social grants payment mechanism.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security is seized with the matter and will assist the Department of Social Development to find workable solutions within the timeframes set, to ensure that the beneficiaries of social grants do not suffer.
Importantly, Government also runs public employment and development programmes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the Community Work Programme which provide regular work opportunities and training for thousands of people including women and the youth.
Decent Work as the cornerstone of our 2009 election manifesto commits government to extend the reach of social benefits for those in need.
The Unemployment Insurance Fund, to which employers and employees contribute, pays just above ten thousand claims per day at a cost of thirty five to thirty nine million rands per day, thus
contributing positively to the lives of the beneficiaries.
From April to September 2017 the Fund approved benefit claims amounting to three point seven billion rand.
In the previous financial year the Fund spent a total of over one hundred and sixty million rands on Poverty Alleviation schemes targeting those workers who may have become victims of retrenchments and/or dismissals.
Our government realises the need to support our youth, especially those in townships and rural areas.
The National Rural Youth Service Corps which was established in September 2010 empowers youth from rural areas. More than seven thousand youth have gained various skills.
Government also runs the War on Leaks programme aimed at fighting water leakages while providing youth with skills as plumbers and in various artisan trades.
About ten thousand young people have been recruited, onto the programme by the Department of Water and Sanitation, and they are being trained as water agents, and in the following artisan disciplines: electrical, plumbing, welding, instrumentation and fitting and machinery.
I would like to urge all municipalities to absorb the learners for experiential training before they could sit for their trade tests and qualify for their various disciplines.
I have mentioned our poverty alleviation mechanisms.
Ultimately, for us to totally lift the poor out of poverty, we have to ensure an inclusive economy.
The liberation struggle was not about political freedom only. It was about ensuring the expansion of economic opportunities to include the majority.
We have introduced programmes such as promoting and supporting black industrialists and black small businesses so that we can change the patterns of ownership of the economy. This is an example of what we mean by radical economic transformation.
We have informed accounting officers in government that small businesses must be paid on time, within 30 days of submitting legitimate invoices so that we do not disadvantage them further as government. Paying suppliers on time will contribute immensely to radical economic transformation.
In this way, this programme is not just rhetoric, it is about changing the status quo in order to promote growth, expansion and sustainability in our economy.
We have been accused of all sorts of things by people who refuse to face the reality that radical economic transformation is critical so that we can achieve inclusive growth.
In any country, the majority of the population must play a key role in the economy. In South Africa this has not happened due to the legacy of apartheid that many still choose to deny.
Let me emphasise that radical economic transformation is government policy and arises from the African National Congress, and not from outside the country as many rumour mongers claim.
It is delegates at the ANC conference in Mangaung in 2012 who felt it necessary that the economic transformation takes centre stage as the next phase of liberation.
The Conference declared that we had begun a second decisive second phase of our long transition from Colonialism of a Special Type to a National Democratic Society, and that this second phase would be characterised by more radical policies and decisive action to effect socio-economic and continued democratic transformation.
When I was inaugurated as President of the Republic for the second time on 24 May 2014, I began to give effect to the resolution in my inauguration address. I outlined that the focus of the fifth democratic administration for the years 2014-2019 would be to implement radical socio-economic policies.
The ANC January 8 statement this year further outlined the governing party’s focus on radical socio-economic transformation.
Members will recall that radical socio-economic transformation was then declared a priority for 2017/18 for government in the 2017 State of the Nation Address.
We defined radical economic transformation referring to fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
We are already busy with the implementation of many aspects of the policy through our Nine Point Plan, ensuring that work done in the priority sectors that we have targeted for attention in order to reignite growth, include the meaningful participation of black people who were excluded in the past. These sectors include mining, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, tourism, ICT, water and sanitation, industrialisation and others.
We invite local and foreign investors to ensure that their investments promote indigenous participation to ensure sustainability. Working together, we can make a difference.
Let me also take this opportunity, as we head towards National Reconciliation Day next month, to remind all that we have a responsibility to promote unity and social cohesion.
This includes promoting our national symbols and everything associated with the democratic republic.
It is of serious concern that some of the people who marched reportedly against farm murders last Monday, displayed symbols of racism and of the past such as the old apartheid flag.
This means that some compatriots yearn for the past in which black people were subjugated and treated as pariahs in the land of their birth. This conduct is disgusting, shocking and grossly insensitive. It indicates how far we still need to go in building a new society.
It is also clear that more stringent measures are needed to tackle racism in our country.
The Department of Justice is finalising the legislation to outlaw hate speech and racism as there should be consequences for such unpatriotic and divisive conduct which seeks to take us backwards.
Next year we shall celebrate the centenary of President Nelson Mandela, as he would turn 100 years old in 2018 had he lived.
We should use the celebration to promote non-racialism, unity and nation building.
We owe it to Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and all our heroes and heroines, including thousands who suffered brutality at the hands of the apartheid regime, to continue building a better society.
Let us not be diverted from this noble mission.
We have it within our power to make South Africa a better place for all our people, especially the poor and the working class.
I thank you.