Honourable Speaker, Mr Max Sisulu;
Honourable President, Mr Jacob Zuma;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me add to the words of President Jacob Zuma who, on this special occasion, has thanked Parliament and Government as well as all sectors of the South African society for supporting and encouraging the Presidency in its endeavour to drive the transformation agenda in our society.
We are presenting the Presidency Budget Vote at the time when we are also marking the mid-term of the current administration. This in turn offers us the opportunity to reflect on the past two and half years as well as the distance we still have to travel to meet our objectives.
As we have maintained before, our nation is reeling under the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality, with the youth of our country at the epicentre of that challenge.
The youth are an important social segment not only because of their energy but also because they represent the future we are building today. It follows then that if the majority of the youth are not developed today while they are young they are unlikely to be productive adults tomorrow, thus presenting even greater problems to society.
As of now, approximately 2.8 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 years are unemployed and not in any institution of learning. This statistic represents a tinderbox that threatens to inflame pent-up emotions within the youth if not urgently addressed.
Failure to equip the youth with alternatives will only feed resonance of negative feeling and violent reaction among them.
We are obliged to approach youth development in a holistic manner that goes far beyond issues of empowerment. As Government we should plan comprehensively to ensure that in all areas of our programmes we target the youth in order to build a sustainable future.
Our ongoing anti-poverty efforts were further strengthened by the decision of the Extended Cabinet Lekgotla in July 2011 to prioritise short-term job creation as a focus of our co-ordinating structures.
While the comprehensive plan to address unemployment is outlined in our New Growth Path, we have embarked upon measures that seek to alleviate this challenge of unemployment.
We have pooled together the following programmes under one co-ordinating structure:
• The Community Work Programme targeting one million work opportunities by 2014;
• The Expanded Public Works Programme targeting up to two million work opportunities;
• Vocational and Continuing Education and Training Programme which aims to increase enrolment from 300 000 to 800 000 students;
• The Jobs Fund; and
• Supporting small and micro enterprises, including small holders and
Since the launch of the War on Poverty Campaign, we have profiled poor households and in many instances identified their needs. The War on Poverty Campaign targets young people from poor households as change agents, given the potential they represent to break the cycle of poverty in their households.
We seek to improve the capability and opportunities of these young people, by connecting them to available opportunities, in order for them to graduate from poverty, and in turn, take their own families and communities out of poverty.
The extent of the challenge is worth noting. Educational inequalities among the poor are glaring. The drop-out rate at low educational levels is high among poor households.
For these households, the urgent and necessary interventions are literacy campaigns, keeping children at school until completion of secondary education, and the acquisition of vocational training and other technical skills for all adults.
Therefore, beyond this anti-poverty programme, government is prioritising youth development through instruments like skills development, promotion of healthy lifestyles, internships and enterprise development.
Historically, societies are known to make economic progress on the strength of their human resource development.
To this end, the Human Resource Development Council (HRD Council), consisting of government, business, labour, and civil society drafted the Human Resource Development Strategy. Over the past year and a half, the HRD Council has focused on establishing relevant structures that will oversee the implementation of the Strategy.
I am pleased to report that the HRD Council has done excellent work with particular focus on:
• Strengthening foundational learning;
• Strengthening and supporting FET colleges to expand access;
• Producing intermediate skills (artisans in particular) and professionals;
• Promoting partnerships in research and development; and
• Developing a framework for improving worker education.
While the work to develop our human resources has been mapped out, we still have a long road to travel. With this in mind I would request that in the year ahead we should continue to work hand in hand to lay the foundation for a winning nation, which I believe we are capable of achieving.
These efforts must help us respond to the triple challenges outlined earlier, especially as they affect the youth of our country.
For this reason, the state has the responsibility to ensure that it is institutionally geared towards supporting the youth by granting them access to information that helps them make useful decisions about career options, health and wellbeing, employment and entrepreneurship, among others.
Let me thank GCIS for responding to the request by young people to be provided with such consolidated information. I am happy that an information booklet is now available and I have been told that this booklet was distributed to all MPs on the 18th May. We will be giving you more copies to distribute in your constituencies.
Given the high unemployment rate, we are prioritising education, training and skills development efforts as well as other interventions that promote absorption into the labour force such as internships and apprenticeship. Supporting young people to enter the world of self-employment is another urgent task.
As Honourable Members are aware, through NEDLAC, all social partners are processing the Youth Wage Subsidy proposal. There are differences in approach or modalities for implementation.
But that should not deter us from the main objective of lowering the costs and time of entry into the labour market. We must, together with all social partners, work out mechanisms to prevent, detect and address possible abuse of government grants, subsidies like the youth wage subsidies when it does occur.
South Africa has taken bold and decisive action to create energy security through diversifying its energy sources, accelerating access to energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building a competitive 21st century clean energy economy while contributing towards employment creation.
South Africa is making strides in raising awareness on energy conservation. For example, we are accelerating the rollout of the 49M Campaign which appeals to all South Africans to conserve energy. The 49M Campaign is implemented through Eskom and enjoys the support of business and other social partners.
With regards to the country’s electricity plan, the Integrated Resource Plan 2010-2030 provides for the up-scaling of nuclear capacity. In November 2011 Cabinet approved the establishment of the National Nuclear Energy Executive Co-ordination Committee (NNEECC) to oversee the roll-out of the nuclear-build programme.
The National Nuclear Energy Executive Co-ordination Committee is the authority for co-ordinating inputs, monitoring and ensuring general oversight as the country prepares to expand its nuclear energy programme.
Let me state once more that this co-ordinating committee is not responsible for procurement. Its mandate is only that of co-ordinating the nuclear-build programme and therefore will not be discussing tender specifications and procurement. That remains the responsibility of relevant government departments and agencies.
As I reported to this House last year, we have been conducting a number of reviews on the work of the South African National AIDS Council as part of the final review of the Strategic Plan for HIV which expired at the end of 2011.
The review of the governance framework highlighted some weaknesses in the co-ordination and monitoring of our response. An Ad-Hoc Governance Committee to look into the matter and to make recommendations in this regard was established
I am happy to report that the Committee has proposed a robust, comprehensive governance framework which will ensure accountability, transparency, inclusivity and meaningful participation of all sectors. It will also enable us to co-ordinate our programmes across all levels of government
This time last year all our efforts were focussed on the development of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs. During my speech, I requested all sectors and stakeholders across the country to engage with the process of developing the National Strategic Plan.
I am heartened to note that people from all sectors of our society responded to this call to action. They made inputs into this important strategic document which now serves as the roadmap towards the achievement of our vision of an AIDS-free world.
Let me emphasise that this is the first time that we are addressing HIV and TB in a comprehensive and integrated way, due to the high levels of co-infection in our country. This is therefore a unique Strategic Plan.
The results of all the surveys and reviews undertaken enabled us to be precise in identifying those who are at risk, the behavioural and structural factors that increase vulnerability as well as the social drivers of the epidemic. We have used this information to develop our National Strategic Plan and prioritised those areas where our
interventions can make the greatest impact.
Experts confirm that the following categories of people are more susceptible to HIV and TB:
• Young women and girls;
• Those with low or no education;
• People living in informal settlements;
• Those in rural areas;
• Migrant workers;
• People working in the mines and prisoners; and
• Those living along major long-haul truck routes.
In short, we have affirmed that this is an epidemic of deprivation; that the social determinants of these epidemics reflect the developmental challenges that our young democracy is grappling with; that the interplay between social, economic, cultural and many other factors continues to throw up challenges and that as we make progress in one area, new problems arise in other areas.
There is no doubt that the country is slowly winning the fight against the epidemic as demonstrated by:
• The high numbers of people who are now receiving treatment;
• Our successful HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign;
• Improvement in the detection of new TB infections; and
• The decline in the transmission of HIV from mother to child.
We have shifted the way we think about the response to the epidemic and have recognised the need to expand beyond the health sector to include all sectors, every department, all institutions, all organised structures, communities, households and individuals.
Furthermore prevention of new HIV and TB infections is not limited to the use of technologies and commodities such as condoms. Prevention traverses all those aspects of life that promote dignity, respect for life, the creation of a society that is tolerant and embracing, a society that cares about children, young women and girls, and a society that protects those who are vulnerable and marginalised.
Fellow South Africans should note that we have a good plan on the table. However, the litmus test is in its execution.
Given the global economic outlook and overall decline in development aid we will identify innovative ways of sustaining our programmes. What is imperative are economic governance, improved co-ordination, joint planning across departments, public-private partnerships and meaningful community engagement.
This means that we have to maximise efficiencies, do more with less and find innovative ways to deliver services.
We have to engage with all sectors of society because a robust response is not only dependent on funds. There is a wealth of experience even at the local level that if aligned appropriately and strategically, can ensure that indeed we do succeed in reducing new infections.
I therefore call upon all stakeholders in the business community to work collaboratively and with singular purpose towards the vision of an AIDS-free South Africa. This vision is attainable, so let us commit ourselves to it.
With the new NSP will come renewed membership of civil society sectors. To this end a call for nominations for the SANAC will be issued shortly, and those appointed will be the custodians of the new NSP.
Finally, we will prioritise the development and implementation of a multi-sectoral monitoring and evaluation framework which will contribute to the efforts of the Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Department in the Presidency.
Another important area of our responsibility that flows directly from our Constitution is social cohesion. In 1994 we set out to transform South Africa to a united non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
From the onset, we were mindful of the profound impact of colonialism and racial discrimination, not only on the ability of people to thrive and achieve their best potential, but also on the psyche of the nation. Given this complexity, we recognise that the task of social cohesion will not be accomplished in a short time.
The Constitution provides a framework that enables an environment in which the people of South Africa can function as one, and flourish.
Based on the Constitution we have enacted legislation and introduced policies to redress racial discrimination and other imbalances of the past. In doing all these, we have laid the foundation for a united South African society to flourish.
Social cohesion must be seen as an ongoing process of developing a community with a shared vision, shared values and shared challenges.
Success in this important task will be achieved when we have a South Africa in which people live in peace and harmony, are gainfully employed and are free of deprivation in terms of basic needs such as food, water and shelter and enjoy basic human rights such as freedom, democracy, culture, language and spiritual and intellectual stimulation.
The task to build such a society is our collective responsibility.
Our challenge is to ensure that the task of building a caring society is not relegated to the Moral Regeneration Movement.
The dissemination and popularisation of national symbols through education, publications, workshops, exhibitions and the distribution and installation of flags in schools, public buildings and households are some of the initiatives being undertaken to advance a national identity.
Moreover, government supports the commemoration of national events which bring people together to experience the wealth and diversity of South Africa’s cultural offerings.
To further explore how we can achieve maximum participation in these events, government is hosting the inaugural social cohesion summit in the second part of this year. Members of Parliament and all social partners are invited to join this important gathering.
Honourable Members, allow me to turn our attention to the work of the Leader of Government Business.
The flow of legislation from the Executive to Parliament has been proceeding smoothly. For some time now there have been no requests to fast-track Bills although requests for prioritisation were made and attended to.
Parliament needs to look at a Constitutional Amendment to allow Ministers to introduce section 76 Bills in the National Council of Provinces as this currently has to be done on their behalf by a Member of that House.
I note that the number of Parliamentary Questions asked last year increased by nearly 12% from 4333 Questions as opposed to the 3879 Questions asked in 2010. This shows that Parliamentary Questions are an effective instrument of political oversight.
At the same time there are still concerns relating to late Replies to Parliamentary Questions. Let me reassure you Honourable Members that all Ministers do take this responsibility seriously.
In 2011, just fewer than 6% of Questions were not answered before the end of the Parliamentary Year.
I reiterate therefore that the Executive is very conscious of its Constitutional responsibilities and clearly understands and is committed to its accountability to Parliament.
I would like to echo and support what President Jacob Zuma said on South Africa’s international relations. Our experience is that South Africa and its people stand to gain from the strengthening and deepening of our bilateral and multilateral relations with countries of the world, especially those countries here in Africa and in our region.
During our visits to some of these countries we have found that there is goodwill and understanding of the challenges that we face as a country that seeks to address its historically accumulated disabilities.
The growth and infrastructural development strategy that government has adopted, the investments that we want to bring here in this country and the people to people relations we wish to have, can only be realised if we make use of all the opportunities that arise out of the Bi-National Commissions that South Africa has established with some of these countries.
In this regard it is important that government and its departments work in unison in the execution and implementation of the bilateral and multilateral agreements that South Africa signed with these countries.
Furthermore, we take it upon ourselves to seek ways of strengthening those structures that are responsible for the implementation of these agreements so that execution takes place within the agreed time frames.
In the past year we have continued our efforts to promote and strengthen political and economic relations with sister countries in the continent. For example, we have successfully engaged our counterparts in Sao Tome-Principe, Ghana and Nigeria.
We are worried that just as we were consolidating our bilateral relations with Guinea Bissau, a situation emerged that reversed the gains of peace and stability in that country. We stand ready to assist in the resolution of political conflicts in keeping with our goal of building a better Africa.
We have also reinforced our political and economic relations with Vietnam, Turkey, Finland, Germany, Sweden, the United States, the United Kingdom and Denmark. The next task is to boost trade between us and these countries, and to increase people-to-people contact which is vital for cultural exchange and tourism.
Relations with China have also taken a new turn, thanks to the strategic partnership agreement brokered between President Jacob Zuma and President Hu Jintao. Consequently, South African Airways now flies directly to Beijing thus easing business, tourism and cultural exchanges.
Our manufacturing sector will also soon be enjoying the fruits of this agreement as China considers 10 specific South African products that will enjoy unhampered access to its markets.
Going forward, we are working tirelessly to strengthen south-south relations while maintaining our north-south relations.
Finally Honourable Members, let me stress that government is on course to fulfil its mandate. We are determined to accelerate service delivery, economic growth, job creation, social security and guarantee the safety of our people.
We will continue to be guided by the imperative of knowing where people are, understanding their conditions and empathising with and responding timeously to improve their socio-economic conditions.
Let me thank you Mr Speaker and Honourable Members for the continued support and co-operation we have received in the course of performing
our tasks. I thank President Jacob Zuma for his continued support, confidence and guidance in pursuit of our Executive responsibilities.
Let me also acknowledge the unconditional support of my Cabinet colleagues.
Special thanks to the Ministers in the Presidency, the management of the organisation led by Dr Cassius Lubisi, my Special Advisors as well as staff in my office who ensure that I can stand before this House today and report on the responsibilities assigned to the Office of the Deputy President.
I thank you Honourable Members.