Reply by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the Debate on the State of the Nation Address, Parliament, Cape Town
Speaker of the National Assembly,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces,
I wish to extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all the Honourable Members who participated in the debate yesterday for asserting that a new era has dawned and embracing the call for a new partnership to build a new nation in which all may be free, secure and equal.
I wish to thank all Members, and particularly those who participated in the debate, for their contributions and suggestions.
It was a meaningful debate that engaged with the issues that most directly affect our people.
The debate was conducted with decorum and respect – respect for each other, respect for the dignity of the House and respect for the people that we have all been sent here to represent.
We should always remain mindful that this is the People’s Parliament.
It was built by our people, for our people, and it belongs to our people.
The dignified manner in which the debate was conducted was very much in accord with what our people expect from their representatives in this, their House.
As Honourable Members met yesterday to debate the State of the Nation Address, ordinary South Africans have also been discussing it over the last few days.
Many South Africans have been expressing their views on social media and in traditional media, many have commented on government communications platforms, and some have shared their views when we pass each other in the corridor or on the street.
This morning I had occasion to take my early morning walk in Gugulethu, joined by people from the area, many of whom commented on the speech.
Since delivering the State of the Nation Address on Friday night, I have been humbled and encouraged by the response of people from all walks of life to the call to work together to build a new, better South Africa.
They are galvanised by a sense patriotism that elevates the interests of the country above narrow, selfish interests.
They are moved by a conviction that tomorrow will be better than today.
They have, to a man and a woman, all been saying they are ready to lend a hand to build a South Africa that benefits all its people.
I have received messages from many people consisting of only two words: “Send Me”.
What emerged clearly from the debate yesterday, is that all the members of this Parliament are committed to build a nation where progress is measured not by growth in gross domestic product or global competitiveness rankings, but by how the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalised are changed for the better.
We are building a nation where our greatest concern must be those in society who have least. The poor. The unemployed.
The most important people in this country are not those who walk the red carpet in Parliament, but those who spend their nights on the benches outside its gates.
The most important people in this country are those whose shacks are flooded with every rainfall and whose taps run dry whether there is a drought or not.
It is those who have been looking for work their entire adult lives, who have had to drop out of school, who are suffering from preventable diseases, who have been orphaned or abandoned, who rely on an old age pension to feed their families, who do not have the seed or the implements to work their small piece of land.
In everything that we do, as government and as a society, these are the people whose interests and needs must come first.
These are the people whose voices must be heard.
They are the people we all collectively are being sent to – to improve their lives, to heal their wounds and to make their hope a reality.
At the centre of our approach to improving the lives of our people is the Madiba way of getting our people involved in changing their lives for the better and making them, as Madiba urged, ‘their own liberators’.
It is to advance their interests that we have called for a new social compact founded on the principles of social justice, solidarity and equality.
It is only by bringing all social partners – and all South Africans – together in pursuit of a common national agenda that we will be able to defeat poverty and inequality.
Collaboration, partnership and consensus building are essential features of our rich African past and will be central in determining our future.
Throughout our history, we have used collaboration and partnership to overcome the greatest of difficulties and resolve the most intractable of problems.
It is our intention, through initiatives like the Jobs Summit and Social Sector Summit, to bring together the skills, insights, experiences and capabilities of all South Africans to address critical challenges in our society.
We want to build consensus.
We want to invite all South Africans to participate, to lend a hand.
This we have to do because our people want to be involved.
They say: ‘Nothing about us without us.’
We should remember how the Freedom Charter was written, how volunteers spread out across the country to collect the demands of the people for discussion at the Congress of the People.
We should remember how we wrote the Constitution, where we received around 1.7 million submissions from ordinary South Africans.
Now, we need to mobilise all South Africans to achieve the vision of the Freedom Charter and the values of the Constitution.
As leaders – whether in government, business, labour or civil society – we have a responsibility to work together.
Encouraged by the response of our people – and by the views expressed in yesterday’s debate – I am confident that we can move with urgency and purpose to forge a new social compact to revive our economy, create jobs, reduce inequality and effect fundamental social and economic transformation.
I am confident that – while there will necessarily be much contestation and vigorous debate – all parties represented in this Parliament are committed to work together to make this a reality.
I concur with the sentiment expressed yesterday that we need to unite as political parties to support the pursuit of a developmental state and an inclusive economy.
If we are to work together effectively, we should be prepared to engage each other on the matters of national importance on which we may disagree.
On such fundamental matters as the redress of the injustices of the past, we should not simply agree to disagree.
We must discuss and debate and persuade each other.
Yesterday, there was a concern raised about black economic empowerment and affirmative action.
There was a suggestion that young white people are excluded from jobs, bursaries and opportunities based on the colour of their skin.
We must not ignore such concerns, nor must we dismiss them.
Rather we must engage with them, for the statement that young white South Africans are unfairly disadvantaged by our affirmative action policies is not borne out by reality.
Data from Statistics South Africa indicate that white young people still do better in development indicators such as education, employment, entrepreneurial opportunities and wellbeing.
Unemployment among Africans stands at 30 percent and just under 7 percent among whites.
Employment prospects still favour white young people as compared to their black counterparts.
They are still more likely to complete matric and progress to tertiary education.
They are more likely to complete tertiary education and proceed into the labour market with better prospects.
White South Africans, particularly men, still dominate at the senior levels of the economy.
We have made significant progress since 1994 in addressing these racial disparities, but we clearly have a long way to go.
We have even further to go to address gender disparities.
It is therefore critical that we accelerate black economic empowerment, employment equity and the transformation of our education system.
We should emphasise that the task of building a united nation that belongs to all South Africans, black and white, does not suggest that we ignore the legacy of our apartheid and colonial past.
On the contrary, the creation of a non-racial society requires the liberation of Africans in particular and black people in general from political and economic bondage.
Let us remember the contract we all entered into as South Africans when we adopted our Constitution.
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.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to -
- Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
- Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
- Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
- Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
May God protect our people.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso.
God seën Suid-Afrika. God bless South Africa.
Mudzimu fhatutshedza Afurika. Hosi katekisa Afrika.
This commitment we all made must inform the debate we need to have on all fundamental measures of redress that we need to undertake to heal the divisions of the past in order to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.
The return of the land to the people from whom it was taken speaks to precisely how we can heal the divisions of the past.
We need to interrogate the statement that the expropriation of land without compensation is incompatible with a growing, flourishing economy.
We need to respond to the view that what we propose represents a violation of the spirit and intent of our democratic Constitution.
There are few in our country who would contest the fact that dispossession of black South Africans of their land contributed fundamentally to the impoverishment and disempowerment of the majority of our people.
This morning, while walking in Gugulethu, I met Mr Cedric Alberts, who was forcibly removed from District Six in 1969.
His family’s story illustrates in vivid terms the pain and damage caused by the former rulers of this land.
The expropriation of land without compensation is envisaged as one of the measures that we will use to accelerate the redistribution of land to black South Africans.
We will need to determine, collectively, how we can implement this measure in a way that promotes agricultural production, improves food security, advances rural development, reduces poverty and strengthens our economy.
For it to serve this purpose, we will need to locate this measure within a broad and comprehensive land redistribution and agricultural development programme.
This is a profound responsibility that has been given to our generation.
We owe it to our ancestors and to our children to ensure that we fulfil it.
In dealing with this complex matter, we will not make the mistakes that others have made.
We will not allow smash and grab interventions.
We will handle this matter in the same way we have handled all difficult issues our country has had to handle.
We will always seek to do what is in the interests of our people.
This includes, Honourable Buthelezi, how we will handle the Ingonyama Trust issue.
No-one is saying that land must be taken away from our people.
Rather it is how can we make sure that our people have equitable access to land and security of tenure.
We must see this process of accelerated land redistribution as an opportunity and not as a threat.
We must see it as an opportunity to free all of us from the bitterness and pain of the past.
Another grave historical injustice that we need to correct is the economic inequality between men and women.
It is a task that requires both a deliberate bias in economic policy towards the advancement of women and a fundamental shift in almost every aspect of social life.
One of the programmes where we have sought to integrate various approaches is the ‘She Conquers’ initiative, which aims to empower adolescent girls and young women to reduce HIV infections, tackle gender-based violence, keep girls in school and increase economic opportunities.
It recognises how patriarchal attitudes, poverty, social pressures, unemployment and lack of adequate health and other services conspire to reduce the prospects of young women – and then involves these women in overcoming these challenges.
This is one of the ways we are working to build a nation that is prepared to confront the many different ways in which women are subjugated, marginalised and overlooked – a nation that wages a daily struggle against patriarchy, discrimination and intolerance.
We must all work together to tackle the chauvinism experienced by women in the workplace and other social settings.
We must confront the social and economic factors that prevent young women from completing school, entering higher education and graduating.
Government has adopted an integrated programme of action to eliminate all forms violence against women and children.
With the support of communities, we aim to prevent such violence by transforming attitudes, practices and behaviours.
We are working to provide a comprehensive package of services to women and children affected by violence and to improve the provision of long-term care, support and empowerment of survivors of violence.
These are crimes that often occur within the family and it is therefore critical that we do not make this a purely criminal justice issue.
It is a social issue that must engage, involve and mobilise the whole of society.
We must be prepared, as government, to acknowledge where we have failed our people.
Where we have made mistakes, we will correct them.
The Marikana tragedy stands out as the darkest moment in the life of our young democracy.
Members will recall that the Commission of Inquiry headed by retired Judge Farlam investigated the direct and root causes of the tragedy.
Three broad areas were identified for action: compensation to those injured and the families of those who lost their lives, examining the procedures of public order policing and preparing valid cases for prosecution according to applicable laws.
Government is making progress in continuous engagement with the legal representatives of the victims, especially on the matter of reparations to families who lost their loved ones.
This must be concluded in the coming months.
The incident also brought into sharp focus the distress felt by people living in mining communities.
As we engage with mining companies, unions and communities on the finalisation of the Mining Charter, we need to ensure that these measures receive priority attention.
I would like to use this opportunity to address the role that I played in my capacity as a Lonmin director in the events of that tragic week.
Notwithstanding the findings of the Farlam Commission on my responsibility for the events that unfolded, I am determined to play whatever role I can play in the process of healing and atonement.
In this, I am guided by the needs and wishes of the families of the 44 workers who lost their lives.
Alongside Marikana, the Life Esidemeni tragedy stands out as an instance of the most appalling dereliction by the state of its duty to the people.
We welcome the arbitration process led by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and are determined that we should never allow anything like this to happen again in our country.
What has become clear over the last few days is that South Africans really want to contribute to making a difference.
Let me cite just two examples, of Cape Town residents that I happened to meet yesterday morning.
One of the people I met was a gentlemen who runs a factory manufacturing textiles that employs 65 people.
He said that after listening to the State of the Nation Address, he was so enthusiastic about the prospects for our country and the need for everyone to lend a hand that he has decided to expand his business and employ 65 more people in his business.
He said his confidence in the economy derives from the commitment of government to provide sound leadership, create certainty, root out corruption and end wastage.
A young woman I met spoke enthusiastically about her plans to start a business.
The only thing she asked was that government takes steps to bring down the cost of data, which was the greatest impediment to the success of her business.
This shows that South Africans are not short of ideas and initiative and potential.
It is our responsibility, as government and as Members of Parliament, to give them the means to unlock that potential.
One of the ways we are responding to the particular need of this young women is to bring down the cost of data through the competition market inquiry into data services.
At the same time, government is working to create a conducive environment for investment in efficient networks that enable the reduction of costs, enhance competition and remove barriers to entry by small businesses.
As indicated in the State of the Nation address, we will therefore expedite our engagement with industry to conclude the allocation of radio frequency spectrum, creating regulatory certainty and predictability.
The need for government to support entrepreneurs has emerged as a recurring theme in the broader debate on SONA.
This morning as I walked with several people in Gugulethu and Athlone, I met a woman called Thulake, who runs a bag making business.
She started her business with a partner in Gugulethu with R3,000.
Today, it’s got a net asset value of R700,000.
She needs to have a factory and looks to her government to build the infrastructure that can make her business grow.
We have received numerous calls for government to pay suppliers timeously.
A Mr Ismail Ebrahim wrote to us on Facebook. He said: “Mr President, I am a small businessman trying to start a business the honest way. I have been sent from piller to post for the last seven years between departments of water, energy and city of Tshwane. I have stood in queues for days and only get excuses or no response at all. My business will create jobs, but the government red tape is stifling our entrepreneurship. Please help.”
The frustration that these entrepreneurs have to endure at the hands of the very state that is supposed to assist them is a matter of great concern.
It is clear that the failure of some government departments to pay suppliers within 30 days has a devastating impact on small and medium-sized businesses.
This is something that I want to see addressed as I visit government departments, because the culture of late payment has gone on for far too long and has caused far too much damage, particularly to emerging black businesses.
A number of speakers in the debate yesterday highlighted the urgent need to address the financial, operational and governance problems at state owned enterprises.
I particularly welcome those Honourable Members who offered concrete suggestions on how we can do this.
In addition to the steps announced in the State of the Nation Address to address governance and financial management at specific SOEs, we are developing an overarching SOE strategy to support a developmental growth trajectory.
We will soon be completing work on a new, centralised ownership model that allows for better strategic alignment, improved coordination and more effective oversight.
It is proposed that this include a State-Owned Company Coordinating Council, chaired by the President, which would be responsible for high level strategic direction.
The new ownership model would incorporate new methods for funding SOEs, which could include a shift towards a greater mix of debt and equity finance.
Where circumstances are suitable – and where the developmental function of an SOE is not compromised – there may be opportunities to involve strategic equity partners as minority investors.
We are going to be meeting the Board Chairs, CEOs and CFOs of these companies to clarify their commercial and developmental mandates and discuss their plans for financial sustainability and the promotion of local manufacturing.
On one of the matters raised by both Minister Patel and the Honourable Shivambu, government will continue its work on the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund in line with the resolutions of the 54th National Conference of the governing party.
We have looked at the experiences of countries like Singapore, China and Norway, which have all successfully built up sovereign wealth funds which act as custodians of the resources of the nation for future generations.
There are a number of industries that have an important role to play in growing our economy and creating jobs.
We mentioned some of these in SONA, like agriculture, mining and tourism, but there are others that also need support and investment.
We were reminded by Sipho Sithole, the founder of Native Rhythm Records, that the cultural industries make a significant contribution to our economy and employ many people.
Cultural industries have great potential for growth, but require closer attention and backing from government.
As we indicated in the State of the Nation Address, the work being done to grow the economy and create employment, needs to take place alongside decisive interventions to support people who are poor and vulnerable.
We agree that the high levels of long term unemployment means that we must think differently about social grants.
We are therefore engaging with our social partners through Nedlac on a comprehensive social security reform, which will, among other things, enable us to provide a longer and more comprehensive system of unemployment insurance alongside a system of mandatory death and disability social insurance benefits.
A number of speakers commented favourably on our decision to institute a review of the configuration, number and size of national government departments.
Changes of this nature need to be well considered, they should be evidence based and should not be made in haste.
This review, which we expect to take several months, will be based on a thorough analysis of the suitability and cost of the existing configuration.
It will involve broad consultation so that the views of a broad range of stakeholders are considered and so that South Africans understand the rationale for the decisions that will ultimately be made.
I have noted during the course of the debate several comments about members of the Executive.
Whatever views one might hold about members of Cabinet, this does not justify in any way the kind of character assassination and insults we have heard.
On the matter of the composition of Cabinet, an announcement will be made by the President at the appropriate time.
The work we must undertake to tackle corruption and state capture has, quite correctly, featured prominently in the debate.
It is time that we implement our resolutions on the conduct of lifestyle audits of all people who occupy positions of responsibility, starting with members of the Executive.
As we indicated in the State of the Nation Address, we are equally determined to tackle corruption and other economic crimes in the private sector.
Institutions like SARS, the Reserve Bank, the Financial Intelligence Centre and our law enforcement agencies work together to detect and prosecute tax evasion.
South Africa will continue to play a leading role in international efforts – through structures like the OECD and G20 – to tackle the various forms of tax avoidance.
We were reminded in the House of the responsibility that we have as South Africans to those peoples on our continent and around the world who continue to suffer occupation, discrimination and oppression.
At this moment, we wish to express our deepest concern at the continued imprisonment of Palestinian children in Israelii jails.
We reiterate our call to the Israelii government to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Palestinian leaders to find a resolution that affirms the equal rights of both people to self-determination, freedom and security.
On Friday last week, on the day that the State of the Nation Address was delivered, the South African training vessel ‘SA Agulhas’ returned from an Indian Ocean research voyage.
Providing 20 young cadets with on the job exposure to being at sea, the voyage lasted 80 days.
Two of these young people are present here today, Ms Ayanda Miya and Mr Mluleki Khwela.
Ms Miya is from Empangeni and studied Maritime Studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Mr Kwhela is from Umlazi and studied Maritime Studies at Durban University of Technology.
We invited them to join this joint sitting today because they are among the young people who have seized the opportunities available to them to develop their talents and pursue the careers of their dreams.
They are among the new generation of South Africans who are at the forefront of our national effort to develop our Ocean Economy.
We welcome you to this joint sitting and wish you all the best in developing your skills and furthering your careers.
In conclusion, allow me to thank all the Honourable Members who participated in yesterday’s debate for ensuring a robust, quality discussion of the challenges that our people face.
I also want to thank the people of South Africa for having responded so enthusiastically to the call that went out in the State of the Nation.
There is a lot of hard work ahead of us, but I am certain that if we harness the energy, wisdom and talents of all South Africans, we will surely succeed.
Let us all rise to the task that our people have given us and say, ‘Yes, send me. Thuma mina’.
I thank you.