Members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces assembled in the Chamber of the National Assembly at 10:03.
The Speaker took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.
DEBATE ON FREEDOM DAY: CONSOLIDATION OF OUR FREEDOM THROUGH ACCELERATING RADICAL ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION The MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS: Hon Speaker, hon members of this august House and our guests, I welcome this opportunity to be one of the participants in this important debate.
On a cold winter’s day on 10 December 1961, the ANC president, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, stood before an assembled audience at Oslo University. It was a dark time. Apartheid was at its zenith. Men, women and children faced harassment, imprisonment, torture and even death. The leadership of the liberation movement, if not imprisoned or killed, had been exiled.
Ever humble, Inkosi Luthuli thanked the Nobel committee for its recognition of what he called his small contribution to the welfare of mankind. He said the following of the award, and I quote -
I accept it also as an honour not only to South Africa, but for the whole continent of Africa ... to its entire people, whatever their race, colour or creed.
It is an honour for the peace-loving people of the entire world, and an encouragement for us all to redouble our efforts in the struggle for peace and friendship.
As evidenced in the words of the late Inkosi Luthuli, the ANC has throughout its history been rooted in the spirit of internationalism – an internationalism that has advanced unity for the Global South for political, social and economic advancement.
Therefore, I begin my address with reaffirming the rallying cry of the Freedom Charter, in particular, the clause that says: “There shall be peace and friendship.”
This debate takes place at the start of Africa Month when we affirm our commitment to the struggle for a humane, just, equitable, democratic and free world in pursuit of not just a better Africa, but a better world.
Led by the cadreship of public servants who fully grasp their role as agents of change, we have, for the past 21 years, sought to live the values of the national democratic revolution as we strive to create a better life for all. We have not been shy to lead, all the while cognisant of our nation’s role as part of a collective. As we talk of our freedom today, we carry all Africa with us, for Africa shares in our victory.
We acknowledge the liberation movements on the continent who helped us in our darkest hour. It is a sacrifice we have neither forgotten nor take in vain. We are proud to say that political and economic ties between African countries are going from strength to strength. We know that our prosperity and success cannot be divorced from the success and prosperity of the whole of Africa.
Our government has and actually continues to work with Africa’s political architecture, with the African Union at the helm. We continue to play an instrumental role by working with other co-ordinating formations such as the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, PICI, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Nepad, as well as a myriad other formations like Ministerial committees, in the process of furthering the attainment of socioeconomic growth for the continent. We also continue to work to strengthen the Southern African Development Community, SADC, to enable it to respond to the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and conflict.
Those who, because of conflict, have unfortunately found themselves having to migrate to South Africa in search of a better life have found our country to be a welcoming place with progressive asylum policies.
The Freedom Charter emphasises that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. Regardless of nationality or status, all who live in South Africa enjoy some of the freedoms accorded to our own citizens, such as freedom of belief and association, freedom of assembly, trade and access to the courts. At the same time, we make a continuous call in support of President Jacob Zuma that all foreign nationals should respect and comply with South Africa’s laws and regulations.
We must strongly reject the claim by some, including many in this Assembly, that South Africa is not a safe place for migrants and asylum seekers. It cannot be that, following this government’s successful containment of isolated acts of violence directed at foreign nationals, some governments continue to issue so-called travel advisories warning people against visiting South Africa, thus causing damage to our economy.
It cannot be and it can never be that we are tarred and feathered as an entire nation, described as having a so-called irrational fear and hatred of foreigners.
Let it be said that violence in any form has no place in the South Africa in which we live today – a South Africa that we actually sought and fought hard for.
Under President Zuma’s leadership, all the resources of the state have been mobilised to contain and deal with these acts. The interministerial committee has been holding consultative meetings with communities. This Parliament actually postponed an entire week’s sittings in order to be there amongst the people to deal with these matters. [Applause.]
This process would not be conclusive if it did not include a frank discussion around the issue of immigration to address often legitimate concerns of our communities. Most importantly, we as South Africa will be assisting those African countries that face challenges of governance to build and strengthen institutional integrity. The end result will be that such citizens will be able to have tangible, active stakes in their own countries, encouraging them to remain there and actually contribute to their economies.
We have travelled a long way and we fully appreciate the enormity of this challenge.
Until 27 April 1994, South Africa could not speak as one nation, as the minority enjoyed lives of relative privilege, with the majority relegated to the periphery. Under apartheid, white South Africans enjoyed basic municipal services, but blacks were provided substandard and intermittent water and sanitation facilities, refuse collection and electricity or even none at all.
Per capita spending on black education was one tenth of spending on white education, dooming millions of our people to menial and low-paying work. Blacks had limited, if any, access to public health facilities, especially in the rural areas. As a result, the life expectancy of white South Africans in 1990 was 69 years for males and 76 for females – because of reasons we know – whereas it was 60 years for black males and 67 years for black females.
Over the past 21 years, we as government, led by the ANC, have prioritised socioeconomic transformation by directing government spending towards helping the most needy. That millions of households now have access to basic services and access to health care and education is a statistic we often take for granted without the benefit of hindsight and history. It is easy for many to forget that, before 1994, massive swathes of our population were denied basic rights in the country of their birth.
Today, in furtherance of this government’s programme of radical socioeconomic transformation, we have industry and development, with millions of our people able to uplift themselves from poverty as a result of social programmes. We sometimes forget this.
Anyone from Gauteng will remember that, barely 20 years ago, the stretch straddling the highway between the cities of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, was dense scrub. Today, it is one of the fastest growing economic hubs of our country, with industrial development, housing, world-class transport and infrastructure networks, so much so that several multinational companies have chosen Midrand as their headquarters. Those who travel this road and who know the area from before 1994 will marvel at the spectacular pace of growth.
Such a good story has been replicated in many parts of this country, including the rural areas, as electrification and access to sanitation catalyses economic transformation. In 1994, only 50% of households were connected to the electricity grid; that figure now stands at 86%. At that time, 60% of households had access to water; that figure now stands at 92,8%.
Over 8 million learners are enrolled at low-fee schools, leading to an increase in secondary school enrolment from 51% to 80%. Primary school enrolment rates are at approximately 98%, with nationwide school feeding schemes ensuring that no learner has to make it through the day without a meal. Understanding, as we do, the correlation between hunger and concentration levels, this enables our learners to attain higher grades, matriculate and go on to enter the productive workforce of South Africa.
When we in government speak of social security, we speak of a revolutionary act that has the capacity to transform societies, communities and the whole country. Our vast social security network has assisted in lifting millions out of poverty.
The social welfare strategy and policies guiding this government, led by the ANC, are there to address a legacy of deprivation and discrimination in the distribution of social services under apartheid that provided a net to some, but deepened poverty amongst the majority, who were unable to care for their families. Today, thanks to this vast social welfare network, more than 16 million people access grants as opposed to 2,7 million who happened to be white and coloured at that time.
As we recently marked Freedom Day, and as we debate it here today, we do not need to be told twice that South Africa is a better place to live in. [Applause.] But as we reflect on how far we have come, we should never lose sight of the legacy inherited by the democratic South Africa, namely a myriad of developmental challenges that were the result of systematic, institutionalised discrimination. It was institutionalised. Let’s face it.
What was entrenched over centuries simply cannot be undone over 21 years. In rolling back these effects, we want to remind all South Africans that they are part of this government’s programme to create a better life for all. We have not forgotten them. We will reach them because they are part of the programme. It is a promise that we have made and that we continue to make, but not in 20 years. We want to remind those who wish to create despondency and anger amongst our people that our people knowthe ANC has not forgotten them, and we see this in election results. [Applause.]
It is for this reason that we were once again last year entrusted with the responsibility of leading this country. There has been an expectation that, after 21 years of democracy, our people’s lives would have been transformed. We have not said that. We have a programme.
However, the reality is that, even if all the resources of the state had been marshalled to that end, we would not realistically - given the magnitude of the problem - have been able to reach all our people by now. We must face this mess and talk about it all the time. Let’s not be led to believe that there was no mess in the past, because we move from that premise.
That we have managed to reach this many people is an indication that the pro-poor policies of the ANC have truly contributed to vastly improved living standards for our people. Because of these policies, there has been wider income distribution, improved welfare and standards of living, and a greater use of the bulk services and infrastructure that exist.
As we enter this new phase of the democratic revolution, we will not shy away from tackling these challenges head on. The National Development Plan lays the groundwork for further building a society based on humanity, prosperity and success for all South Africans. In line with the global trend towards sustainable development, this government has prioritised sustainable development, which balances economic growth with environmental considerations and prosperity for our people. We will continue with the task at hand, all the while ensuring that our solid outcomes-based monitoring and evaluation systems in government are strengthened to hold the government accountable to you, our electorate, out there.
In moving South Africa forward, today we reaffirm our commitment to patriotism, to development and to internationalism. These are the very foundations upon which our democracy is built. They are the same foundations ... Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Madam Speaker, Deputy President, hon members ...
... bagaetsho dumelang! Ee dumelang, re a dumedisana, ha kere? [good day, compatriots! Yes, good day, we greet each other, isn’t it so?]
Twenty-one years ago, our nation woke up to a day filled with hope and optimism when almost 20 million citizens voted for freedom and a democratic, inclusive South Africa. They voted for the dream of a rainbow nation and a country free from oppression. Democratic South Africans, we can be proud of what we have achieved over the past 21 years. We must indeed celebrate that legalised racism, sexism and homophobia are things of the past. We are a nation today in which South Africans can choose who to marry, regardless of the colour of their skin or their gender. [Applause.]
Democrats and fellow South Africans, we still have much to overcome as a nation with a difficult past, but we have to fight for an inclusive society. We believe in the values contained in our Constitution and the freedoms that it guarantees. In fact, I take great hope from what I see in cities, where young people from diverse backgrounds are socialising together in a way that their parents never could. Walking the streets of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay shows me that the dream of Nelson Mandela of a rainbow nation is alive and well.
However, as we take stock of where South Africa finds itself today, we must be honest with ourselves. [Interjections.] I’m coming. Our democracy has come of age this year, but we are far from realising the potential of our freedom. The government has steered away from the constitutional provisions that serve as the bedrock of our democracy.
A re ikgopotseng. [Let us remind ourselves.]
When the President was faced with the possibility of questions he would rather not answer during his state of the nation address, the executive deployed a signal-jamming device to limit the freedom of communications, violating the separation of powers. [Applause.]
South Africans, when the opposition voices would not be silenced, the Speaker had an entire caucus removed from this House, allowing the police to come into this Chamber, limiting the freedoms of political association and freedom of expression. [Interjections.]
Institutions designed to protect our democracy and the advancement of our freedom, like the Public Protector, the Hawks and the Independent Electoral Commission are all under threat, thanks to this government. Let’s not fool ourselves: Corruption is indeed stealing our progress in advancing freedom and this government has been advancing corruption. [Applause.] So, in the face of actions like these, the optimism we felt in the first decade of our democracy has been replaced by a feeling that our country is no longer headed in the right direction. These actions stem from a government that knows that it has failed us and has not delivered on the promise of a free South Africa.
As we consider our freedom today, we must ask ourselves what freedom means when we continue to suffer from widespread inequality and joblessness. We have to acknowledge that, for too many South Africans, freedom means nothing without opportunity. We are South Africans not yet free and we have only achieved the freedom to be free. We also have to acknowledge that economic inequality is still, in South Africa, a matter of race. So long as the colour of our skin continues to determine our potential in the present, we will not be able to enjoy the freedoms contained in our Constitution. The point simply is that our people need freedom they can use.
Freedom is about more than a Constitution based on a universal Bill of Rights. Freedom is when every child growing up in Soweto has the same opportunities and chances of success as a child growing up in Houghton. We have made great strides since the days of apartheid but I think we can all hold ourselves to a standard higher than that. The society we all want to build is far from this. Our economy is growing at just 2%. At this rate we can make no meaningful dent in our unemployment figures. Unemployment in South Africa is still at 36,1%. Of those who are unemployed, 66% are young people.
Bagaetsho a re ke re buisaneng. [Compatriots, let us discuss.]
The greatest crime the ANC has committed is in fact not Nkandla; it’s the fact that they failed the education of South Africans. [Applause.] Since President Zuma came into office, 1,4 million South Africans still cannot find work or have lost their jobs.
Freedom means nothing to the youth who are without work or a chance for a successful life. We need to tackle this problem by empowering young people with the skills they need to be employed, while also growing the number of job opportunities available to them.
Every year, our government focuses on the matric pass rate while ignoring the quality of education that they provide. None of us deny that access has improved, but all of us must accept that the quality of that education has not. Unemployment and an inferior education go hand in hand and must be tackled together. On the most basic level we need to ramp up investment in well-equipped schools with adequate learning materials, textbooks and dedicated teachers to prepare the children for their life after school. No longer can it be said of South Africa that a child studying in a mud house or under a tree is enjoying the benefits of freedom.
In order to become a growing, world-class economy we need to ensure that we are focused on raising adult literacy and improving the pass rate in critical subjects such as mathematics and science. Teachers must be subjected to competency testing and learners must write regular literacy and numeracy tests. As it stands, our education system is failing our children, with less than 30% of matriculants last year achieving the results necessary to enrol at university.
Those who do not manage to gain access to university have to struggle to find funding. That is why the DA would gradually increase the funding of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to R16 billion, so that no student who has the ability to learn is prevented from doing so. And we would start with a government internship programme that gives young people a chance to get work experience to increase their chances of getting a job.
It is the duty of every generation to ensure that its children are better off than they were. Freedom is never completely won, but it must be fought for in each generation. We must acknowledge here today that this government is failing in its duty. This government is failing to provide solid leadership in the economy. Instead of making it easier and cheaper to start a business, it is strangling entrepreneurs in red tape and government inefficiency.
Instead of reforming black economic empowerment, BEE, to make it truly broad based, it does the opposite, reinforcing what every South African knows about the ANC’s BEE - that it creates billionaires who are connected to the ANC, but no jobs and no real empowerment.
Instead of investing in the infrastructure that our economy needs to grow, it continually underspends its infrastructure budgets. Instead of holding teachers accountable for their performance, or even their attendance, this government has allowed education standards to fall to amongst the lowest in the world. And, of course, instead of fulfilling its basic mandate of providing electricity for the economy to run, for factories to work, this ANC government has brought this economy to its knees.
The time has come for us to realise freedom that everyone in our country can use. It can only be done through growing an economy that creates jobs. South Africa has the potential to become a leader among the emerging economies in the world, but to do this requires sound polices and a focus on growth.
The DA would like to stimulate our economy by cutting unnecessary red tape and encouraging small business growth. We must become a nation of entrepreneurs who seize opportunities to become sustainable businesses that can create jobs. We can’t simply be talking about 5 million jobs; we should rather be talking about a million entrepreneurs.
Access to capital is one of the biggest hurdles to entrepreneurs, but addressing it has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. So, we need a national venture capital fund to provide start-up funding for early-stage businesses. We have to break down the Berlin wall that separates those who are included in the economy, and those who are not. We must restore investor confidence instead of driving investment away through foreign landownership regulations and the spate of xenophobic violence that we have seen.
We must ensure the building blocks for economic progress, like a reliable electricity supply and access to broadband Internet and not be run into the ground by ineffective state monopolies. The Eskom monopoly has to be broken down as a matter of urgency and more money invested in renewable energy, in partnership with independent power producers.
The fall of apartheid saw the beginning of a new era of freedom in South Africa. But we are not yet free, because freedom means nothing without opportunities. If we want our children to share in the fruits of freedom and in our democracy, then we need to fight so that they will have the opportunities to live a life they value. But we can and we will win this fight, one generation at a time, and of that I am sure.
Our second democratic transition will be a shift of power from one party, this one, to another without violence or intimidation, but through the earned freedom of a democratic vote. [Applause.] The party will deliver a nation we dreamed of 24 years ago. In building a nonracial society we shall be stronger than we were before. This party will see South Africa regain its rightful place as a beacon of freedom in this world. South Africans, let freedom reign in this great land.
Re a leboga. [We thank you.] I thank you very much. [Applause.]
Ms M O MOKAUSE: Hon Speaker, hon members, bagaetsho dumelani! [Good day, my fellow people.] Today, we are supposed to celebrate freedom - the political freedom brought about by the first inclusive elections. We were all joyous and celebrated when white monopoly rule ended. We believed that freedom would bring about economic emancipation, but we were wrong. What freedom are we celebrating when, 21 years later, 44% of South Africans live in absolute poverty? What freedom are we celebrating when even those with jobs are paid slave wages? What freedom are we celebrating when women continue to be exploited and rural women are not allowed to own land? What freedom are we celebrating when white monopoly capital continues to own and control our economy?
What freedom are we celebrating when the government of the day massacred and killed workers who demanded a living wage in Marikana? What freedom are we celebrating when, in Mothutlung, citizens are killed for demanding clean water? [Interjections.] Is political freedom enough, when it does not come with economic freedom and power?
We therefore stand here, as the government in waiting, the Economic Freedom Fighters, not to celebrate a meaningless freedom, but we are here to demand true and complete freedom for our people. [Applause.] True freedom means ownership of the land and the ability to produce our own food from our own land. Freedom means control and ownership of our mineral resources, with the aim of beneficiation and industrialisation.