Order! Before I call the next speaker, there was a point of order raised yesterday by the hon Van der Merwe regarding booing in the House, and I can only rule that it is not significant to say whether or not the conduct is unparliamentary.
What I would simply urge members to do is to respect one another's views and the right to express those views. Members should always insist and ensure that proceedings in the House are conducted with dignity. That takes care of that.
I must also say that yesterday, or this morning, I think, the hon Minister Trevor Manuel reminded us of the beautiful tradition of honouring those who are making their maiden speeches by listening and not to interject and heckle.
Members who were here last year will also remember that I even cited in this regard the experiences of Winston Churchill. When he was asked how he felt about his maiden speech he said it was terrible, but it was also a thrilling and wonderful experience. What happened to Sir Winston Churchill that he could say it was terrible, I do not know, because the next moment it was thrilling and afterwards it was a wonderful experience. Then you also have Sir Harold Macmillan, who, when asked about his maiden speech, said it reminded him of his experiences in the war. War?
Now, hon members, you don't want to turn this Chamber into a war zone for people who are making their maiden speeches! A war could be terrible.
Chairperson, it is not my maiden speech so you can feel free to heckle. Hon President, it is indeed an honour to be participating in this parliamentary debate on your state of the nation address. In the short time allotted to me, I would like to concentrate on not only the global economic crisis, but what I believe is a convergence of global crises which demands an integrated response.
The economic crisis should not simply be seen as another downturn in the business cycle, but rather as a product of deep structural flaws inherent in the global economy. The financial sector was allowed to grow out of all proportion and regulatory controls, thereby becoming detached from the workings and the needs of the real economy. Global inequality has also widened over the past two decades, which in turn reduced the purchasing power in the market, thereby reducing the profitability of the real economy.
In addition, the beginnings of peak oil, which saw the oil price rise to US$150 a barrel, was in some commentators' minds the trip switch for the global economy and the point at which debts suddenly became crippling.
Although the price of oil has since dropped back to lower levels, the question that remains is whether it will again act as a trip switch when the world economy begins to rebound. Finally, all of these crises are overshadowed by the even larger ecological crisis in which the natural resource base, upon which all our economies depend, is being devastated by climate change and other environmentally destructive forces.
In responding to our own immediate economic crisis, it is therefore important for us to recognise all these different global pressures, and to start to put in place the building blocks of a very different economy.
Firstly, we need to start building an economy that will reduce inequality rather than widen it. This requires a more inclusive economy in which the financial sector is used to provide opportunities for more South Africans to enter the mainstream economy. It also requires a more proactive competition policy that can break the stranglehold of monopoly capital in South Africa. We also need to build a more diverse economy which does not simply entrench the current minerals-energy complex, but rather takes advantage of the new global industries. Finally, we need a far more environmentally sustainable economy in which we are no longer destroying our natural capital in our quest for economic growth.
Given these objectives, the one sector that we really need to prioritise is that of renewable energy. The ID was disappointed not to hear you include it on your list of sectors that will be given priority in industrial policy formulation. This sector has the potential, not only to provide a clean energy solution to our own energy crisis, but also to provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and establish a new industrial base for our country.
South Africa truly has the potential to become a world leader in what is now the world's fastest growing industry, but we must act now. Instead of allowing Eskom to spend upwards of R700 billion on nuclear power stations where the majority of the money will go overseas and very few local jobs will be created, we should rather be building up our own renewable energy industries that can provide far more jobs and revolutionise our energy infrastructure.
Given that it is World Environment Day today, I believe that such a commitment will go a long way, not only in putting South Africa on a sustainable growth path, but in positioning us as leaders in the global fight against climate change. I thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Hon Speaker, hon President and Deputy President, fellow colleagues and Ministers and Deputy Ministers, hon members of the House, ladies and gentlemen... hon President you have spoken and those who have ears will have heard you. As for those who did not want to hear, of course, we can't force them.
But, listening to the opposition parties, if you were to go along with what they claim or even demand you should have included in your speech, you would have needed a five-hour state of the nation address. This is so because, seemingly, they want you to be a Minister of every department rather than the President of the country. But, as for those of us who heard you very well, we have taken the instruction.
Mr President, you have instructed that we improve the remuneration of doctors and other health workers. As you spoke, I did take a look at the Minister of Finance and I'm convinced that he has heard you because I saw him nodding his head very emphatically. I do promise, Mr President, that working together with him we are definitely going to put something decent on the table. We will put on the table something that is a good beginning for this long journey of correcting something that has gone wrong for so long a time. As a Chinese saying goes: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step."
So, Mr President, I want to assure the health profession, through your instruction, that we will indeed take a decisive first step. We shall do so within the next few days, and not weeks. [Applause.]
Long before your state of the nation address, Mr President, there were already articles about your possible announcement of the implementation of national health insurance, or NHI. The articles have been written by people who profess to be knowledgeable of what is good for me and you and what is good for the man in the street, as far as our health system is concerned. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, because you will agree that in the ANC we actually encourage every single South African to engage on any policy matter that has been put on the table by government. We welcome all forms of engagement as long as they contribute towards building our country and not destroying it.
I would like to take this moment to highlight a few of these issues in regard to the engagement I have seen in the papers about national health insurance. Firstly, I want to state that we have not yet, as government, released any official policy document for public engagement on national health insurance. We are still going to do so and we will do so very soon. What there has been so far are the intentions in our election manifesto and the announcement by the President of the ANC, on the campaign trail, about the desire of the movement to implement national health insurance.
Of course, the first government announcement about NHI was given by you, Mr President, just two days ago in your well-received state of the nation address. Up to now, since that day, we have never released any official document for engagement either by the profession, stakeholders or the public. We are going to do so within a few days' time.
But, since some people have already started to engage in several newspaper articles, I think it is desirable that I do not keep quiet. One of the articles states that, and I quote: "Formulation of a complex policy behind closed doors was dangerous." It goes on to say, "Lowest quality policy emerges from processes in which you insulate yourself from any critique."
Every single policy I know of on this planet starts somewhere by a few people who formulate it. They then canvass it and allow others to engage. If it is government policy, it finds its way into Parliament and to public hearings for public scrutiny. So, I don't understand this behind-closed- doors story and insulation from the critique phenomenon. I do not understand, because NHI policy will be discussed in each and every corner of this country and will eventually find its way into this House for public scrutiny.
Another article said that it was vital that proposals be based on hard evidence and not on ideological assertions and beliefs. Frankly speaking, we think we know what is at play here. There are certain people who are benefiting hugely from the present inequalities in the health care system. These people are trying to transform their own fears and personal concerns into public fears and public concerns, and that cannot be done. [Applause.]
There is nothing ideological about NHI. The Constitution, under the Bill of Rights, section 27, asserts that health is a right of every citizen. NHI is going to be implemented in order to make sure that every citizen in the country, rich or poor, is able to exercise this right.
Fortunately, one of the experts engaging in this, Dr Lucas Ntyintyane, a PhD Fogarty International Clinical Research fellow, wrote in the Sunday Times this very Sunday, and I quote:
I hope that the new leadership and the introduction of the proposed health insurance will give meaning to the adage "health is a human right". Ordinary South Africans should have access to quality health care just like their Members of Parliament. We should encourage private-public partnerships to ease congestion in our state hospitals.
We welcome this engagement, Mr President. But, because some are asking for facts and not ideology, let me give them fact number one and not ideology number one. The World Health Organisation, WHO, recommends that developing countries spend 5% of their GDP on health. In South Africa we have already far exceeded this recommendation. We are at 5,8% of GDP but our health outcomes are very unsatisfactory and rank amongst some of the worst in the world. That is why we agree with you, Mr President, when you raised your concern about the deteriorating quality of health care in our country.
We acknowledge and accept that some of the contributing factors are the following, without exhausting the list: lack of management skills; lack of induction and in-service training; failure to act on identified deficiencies; delayed responses to quality improvement requirements; unsatisfactory maintenance and repair services; poor technological management; a poor supply chain management system; inability of individuals to take responsibility for their actions; poor disciplinary procedures and corruption; significant problems in clinical areas related to training and poor attitude of staff, as mentioned by the hon Rev Meshoe here in this House yesterday; and inadequate staffing levels in all areas.
National health insurance is going to be implemented to solve all the things I have mentioned. Having said that, I want to say that one of the most glaring and obvious reasons why the public sector is not doing well is what these people who have started engagement in the newspapers are trying to hide. This is the manner in which the 8% of GDP I mentioned is distributed amongst the population: Of the 8,5% of GDP spent on health, 5% is on 14% of the population. The remaining 3,5% applies to 86% of the population. To simplify what I am saying, in this beautiful country of ours, 7 million people enjoy 5% of the gross domestic product, GDP, to take care of their health. A whopping 42 million people have to make do with the remaining 3,5%.
If it is ideological to resolve this state of affairs, then I fully subscribe to such an ideology. For it cannot be that humanity is allowed to go on like this. In fact, it is actually a shame that we have allowed humanity to exist in this state of affairs. All of us in this House, together with our spouses and children, are part of this privileged 7 million. The people we have asked to vote for us and promised that all shall be well constitute this 42 million, and we are supposed to turn our backs on them because if we dared to look at them we are supposed to be driven by ideology.
It is said that national health insurance will destroy medical aids and damage the already well-functioning privileged private health care system in our country, which is ranked among one of the best in the world. We have no qualms with that, we know that. We have no intentions of destroying anything at all. But what the NHI will obviously and unapologetically destroy is the present inhuman scenario that is unfolding in front of our eyes.
Fear of the unknown is being driven in the minds of doctors in private practice - that NHI is going to destroy private practice. I don't know about that.
But let me present the following facts that I know of. Out of every R100 you contribute to your medical aid, only R3 goes to a medical practitioner. This is only better if it is a specialist. Tell me where the rest of the R97 goes to? And don't be surprised when you see all these newspaper articles and who is writing them. [Applause.]
Hon members, I am challenging you: Go to your village now and count the number of doctors that ever opened practice in your village, and tell me how many are left. Most of these practices have folded or closed down and the doctors have gone to look for employment elsewhere, many of them in England and other countries abroad.
They were destroyed by the present distribution or maldistribution in the health system, which the NHI seeks to address. It is not the NHI that destroyed them, because the NHI is not yet in place. Many doctors have been destroyed, and I'm sure you know them and would be surprised when it comes to where all these doctors have gone. The system is eating them up because there is maldistribution within it.
Lastly, I want to say upfront that we would never impose NHI on poorly functioning and poorly managed health institutions. Our first task towards the implementation of NHI is to massively overhaul the whole system at all levels. Top of the list of priorities in this regard is the quality improvement plan for public health care facilities.
Within the next year, we shall start a plan towards the establishment of closer public-private partnerships in improving health facilities. Of course, we will first start drafting such a plan behind closed doors, before anybody is asked to comment on it. Even the responses of the opposition parties to the President's state of the nation address were drafted behind closed doors before they brought them before this Parliament. [Applause.] And there is nothing wrong with us doing so. So, Mr President, our quality improvement plan for public health care facilities will have the following objectives: One, health facility performance indicators; two, quality improvement within facilities; three, increasing access to HIV and Aids treatment to meet all the goals of our national strategic plan; four, patient safety; five, disease management and prevention, and that is curative, rehabilitative and promotive; six, monitor health-related Millennium Development Goals and strengthen indicators. Mr President, further details will follow in due course, and we believe that it was not for you to put them before this House. We are going to do that for you. People must just remain patient. I thank you. [Applause.]
Thank you, hon member. I now call the hon A C Steyn to address the House.
Mr Chairman, the Table staff have been informed that we changed two of our speakers - it is now the hon Waters.
Chairperson, hon President, hon Deputy President and members, health care in our country is a constitutional right, and the Constitution states that everyone has a right to have access to health care services.
The DA believes passionately in this right - that all South Africans, no matter how poor, should have access to health care. However, having a Constitution stating this right is not good enough in itself. We need to deliver on this right.
Currently, most South Africans can access free health care services through the many clinics and hospitals. What most South Africans still do not have access to, though, is quality health care. And despite the hard work of many nurses and doctors in our public health system, our public health care is in need of fundamental emergency attention if we are ever to provide quality health care.
When the previous Minister of Health was appointed less than a year ago, the DA offered a hand of co-operation to the Minister. We promised that we would work hand in hand with the Minister in order to improve health care in our country. Today, we extend the same hand to the new Minister and offer to work with him for the betterment of health care.
We may not always see eye to eye, but that in itself does not mean we both do not want the same outcomes. The first thing we all need to do, if we are to improve health care, is to admit that we are in a crisis, which, I believe, the government has done for the first time in a long time.
In the Sunday Times this week, Dr Lucas Ntyintyane wrote that health providers were fed up. I won't say what he said exactly, because I don't want to be suspended this early in the proceedings. He continues to say:
They are not appreciated and their social needs are ignored. ... Health Ministers are not fired for incompetence, but for losing political favour. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is a case in point. Today the country is reaping the rewards of her incompetence and inefficiency.
As you must hold all our elected representatives accountable, we too must hold those accountable who are supposed to manage our hospitals and clinics. Management of any institution is critical if you want to provide better health care.
If we take the appointment of CEOs of hospitals as a joke and an opportunity to give jobs to our pals, then we must not be surprised when these very institutions crumble through the quality of services they provide. The Minister alluded to this. It is no wonder that doctors and nurses are pulling their hair out owing to the lack of basic equipment, such as Glaxco gloves and masks.
Take the appointment of the CEO of Frere Hospital, for example. The hospital complex is situated in East London and is responsible for the health care of tens of thousands of poor people. It is also a hospital where there is a high number of stillborn deaths each year. We appointed a person without any qualifications whatsoever in administration, and in doing so we failed the people of greater East London. We appointed - when I say "we", I mean the Health department - an ANC councillor from Buffalo City.
If we do not take the appointment of vital positions seriously, we simply do not take the quality of health care seriously for the poor. We will simply continue wasting valuable taxpayers' money through continued inefficiency and incompetence.
The hon President mentioned in his speech that the national health insurance scheme would be phased in. We're glad the Minister has alluded to this, but we're still in the dark as to when this will be phased in; we hear different dates. Many in the ANC are calling for it to be implemented before the end of the year, Minister.
But, before we do implement national health insurance - if at all, because we haven't had public participation yet - we need to get the basic rights of health care fixed first, and that is in appointing good managers at all levels of our health system. Failing that, no amount of money, no matter how much you tax the rich for the additional tax, will be able to improve health care.
The DA is also concerned that there has been no formal public participation or scrutiny with regard to NHI. A policy of such significant public importance demands extensive consultation, Minister. Yes, I was listening; that's why I'm reiterating it, because all we hear is a Minister telling us how good NHI is, but we haven't seen any documentation about NHI. And we need to have public participation in that. [Interjections.] An open and transparent process is a must in this regard, and no artificial deadlines must be placed on Parliament to get it fast-tracked through Parliament this year.
The current crisis with regard to the working conditions and salaries of doctors needs urgent attention, and I'm glad the Minister raised this. The fact that a junior doctor in the public sector earns the same amount as a Gauteng bus driver is indicative of the apathy with which this government has viewed doctors' concerns and the degree to which it has taken advantage of their commitment and compassion over the years.
The government has, over the years, allowed a climate to be created where doctors see no other option but to strike during their lunch hour. The DA fully supports the doctors' calls for improved working conditions and salaries. In fact, I'll be marching with the doctors today in Cape Town at 13:00, hon Minister. [Applause.]
In a situation in which the public sector is buckling under the weight of 12 000 vacant doctors' positions and 42 000 nursing positions, the government should be dealing with the doctors' strike as an emergency. Failing to do so will not only increase the number of doctors leaving the public sector, but will deter young people from becoming health professionals in the first place.
Another priority for the new government has to be the growing child mortality rate, that is, the number of children dying before they celebrate their fifth birthday in our country. South Africa is only one of a few countries in the world where the number of children dying is actually increasing. Across the country, almost one out of every 10 children born will not survive to see age five. That is unacceptable, Mr President.
Child abuse is another scourge that is ravaging our children, Mr President. In a state of the nation address a few years ago, it was said, and I quote: "Abuse of women and children continues at an unacceptable level." Earlier this year, President Motlanthe stated that, and I quote: "Crimes against women and children have not abated in any significant measure." The rhetoric has remained unchanged, but we are failing to win this battle.
We cannot build a united, prosperous nation while so many of the poorest South Africans, the most vulnerable South Africans, feel trapped in a web of terror and crime; where murder and rape have become a way of life for many South African communities.
We cannot build a united, prosperous nation while the crucial centres for victim support, such as the family violence, child protection and sexual offences units, are sidelined by this government. We need to have them re- established; we need to have them re-established now! If the government wanted to combat child abuse in any form, they would make re-establishing these units a top priority.
Mr President, the DA reiterates its commitment to improving health care for all South Africans. Yes, there are many challenges, but none too difficult to conquer if we are prepared to make tough decisions and hold to account those who fail to deliver, and reward those who do so. I thank you very much. [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, Your Excellencies the President of South Africa and the Deputy President, hon Speaker and Deputy Speaker in absentia - I can't see them - members of the Cabinet, members of the National Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, I greet you all.
Hon member from the DA, I think it is important that we listen because the Minister did indicate that today was not his day for debating his Vote. Today we are debating the state of the nation address and it is important that we listen. We cannot table the plans here and now. He will get an opportunity to table his plans together with all the issues you have talked about, and you will have that opportunity when the time comes.
Hon President, let me start by congratulating and commending you on a speech well done. Indeed, to be a citizen is not only about rights, but also about a responsibility to contribute in making South Africa a better country. Together we can do more, especially in these times of global economic downturn. We need a kind of spirit and attitude that can help turn these challenges, especially the global downturn, into opportunities that will make South Africa a really prosperous country.
Our country is a country of plenty, which needs men and women of integrity, stature, zeal, dedication, commitment and the right focus of mind to turn things around and protect thousands of our people, some of whom are on the verge of losing their jobs as we speak.
We don't need people on the other side of the fence, but active participants in this economy. We need to intensify the actioning of our vision of having a national democratic society - that of an ongoing spirit of fighting unemployment and creating decent jobs through building, nurturing and protecting sectors that have the potential to create labour- intensive jobs and with a high multiplier effect on eradicating poverty. This is our stance and it will remain our stance.
As South Africa, we take pride in ourselves, for having been able to ensure prudent economic policy management. As a result, we have some space to deal with the effects of the current global crisis. The South African economy has managed to grow at an average of 3% to 5% per annum between 1994 and 2004. This growth has, to a large extent, been due to the global commodity boom, but under the current crisis, the global demand for commodities has significantly decreased.
It is, however, saddening that the global economic situation has attempted to reverse some of the gains we have made. But, as you have correctly said, hon President, we have to carefully utilise our strengths in fiscal space, utilise the financial regulatory framework and utilise the resourcefulness of our people and institutions in order to protect jobs and industries which have the potential to fight poverty - and we must commit to working together in addressing the impact of the global crisis on our economy.
At the heart of our manifesto is a concerted effort to create employment and fight poverty in all its manifestations. This gives us an opportunity to focus more on rural poverty, on expanding the industrial base and on more vigorous implementation of the industrial policy. It is, therefore, important to ensure that we adequately resource our industrial policy action plan and our industrial strategy.
We have committed, through our manifesto, to implementing special sector programmes. It is, therefore, important to ensure adequate resourcing in this regard in order to be able to realise our desired outcomes. As such, we need to leverage resources from our development finance institutions and from the commercial financial institutions.
We welcome the intervention by the Industrial Development Corporation, IDC - that of having developed a programme to fund companies in distress. This will go a long way towards protecting and saving jobs for the most vulnerable, the poorest of the poor.
We, however, would like to encourage the IDC to prioritise those companies that have the potential to shed jobs en masse, particularly in the automobile, clothing and textiles, and food industries, and in the financial sectors. We need to see more down-streaming by industries, particularly for the purposes of beneficiation and broader participation in the economy by our people.
We welcome the spirit of the National Credit Act and its implementation, particularly in the area of debt counselling. This is a necessary intervention and we need to call on all people to utilise the opportunity and to make those in authority of such an important intervention to popularise the programme.
South Africa, comparatively speaking, is not that hard-hit, especially when compared to other African and developing countries. We, however, are feeling the pinch in the areas of manufacturing, in the mining and financial sectors, although we have a lot of opportunities in the area of construction - hence our strategy to intensify infrastructure building and rehabilitation is welcomed as it has a greater potential of realising immediate relief for millions of our people.
Let me, in this regard, appreciate the setting up of the two important functions in the Presidency, that of planning and monitoring, and evaluation. Those two functions are, in my view, very important pillars and necessary tools in enhancing speedy recovery and broader development of our economy. They are also a central feature of a developmental state.
Somlomo lohloniphekile, ngitsandza kusho kutsi nakhona sititfola sikulesimo lesibi kangaka setemnotfo kodvwa sisatfolakala sinconywana siyiNingizimu Afrika. Loko kwentiwe yindlela lesitiphetse ngayo, ikakhulu ngendlela lesititfole sisebentisa ngayo timali nangendlela lesinakekela ngayo simo setemnotfo. Kube besingakenti njalo ngabe sititfole sesisesimeni lesimatima kakhulu.
Ngitsandza kuhalalisela lombuso wentsandvo yelinyenti ngetinhlelo nangemigomo lemihle lenguyona isisitile kutsi sibe yincenye yemave lasatfutfuke kakhulu kulesikhashana lesincane emva kwenkutfolakala kwenkhululeko.
Lokunye ngifuna kugcizelela kuloku lokuphawulwe nguMengameli kwekutsi kufanele sihambe embili ngekusebentisa letinhlelo lesinato ngaphandle kwekuphazama kuze sikwati kugucula timphilo tebantfu sitente tibe ncono. (Translation of Siswati paragraphs follows.)
[Hon Speaker, I would like to state that even though we are in this difficult economic situation, as South Africa, we are still better off. That is because of the manner in which we did things, especially the manner in which we utilised our funds and the manner in which we carefully managed our economy. Had we not done it like that, we would have found ourselves in a very difficult situation.
I would like to commend this democratic government for its programmes and good policies, as they have assisted us to be part of the most developed countries within this short space of time, after the attainment of freedom.
I would also like to reiterate what the President has mentioned, that is, that we have to be at the forefront in implementing our current programmes without losing focus so as to ensure transformation of the people's lives and make them better.]
I like the fact that the President's spirit is not dampened by the current economic circumstances and that he remains focused and optimistic about the future, especially on the implementation and the actualisation of the policy priorities.
Ngitsi: Halala Msholozi; chubekela embili! [I am saying: Congratulations Msholozi; keep it up!]
In conclusion, I want us to remember that in life those that are great are those that dare to follow dreams through the good times and the bad times. I therefore join you in calling upon South Africans to join hands so that together we can make it, even during these trying times. I thank you very much. [Applause.]
Speaker and Deputy Speaker, President and Deputy President of the Republic, hon members, let me at the outset express our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved families of those who lost their loved ones in the two human tragedies that struck, one in Welkom and the other being Flight 447. We join them all in prayer in the spirit of human solidarity and friendship.
Nkulukumba Xipikara na Mutshamaxitulu, ndzi kombela leswaku u nga ndzi sirheleli loko va monya kumbe ku sola mbulavulo wa mina. Ni nhlamba, ndzi kombela leswaku u nga yi siveli. Ndzi tile haleno ndzi nga ehleketelanga leswaku hina va COPE hi ta fanela ku andlaleriwa masangu leswaku hi etlela eka wona. Hi amukela ntlhontlho. Tanihi vona, na hina hi bile xibakele edibini. A hi nga va nyiketi rhama lerin'wana leswaku va ri makala.
Hi pfumelelana na nawu wa Muxe lowu nge, "Tihlo hi tihlo". Swo biwa ti nga dyangi mavele swi nge endleki. Ku na xivuriso xa Xitsonga lexi nge, "N'hwari-mbirhi yin'we yi tshwa nkanga yin'wana yi bola xifuva". Hi ta vona hi n'wina Muchaviseki leswaku ya n'wina N'hwari hi yihi? Hi leyi yi nga ta tshwa nkanga, kumbe leyi nga ta bola xifuva, kumbe hi vumbirhi bya tona xana? (Translation of Xitsonga paragraphs follows.)
[Speaker and Chairperson, please do not protect me when they scorn or criticise my speech. I ask you not to prevent them from swearing either. I came here not expecting members of Cope to be treated well. We accept the challenge. We are as ready as they are. We will not bow down to intimidation.
We agree with the law of Moses that says, "An eye for an eye". We will not be punished for no reason. There is an idiom in Xitsonga which says that you cannot perform two jobs perfectly at the same time. We will see which one is your responsibility. Is it the one which is going to succeed or the one which will fall through, or is it both?]
Convention demands we grant your administration a hundred-day honeymoon period. We shall honour that convention. Consider the comments I make parked for when you come back from the honeymoon.
While listening to the President's state of the nation address, I was reminded of the following story. While walking in the street a politician got knocked down by a car. He found himself arriving in heaven and met St Peter, who then said to him, "Look, where do you want to go?" He said, "There is no difficulty; I know where I want to go. I want to go heaven." St Peter said, "No, no, no. We really have to have a discussion first. We are going to send you to some places so that you can be in a position to decide which one you want to go to."
He sends him first to hell, down the lift and there where he was: a huge golf course, caviar, and the devil and most of his friends were there. Everyone was happy. [Interjections.] Thank you very much. Then they come to fetch him and he goes to the other side. People that side were singing in the clouds. There was a harp playing and music. But everyone was concentrating. Before he realised it, 24 hours were up, and they said to him, "What do we do?". He says, "Look, I could never have said this, but really I am going to go to hell". So they send him back to hell. As he arrived the devil was sitting there, but the land was barren now. His friends were working very hard. Everywhere garbage was falling around. He said to the devil, "But, look, I was here a few days ago." The devil said to him, "At that time we were campaigning; today you voted." [Applause.]
Mr President, during the best of times, in our view, you would be hard pressed to achieve half of what is in the manifesto. It will be even harder now that we are in a recession. You said that we should cut our clothes to fit our size. That is well and good, but it seems that having been to the tailor already you may have already placed an order for a bigger cloth. Some words of wisdom to the choir master who was on stage last night. It will take more than just charm, sir, rhythm and dances and songs to get our country right.
You spoke of the need to protect and respect the Constitution, including institutions. We are happy to give you the benefit of the doubt. A good place to start may be to protect the Governor of the Reserve Bank, whom, as you have heard, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Cosatu, have said they want out. What is his sin: Implementing the ANC's policy of inflation targeting.
We welcome the commitment to increase efforts to encourage all pupils to complete their secondary education and to increase the enrolment rate to 95%. But that is not where the problem lies; it's about the quality of education, which encompasses teaching, learner ratios, classrooms, Internet connectivity, to name but a few. From where we sit, there is no plan to respond to these challenges. We are, however, happy to be proven wrong.
On your point about teachers having to teach, I hope you had a word with the SA Democratic Teachers' Union, Sadtu, who, as we speak, are out on the streets of Gauteng today instead of in the classroom even before the ink on your speech is dry. [Applause.]
We agree with you on the need for all of us to work together. Hi ta ku i timangwa loko hi vone mavala ya tona. [We will say it is pudding when we have eaten it.]
We will, in this instance, be guided by Mark Twain, who said, "My country all the time, my government when it deserves it." We agree, too, with your commitment to ensure an 80% roll-out of antiretroviral treatment therapy by 2011. It is easier said than done, sir. How will you do it when the state of the health system is as it is, with the morale being at its lowest among health workers, with many of the people being in the rural areas where the clinics have no medication, let alone antiretrovirals?
With the elections over and food parcels having dried up ...
There is a point of order. [Interjections.]
Chair, no it's not a point of order. [Interjections.] May I ask the hon ...
Order, order, please. Order! [Interjections.]
Hey, keep quiet please, mama.
Is that a point of order?
No, it's not a point of order; it's a question. May I kindly ask the hon member a question? [Interjections.] Will the hon Shilowa take a question from his comrade?
Okay, let's ask him. Hon member, will you take a question?
Ndzi ku hlamuserile leswaku na nhlamba u nga yi tisa. A ndzi nge hlamuli hi ta hlangana ehandle. [Va phokotela.] [I indicated to you that you were at liberty to hurl vulgar expressions at me. I will not respond but we will sort each other out outside. [Applause.]]
I don't have the benefit of ... [Interjections.]
Order, please! Hon member, did you say yes or no?
He said no.
He said no. Please proceed, hon member.
Oh, you say no. Thank you, coward. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, I rise on a point of order. It is absolutely unparliamentary for any member to call another hon member of this House a coward. That man, sir, should be thrown out of the House, let alone told to withdraw. [Applause.]
Hon member, will you please withdraw that remark?
Hon Chair, I withdraw.
Thank you. Will you proceed, sir. [Applause.]
With the elections over and food parcels having dried up, where will the food come from, since therapy requires food before and after?
Speaking of health, I received the following message from Luthando Mzimba, whose mother was admitted but not treated at a hospital in the Eastern Cape. He said, and I quote ... [Interjections.]
Indeed. Indeed, I think once you hear this heart-wrenching story, you will realise that it is better for the President to know what is happening. You may not want him to hear, but I will say it. He says:
I drove to Butterworth; got my mother discharged. She is fighting for her life at the Johannesburg General Hospital as she received no medical attention for four days after rupturing a vein in the brain. They misdiagnosed her.
They said it was meningitis and gave her treatment for high blood pressure.
When I walked in, I noticed ...
Order, please! Order!
Just for your information, this is not last year. She is lying now at the Johannesburg General Hospital, Mr President, as we speak. [Interjections.] Thank you. He said:
When I walked in I noticed that her mouth had shifted to the left and that meant she had suffered a stroke. No tests were run.
Today, what is your response to that?
We agree with you on the need to reduce the red tape. But how do you square this, sir? The Premier of the Free State - and I gave the Minister of Finance a note yesterday - has issued a circular freezing all payments to service providers in the Free State. As a result, most small, medium and micro enterprises have not been paid, are going bankrupt. Their assets are being attached; section 21 schools cannot procure basic necessities, let alone learner-support materials. Unless you deal with this issue, your words on reducing red tape, creating jobs and supporting SMMEs will ring hollow. [Applause.]
You spoke about assisting firms during this time of need. This is good news. But, sir, what are the objective criteria to help? Without objective criteria, you will not be able to convince us that the intervention in companies such as Frame is not based on saving Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers' Union, Sactwu, investments. This may be a perception, but without a plan it will become a reality.
Let's support industries by all means, but let us do so by looking also at growth sectors such as services, energy renewal and the environment. Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]
Hon Chairperson, hon President, hon Deputy President, members of the Cabinet and members of the House, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate, in absentia, Minister Sexwale and Deputy Minister Zoe Kota on their appointments to this very important Ministry. As members may be aware, the Housing Ministry has never had a Deputy Minister, and I pray that the combination of these two individuals will lead to the creation of sustainable communities.
Deputy Minister Kota, as chairperson of the portfolio committee over the past 10 years, comes with political knowledge from the side that must hold Cabinet to account, and in-depth knowledge from the community and beneficiaries' perspective, whilst Minister Sexwale brings political and, I think most importantly, shrewd business savvy to the department.
It would also be remiss of me at this point if I did not acknowledge the delivery over the past five years, and indeed, since the advent of democracy. Admittedly, while there have been far too many instances of corruption and problems relating to the quality of the houses, and I still have a big question regarding the official number of houses built, Minister Sisulu's bold step to move away from the delivery of houses to the creation of sustainable communities must be applauded.
Ongelukkig, mnr die Voorsitter, is daar nog nie 'n werklike, volhoubare gemeenskapsprojek voltooi nie. Daar was 'n moontlikheid dat die Cosmo City- projek dalk so 'n gemeenskap kon wees, maar ongelukkig is daar nog te veel tekortkominge wat ander gemeenskaplike dienste en infrastruktuur betref. (Translation of Afrikaans paragraph follows.)
[Unfortunately, Mr Chairperson, no truly sustainable community project has been completed as yet. The possibility existed that the Cosmo City Project might have been such a community, but, unfortunately, there are still too many shortcomings regarding other community services and infrastructure.]
In fact, less than a week ago, Mr Chairperson, it was reported that the department has failed to comply with a vital component in the building process. They failed to register housing projects with the National Home Builders Registration Council, NHBRC, over the past 10 years. As a result, all 8 000 houses in Cosmo City have been rejected by the NHBRC. If this situation is true, it will require the urgent attention of hon Minister Sexwale. We cannot tolerate a situation where we pass legislation in this House, only to have it ignored by the very department that initiated it.
Minister Sisulu is also on record as having said that she, and I quote: "... is not just the Minister of Housing, but the Minister of all housing, both public and private".
I assume, therefore, that Minister Sexwale will also inherit this mantle, and I therefore wish to put the following suggestion to Minister Sexwale and to you, hon President: Some of the very people who fund the construction of homes for the poor are facing the real possibility of becoming homeless themselves.
It is a fact that in the current economic climate many particularly lower- and middle-income taxpayers have already lost their homes or are about to lose their homes. Our legislation does not allow for these now homeless people to benefit under the subsidised housing scheme, and there is a strong possibility that most of them will never become home-owners again.
At the media briefing at the JSE last week Minister Sexwale said that he intended using all his business contacts to ensure that the more than two million South Africans on the waiting list get homes. I want to ask him that he use those same business contacts to also assist the people that are currently becoming homeless.
I therefore urge your government, hon President, to start urgent negotiations with financial institutions to avoid a looming catastrophe. Many people's homes in the category I am referring to are being repossessed due to relatively small arrear amounts and in some instances the outstanding amount on the loan is a fraction of the value of the property. These properties are then auctioned off and are mostly snapped up by unscrupulous investors, who are often in cahoots with employees from these institutions, for a fraction of their real value.
Let me not be misunderstood. I want to make it very clear: I am in no way asking for government to interfere in the free market, and unlike the SAA or the SABC, I am not suggesting a cash bailout. What I am asking for, hon President, is for your government to interact with these financial institutions, to look at short-term measures to alleviate the burden on these home-owners during these difficult economic times. The repossession of homes should be an absolutely last resort. Just as you have acted to reduce job losses, so too should you act to avoid people losing their homes if it can be avoided.
Hon members, I accept the partnership that the hon President is calling for, and on behalf of my leader in the House I want to commit both myself as an individual and my caucus collectively to the process of reconstruction and nation-building within this country. We commit ourselves to offer whatever experience we have in as constructive a manner as possible to the creation of a caring society. I thank you. [Applause.]
NATIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION - Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. Mr President, Mr Deputy President, colleagues, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, and hon members, I think we should all agree that the state of the nation address has launched this Fourth Parliament in a decisive and determined way. The positive and pensive contributions of the 43 members who have spoken before me have contributed in a way that bodes well for Parliament, or, I should say, most of them did. I trust that this is an expression of the hope of renewal and not merely a honeymoon for the brand-new President.
The address on Wednesday did what it set out to do - to provide a high- level overview of the strategic choices that this government has made. I know that some hon members are champing at the bit, demanding details of the various programmes, but I need to remind this House that the President took exactly 67 minutes, the same amount of time that we should give up on Mandela Day, to cover the state of the nation. [Applause.] Many hon members here have taken a lot more time to deal with one specific issue, but, as the hon Motsoaledi said, the details will be spelt out, and certainly in the period ahead, when Ministers present their budget and policy to committees for discussion and debate. When these are then put together in the Extended Public Committees, there will be an opportunity for detailed discussion and debate. Wednesday was not meant to be that.
Mr Chairman, on a point of order: Could I point out to the hon Minister that there are also 67 DA Members of Parliament?
NATIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION - I wouldn't waste 67 minutes on that! [Laughter.]
To the hon Shilowa, in the context of the speech: I want to ask him to ask his benchmate, the hon Dandala, to remind him of the words "by your deeds we shall know you". We know who you are, we know where you come from, we know who set up systems in Gauteng. By your deeds we shall know you, not your angry words here today! [Applause.]
The essential message of Wednesday's address is that notwithstanding our best endeavours of the past 15 years, we must now redouble our efforts to ensure better outcomes. Also, that we must understand that the prevailing circumstances are now much tougher than any we have had to confront hitherto. The President confirmed that we are now in recession, and deep as it is, our policies have spared us the worst ravages of the global recession. The contraction of 6,4% of GDP seen in the first quarter is still much lower than that of almost the entire industrialised world.
The global economic downturn has been worse than any forecast a year ago. OECD economies are expected to experience no or declining growth for nearly two years. For many developed economies, the slowdown started in about the second quarter of last year and will continue at least until the third quarter of 2009, perhaps longer.
The International Monetary Funf, IMF, revised down its world growth forecast six times last year, and thrice more in 2009. By April of this year, the fund's forecast for world growth had turned resolutely negative, - 1,3% for the global economy this year. Advanced economies are expected to contract by - 3,8% in 2009, and to experience zero growth next year.
In recent weeks, indicators of activity in the developing and developed world have stabilised, and in some instances even improved, as in China where industrial output for the first quarter was up strongly after a sharp drop in the fourth quarter of last year.
Despite these "green shoots", or "brown shoots", as people call them, some major risks loom perilously large. These include still high levels of indebtedness of households and the rising interest burden of governments, the negative effects of governments having to reduce their debt burdens, and the fact that employment may continue to fall for some time even after economic output recovers.
For South Africa, the growth forecast remains subject to the vagaries of the world economy and our own domestic risks. So, while inflation has made some progress in coming down from the highs of last year, and this has enabled a decline in interest rates, oil prices and nominal wage pressures present further risks.
The recently released results for the first quarter of 2009 were considerably worse than expected, but we do need to recognise that they are now water under the bridge, and we should see somewhat better figures in the latter part of this year. Sustained growth in public infrastructure, government consumption, better commodity prices, and an improved interest rate cycle, will tend to support the economy in the months ahead. A stronger recovery in the rest of the world would feed through into improvements in our domestic view as well.
But difficult as these issues are to deal with, they do not come as a surprise. In the Budget Speech tabled here on 11 February we said, and I quote:
The storm that we spoke of last year has broken, and is more severe than anyone has anticipated ... Our response to the present crisis is to face the challenges before us boldly, and as a nation united. Our duty is to construct a South African approach, founded on our own vision for a shared future. This approach can only be built on an engagement between social partners, not just at the level of national dialogue, but on factory floors and in community halls. Our resolve will be tested to the limits. We have to put self-interest aside. We have to face each other honestly and openly. Our task is to see through the challenges of economic vulnerability today to the construction of the new South Africa that is our passion and our pride. We can do this all the better as a united people.
That is what we said on 11 February. So we must forge this South African response, and the state of the nation address speaks very directly to this. A South African response must take account of the nature of the domestic impact of the global recession, must take account of our domestic institutional arrangements and must proffer distinctly South African solutions. The state of the nation address dealt with this in large measure when the President said, and I quote:
We take as our starting point the framework for South Africa's response to the international economic crisis, concluded by government, labour and business in February this year. We must act now to minimise the impact of this downturn on those most vulnerable. We have begun to act to reduce job losses. There is an in-principle agreement between government and the social partners on the introduction of a training layoff. Workers who would ordinarily be facing retrenchment due to economic difficulty would be kept in employment and re-skilled for a period of time.
Discussion on the practical detail is continuing between the social partners and the institutions that would be affected by such an initiative, including the Sector Education and Training Authorities, Setas.
So, there are the beginnings of firm plans and proposals on the table. These must be fully costed and tested, and widespread support generated to ensure that they are actually broadly owned by South Africans.
But, in addition, we are now committed to a significant improvement in outcomes by a focus on improved planning and performance management to ensure better outcomes. There are at least five distinct reasons for this.
Firstly, in recognising that we have a great, modern Constitution, we must acknowledge that the powers and functions in respect of service provision are highly dispersed across the three spheres of government. If we desire better outcomes, then we must improve on the co-ordination of effort.
Secondly, we will have to institutionalise the linkages between the three spheres of government to ensure appropriate initiation of programmes, and improve on the mechanisms for equalisation so that we can counteract the mass exodus from rural areas.
Thirdly, we must all agree that there is no market for many of the public services we are speaking of - issues such as employment, distribution, infrastructure, environment and human skills development demand a better co- ordinated push, because often the momentum is towards fragmentation.
Fourthly, we have to concentrate on building a more competent public administration which is both more focused and more accountable.
Fifthly, we have to deal with resources today to meet tomorrow's needs.
This will be the focus of our work over the next period. This will not be done in secret. I hope, Mr President, to place a Green Paper before Parliament in the course of the next few weeks to engage hon members on where and how planning would fit into the government system, what role we hope to play, what linkages are required and what thematic areas would be covered by the planning function. I repeat that we will forge a distinctly South African approach. Right now, we can recite chapter and verse on the operations and successes of planning commissions in countries as diverse as South Korea, India, Turkey and Brazil. To the hon Bhoola, who didn't stay for this discussion here today: The CV is not going to work, Mr President. But, we can recite the detail. But in acknowledging their efforts, we want to avoid the risk of merely attempting to supplant their experiences - we will forge a distinct approach tailored to the needs of our own situation. [Applause.]
In order to succeed, Parliament will have to be more involved in areas of planning and oversight. There must be a shift in emphasis from a cursory discussion on the allocation of resources to an intensive discourse on the outcomes. As we traverse this path, the luxury of talking past each other will have to be a speck in our collective history.
Let me admit here, Mr President, that I have been assigned many tasks that are easier than the challenge to develop a planning framework. Let me share briefly some of what the planning process will entail.
Firstly, the longer-term vision for at least a 15-year horizon must be developed as a statement that is clear, widely supported and eminently attainable. Secondly, we will then have to develop a series of shorter-term plans for 10 and 5 year periods that are more detailed, better costed and which contain more measurable development targets. Thirdly, there is the co- ordination of the development of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework and its unpacking into detailed plans for each of the strategic priority areas. Cabinet, advised by the Minister of Finance, would then align the Medium- Term Expenditure Framework with the strategic priorities of government.
Fourthly, though not quite in this sequence, we will have to ensure that the planning frames of the two other spheres of government are synchronised. Fifthly, we will continually undertake research to ensure that our choices are informed by evidence and good research on long-term plans and trends. While in many areas or sectors we have good quality long- term plans, we need to do more to encourage long-term planning throughout government and the state-owned enterprises.
Sixthly, we recognise that this approach will indelibly alter the way in which government operates, enhancing the sense of mutual accountability of Ministers, of public servants, of departments and of spheres of government to each other. Finally, whilst doing all of this, we must try to remain sane and be tolerated.
The development of good and coherent plans is only half the work. We need concerted action to avoid or prevent fragmentation in government. And so there is a co-ordination function that is essential to all of this, driving this plan through all the spheres and tentacles of government and ensuring that we are at least singing off the same hymn sheet.
The good news is that all of this will only work if Parliament is differently involved - not merely waving support to a passing 15-year vision, but actively participating in debating the options and overseeing its implementation. We will have to break through the tunnels down which we peer. The objective is what has loosely been termed "joined-up government". For us, it is about the massive construction of the developmental state that places the emphasis on those outcomes that are measured in the regular and significant improvements in the quality of life of the nation's poorest.
This is not a fantasy. This is the reality. This is an imperative that we draw directly from our Constitution.
I repeat that this is the more difficult path to pursue. It would be far easier to chirp from the sidelines, because that has defined the modus of too many for too long. Let me highlight a few examples from the debate of the past few days. The President, in his address, spoke of the challenge of education when he said: To improve the learning environment, we have to ensure during the term of this government, that all public schools will have water, sanitation, electricity, as well as critical facilities such as libraries, sufficient classrooms, laboratories and ICT infrastructure. Yet the hon Dandala missed this. He was waiting for a few simple words: "schools under trees". And I want to invite the hon Shilowa to go with me to Limpopo province, where I can show him this in action. [Applause.]
In respect of the health care issues, again, I want to invite the hon Kalyan not to count lines, but substance, and I think the hon Motsoaledi dealt with this in some detail.
The issue of jobs, of course, is uppermost on the list of ANC priorities. At the same time, there is a realism that explains that whilst the objective remains the creation of the maximum number of decent jobs, in order to get there and to ensure that there is food on the table of more households, there will have to be a short-term emphasis on sustainable livelihoods.
On this score, the President said:
As part of Phase 2 of the Expanded Public Works Programme, the Community Works Programme will be fast-tracked. It offers a minimum level of regular work to those who need it, while improving on the quality of life in communities. The economic downturn will affect the pace at which our country is able to address the social and economic challenges it faces. But it will not alter the direction of our development. The policy priorities that we have identified, and the plans that we placed before the electorate, remain at the core of the programme of this government.
He also said:
Another important element of our drive to create job opportunities is the Expanded Public Works Programme. The initial target of one million jobs has been achieved. The second phase of the programme aims to create about four million job opportunities by 2014. Between now and December 2009, we plan to create about 500 000 job opportunities.
The intention is clear. These are not permanent jobs. They are job opportunities and they serve to provide durable infrastructure or essential services, sustainable livelihoods and training opportunities. There is no promise of immediate industrial or service-sector jobs. This is the reality. You can howl. This is the reality - despite what both self-styled analysts the hon Trollip and now the hon Narend Singh raised here.
Public Works job opportunities are not the first prize, but they are important in dealing with the ravages of poverty. Virtually every country across the globe is instituting emergency measures such as this. And I want to plead with this august House, Mr President, not to pooh-pooh this initiative. On the one hand, it pays more than what most farmworkers earn, but, more importantly, it stands between poor families and absolute hunger. [Applause.]
The debate on economic policy will remain topical way beyond our lifetimes. It could not have been the intention of the state of the nation address this week to attempt to resolve it. I must admit to having had to check yesterday why the hon Dr Nzimande was sounding so distinguished. When I looked up I even thought that he was looking more distinguished than usual. It was only then that I realised that Dr Nzimande's arguments were emanating from the mouth of the hon Nkosi Buthelezi, who even invoked the name of his good friend Margaret Thatcher in support of his arguments. [Laughter.] I'm sure, Mr President, that stranger episodes may actually have occurred somewhere. Those, at least, would not be frequent sightings. [Laughter.]
So, I conclude that the hon Shenge set out from Mahlabathini and the hon Nzimande from Edendale. They met somewhere at Tugela Ferry; they exchanged notes; they reached an accord; and that's what we now have in the economic debate.
It is an important issue because I do hope that this Parliament will afford itself adequate time to have the economic debate. There are certain inescapable realities, among them is the fact that we have not been as badly affected as many other countries. The President reminded us of this and pointed to a way forward in saying,
While South Africa has not been affected to the extent that a number of other countries have, its effects are now being clearly seen in our economy. We have entered a recession. It is more important now than ever that we work in partnership on a common programme to respond to this crisis.
That partnership cuts across all that divides us - race, class, gender, geography and political party lines. The theme was raised on 11 February when we said, "Our resolve will be tested to its limits. We have to put self-interest aside. We have to face each other honestly and openly." This spirit is even more necessary now.
Finally, I want to admit that I marvel at the views of the hon Ryan Coetzee, if he could see. This morning, again, he pleaded for a big-type safety net for a wage subsidy for export processing zones, with substantially lower rates of taxes. He missed out this morning on the call for a general reduction in the corporate rate of 2%. All this and he arrives at the lower deficit that he chooses to lecture this government about. Can anybody in the House spare the gentleman a calculator? [Laughter.]
Now, I want to take the unusual step of expressing my appreciation to the 46 members of the DA caucus who spared us the insufferable fate of having this rabid Reaganite idealogue wear the mantle of Leader of the Opposition. [Laughter.] Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Thank you, hon Minister. That concludes the speakers' list. The President will reply on Tuesday, 9 June.