Deputy Chairperson, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, premier, hon members, ladies and gentlemen, I am going to display the facts. I'm getting a little bit older, so I'm going to reflect on a bit of history, which I think is not unimportant in this context.
We are 16 years into democracy, of which 14 years have been guided by one of the most respected constitutions in the world. This Constitution of ours enjoins us, and I quote:
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.
I quote from the preamble to the Constitution. Forgive me for coughing; I'm recovering from flu.
It is also important to remind ourselves that our Constitution and the intergovernmental system we have today, as the Chairperson pointed out, is a product of political negotiations and compromises during those negotiations. The Interim Constitution, which embraced the outcome of our constitutional negotiations, lists a set of constitutional principles, which the 1996 Constitution had to be based upon.
Among the constitutional principles are that government shall be structured at the national, provincial and local levels. In other words, we couldn't produce the 1996 Constitution if government wasn't structured this way. Other principles are that at each level of government there shall be democratic representation; powers and functions of the national government and provincial governments and the boundaries of the provinces shall be defined in the Constitution; and powers and functions at the national and provincial levels of government shall include exclusive and concurrent powers. There are a number of others, including that a framework for local government powers, functions and structures shall be set in the Constitution. When you see the written version of my speech, you could have a look at that.
When we drafted a new Constitution in 1996, we had to ensure - and eventually the Constitutional Court ensured - that the new Constitution complied with these principles.
We in the ANC have always been clear that we required what we call unitary federalism in South Africa, if we were to overcome the legacy of apartheid. Today we aspire to be a developmental state, which is uncompromisingly focused on creating jobs, improving education and health, providing better security to our people and developing our rural areas. Clearly, dynamic economic growth, which both creates jobs and eradicates poverty, is central to our mission. We also want an activist state. We want a capable state - a state which has the strategic leadership and operational capabilities and resources to ensure that we can accomplish our mission.
The recent financial crisis has clearly demonstrated that strong governments are essential throughout the world. I quote from a recent column on this in the Financial Times which states:
The state remains the ultimate protector of people's interests as markets overreach, on both the upswings and downswings of capitalism. Self- regulation - la 16th-century Scottish bankers - or a light-touch regulatory system cannot be the solution for the modern financial world. A co-ordinated, activist and sceptical regulatory system is needed ... A smarter, more active state is the way forward.
The question for us is whether the way in which co-operative governance and intergovernmental relations are structured today and the way in which the NCOP works enhances this kind of objective.
Our Constitution recognises that centrifugal forces - for those of us who might have forgotten our physics, these are forces that pull apart - operate within a quasi-federal system. There's always a tendency to move away from one another and not quite co-operate with one another.
So, we developed a unique Chapter 3 on co-operative governance, which sets out principles of a co-operative government and intergovernmental relations. Among these is the need to secure the wellbeing of the people of South Africa; provide an effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government for the Republic as a whole; and respect the constitutional status, institutions, powers and functions of government in other spheres, and several others. It also asks all of us to be friendly to one another. I don't see too many of you smiling.
The NCOP is also a unique institution, which was designed, as it says in the Constitution, and I quote, "to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government". In addition, the participation of 10 part-time local government representatives in the NCOP was probably a first, if you like, for constitutions around the world.
The allocation of exclusive and concurrent powers to the different spheres of government determines roles and responsibilities of each sphere within this framework of co-operative government and intergovernmental relations.
Chairperson, this summit asks crucial questions. After 16 years of democracy, can we say that co-operative governance is optimal in our country? Do we have the maximum synergy amongst the various structures of government? Are we as organised and aligned as we need to be to deliver government services to our people and to be a leading force for development and change in our society? We have done very well, I believe, in our first 16 years, but I'm sure all of us would admit that we could have done better.
We have made excellent gains in providing access to water, electricity, housing, health and education. Our access to health and education services is on par with the most developed nations, but the quality of our services could be much better. Our expenditure on education, for example - and I'm sure you have heard this many times - is on par with most developed nations, but the quality of our learners lags behind that of our peer countries. In 2006, South African learners ranked last out of 40 countries for overall Grade 4 reading achievement and last out of 46 countries on Grade 8 mathematics achievement.
Despite increased spending on health and other relevant social services, life expectancy in South Africa has consistently decreased since 1990. We are one of only 12 countries whose maternal mortality has increased since 1990. So, all of us need to ask some very serious questions about whether our intergovernmental systems are working, and whether the right kind of delivery is in fact taking place. If not, what can we, as the House of provinces, so to speak, do to improve this delivery at the provincial level?
Health and education outcomes are also impacted on by a range of factors outside these sectors, including poor delivery of housing and basic services to our people. The Constitution and the local government legislation require national and provincial government to support and build the capacity of municipalities, yet so many of our municipalities are in a financial crisis, mainly because the basics are not done properly.
This world, and indeed South Africans themselves, have become accustomed to the idea that we pull off miracles repeatedly. The peaceful path to democracy, the 1994 elections, the uniting role of sport and, more recently, the World Cup, are but some examples of the miracles we can pull off.
There is another massive task we have been undertaking, unnoticed, for the past decade and a half, which is that of building a developmental and capable state still in the making and at the same time transforming South Africa and offering a better life for all South Africans. This balance between building capability and delivering capably is a crucial one for us to understand ourselves better so that we can identify where we could do things both differently and on a much more improved basis than we are doing currently.
In 10 to 20 years' time we will know whether we have pulled off another miracle in this regard or not. For now, Chairperson, you ask a more focused question: What role can the NCOP play in enhancing co-operative governance and intergovernmental relations? I offer the following thoughts and challenges for your consideration. Firstly, we need to do more to inculcate the ethos of unitary federalism and co-operative governance in the minds and hearts of the public, politicians and civil servants. We must question whether the culture of politics and the operational culture of civil servants enhance our regional vision of a cohesive state and society.
Secondly, in bridging the provincial and local government voice into national deliberations there is a need to review the interaction and quality of discussions between the NA and the NCOP, so that both a diversity of views and different perspectives are embraced in national deliberations. In other words, are we doing enough in really bringing the provincial voice to national deliberations or is there a different quality of conversation that needs to take place between the NA committees and your committees in order that we could lift our gains in terms of the provincial inputs into these conversations?
Thirdly, we need a more active engagement from provinces and local government on economic matters, in particular the dynamic role that provinces and municipalities can play in providing economic infrastructure and opportunities to our entrepreneurs and our unemployed youth.
Fourthly, the NCOP could more critically look into whether we are building focused and resilient institutions of the developmental state appropriately. If we think that we have a developmental state, then we don't have to worry; we have the institutions. If we think that we are building a developmental state, then we need to examine more carefully each of our institutions and ask whether they are correctly focused and operating correctly.
Fifthly, the concurrent areas of education, health and housing require urgent attention. There must be a more vigorous interrogation of organisational and delivery capability and obstacles in genuinely ensuring that our children are receiving better education and our people are receiving better health care.
Sixthly, poor utilisation and misuse of resources in our provinces and municipalities is reaching serious proportions. Honest citizens can no longer sit passively while a small clique of rent-seekers plunder the state. The NCOP must urgently play an active role in this regard.
Seventhly, the area of procurement practices in provinces and municipalities requires your urgent attention. The recent country-wide arrests are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's going on. We are losing billions of rand as the country, through provinces and municipalities, let alone national departments, and this is something that you as the House of provinces need to pay urgent attention to.
Eighthly, there's also a need to review current fiscal arrangements. We can no longer have a situation where, for example, a national goal is set for health and money is allocated to provinces as part of the equitable share. But because this is not earmarked, provinces have been using money intended for health for all sorts of special projects that have nothing to do with improving the lives of our people. That is why health is in the state that we find it in today in many of our provinces.
Ninthly, provinces are also spending inordinate amounts of money on personnel costs at the expense of learning material and equipment vital for theatres in hospitals.
Tenthly, provinces are also hiring too many administrative staff and creating bloated bureaucracies, rather than hiring more teachers, nurses and doctors, and those who deliver front-line services.
Lastly, I believe that, above all, a developmental state is judged by what it delivers and the impact it has on the lives of our people. We can certainly do more, through both the NCOP and other institutions, to truly create more synergy and better alignment so that we can all say at some stage that we have indeed made a difference.
The challenge facing the NCOP is how to select the right kind of issues, and I've suggested some of them. You concretely intervene whilst addressing the concept of intergovernmental relations and the concept of co-operative governance, but by direct engagement on these concrete issues rather than as an obstruction.
In conclusion, Chairperson, may I thank Mr De Beer and the NCOP for so kindly and expeditiously dealing with the SA Reserve Bank Amendment Bill, and for all the support that we've had from all of you. Thank you very much. [Applause.]