We urge hon members to work closely with schools in their constituencies and to support them to ensure an improvement each year. Members of Parliament cannot be spectators; education is a societal issue.
Allow me to correct the hon James, who said I failed to establish the link between improved remuneration for teachers and performance. Let me remind him of what I said:
The Remuneration Commission will also assess the return on investment. In elevating education to its rightful place, we want to see an improvement in the quality of learning and teaching and the management of schools. We want to see an improvement in attitudes, posture and outcomes.
Had he listened, he would have heard these words - that there was a link that was made.
The hon Godi spoke strongly about the need to enhance the capacity of the state to deliver on government programmes. We agree that a lot must be done in this regard. We have already put in place a number of initiatives since 2009 to improve the functioning of the state. The monitoring of management practices by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in my Office is already starting to bear fruit in a number of areas. For example, the average time taken to fill a funded vacancy in national and provincial departments has improved from nine months in 2010 to four months in 2012. [Applause.] The responsiveness of departments to cases referred to them by Chapter 9 institutions and from the national Anti-Corruption Hotline has improved.
The average time taken to issue an ID book has been reduced from about 150 days to about 30 days. [Applause.] The bar-coded green ID book will be replaced by a new ID smart card in the 2013-14 financial year. [Applause.] The smart card is intended to prevent fraud. Furthermore, the average time taken to process an application for a social grant has decreased from 30 days in 2010 to 21 days in 2012. [Applause.]
As hon Ministers Sisulu and Manuel pointed out, the training of public servants, including managers, will be prioritised to further improve the capacity of the state. This should also bring in much-needed skills and reduce the money we pay consultants, which the Auditor-General and many hon members here have raised the alarm about. It is also an undertaking made in the National Development Plan, that the culture and orientation of the Public Service will change for the better. It is for this reason we say that if we are to pay public servants better, we want a return on our investment.
We have also put in place mechanisms to improve citizen care and make the Public Service friendlier and more responsive. We still have a long way to go, but we have made a start. Important amongst these is the Frontline Service Delivery Monitoring programme. Over 300 unannounced visits were undertaken during the past year by officials from the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and Offices of the Premiers. Repeat visits to sites indicate that, in many cases, the monitoring has resulted in some improvements.
In this regard, Minister Sisulu is correct in her assertion that some of our public servants work diligently, putting in many hours a day to improve services to our people. A model example is that of Ms Pearl Bhengu, Mr Mondli Mazibuko and the staff at the SA Social Security Agency, Sassa, office in Umzimkhulu. After an unannounced visit, they acted on the findings and improved queue management, provided chairs and a shelter for the waiting area, and ensured that toilet facilities were working. [Applause.]
I personally undertook visits to many areas under the Siyahlola Presidential Monitoring programme. For example, in Umzimkhulu, we assessed the poor state of municipal services; in Ngobi village, Hammanskraal, we went to check on the water delivery situation; in Gauteng, it was a review of public transport; and in the Eastern Cape, the visit concerned the delivery of school infrastructure. Ministers will be undertaking many similar visits this year, as well, so that communities can raise concerns and suggestions directly with them.
We also continue to interact with the public through the Presidential Hotline. By 31 January 2013, citizens had logged more than 154 549 cases with the Presidential Hotline, of which 89% have been resolved. [Applause.] Mr Sitilibana Mkoka from Centani Village, Butterworth in the Eastern Cape, was able to obtain a wheelchair after calling the hotline on 31 January 2013. [Applause.] Mr Herbert Memela from Gauteng was paid by the Department of Energy for services rendered after the intervention of the hotline. There are many more examples of citizens who have been assisted.
The culture of putting people first is being inculcated gradually. A better and more caring Public Service is possible, as illustrated by these cases. It should also be an inclusive Public Service, with more women in senior positions, and also one which strives to achieve the 2% employment ratio for people with disabilities. [Applause.]
Land is a topical issue, given the centenary of the 1913 Land Act this year. The hon Dikobo correctly pointed out the need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that the ownership of land and farms by Africans represents a threat to food security. Indeed, we agree that with more post-settlement support, all newly-owned farms will continue to be productive. In fact, we have had a lot of discussions in government, given the experience since we began the process of restitution. Hon Minister Nkwinti explained the four pillars of land reform and our intention to rebuild the class of black farmers and improve food security.
The hon Dikobo also mentioned that he receives complaints that people are asked for membership cards when they try to access opportunities in the Expanded Public Works Programme or the Community Work programme. This is totally unacceptable. I have asked Minister Chabane to look into this matter, and I am sure the hon member will assist so that we can get to the bottom of this. No person must get services because he carries one particular card and not another. It is not acceptable. We cannot accept it. [Applause.] Hon Mfundisi, we have noted your request for the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission, PICC, to look into the Koster- Lichtenburg Road in North West. Similarly, the hon Holomisa has suggested that the PICC should to look into building a railway line between Mthatha, Kokstad, Queenstown and East London. We noted that.
I must also say, though, as a person who has also been listening to that debate in Parliament, he seems to be a Member of Parliament that works for his constituency. Generally, hon member, you raise matters about your constituency, while other members talk about anything under the sun. You really look after your constituency. I have to appreciate that. [Applause.] As a result, I do not know what constituencies other members have, and whether they have them at all. However, thank you very much for being consistent for the sake of the people who sent you here. [Applause.] I have asked the Chairperson of the PICC Management Committee, Minister Nkwinti, to look into both requests.
Hon Holomisa, I have also directed the Department of Basic Education to immediately look into the case of the Tshadama Secondary School in Vhembe district, Limpopo, whose principal wrote to you, citing overcrowding and other difficulties. In addition, I have been assured by the Department of Transport that the problems relating to the terminal building at Mthatha Airport are being attended to with a view to completing the building by April this year, as scheduled. [Applause.]
We received feedback from people who viewed the state of the nation address at 55 centres around the country, as arranged by the Government Communication and Information System, GCIS. The viewers were happy about the report-back on various issues, such as education, crime-fighting, rural development and health. They wanted more focus on youth unemployment, education, housing, basic services, rural development and sustainable jobs. Farm workers said they needed an assurance from the President that government has a plan to deal with the backlash from farmers following the increase in the national minimum wage of farm workers from R69 to R105 per day. In this regard, we will continue engagements with the farmers and farm workers. Many more issues were raised that will inform our communication programme with the public in going forward.
With regard to the way forward, Minister Manuel asked what binds us as a nation and as Members of Parliament. He reminded us that the Constitution binds us all. In addition, we have all adopted the National Development Plan, which outlines the type of society we want to build and gives effect to the Constitution. The plan, developed by the National Planning Commission, originates from a directive in the 2009 ANC election manifesto. We had said:
We will ensure a more effective government; improve the co-ordination and planning efforts of the developmental state by means of a planning entity to ensure faster change.
That planning entity was thus established in 2009 in the form of the National Planning Commission in the Presidency. From this year, every government department or entity will have to factor elements of the NDP into their plans.
More effectively and comprehensively, we have begun developing a draft medium-term strategic framework for 2014-19, as the first five-year building block of the National Development Plan. Our cross-cutting strategies, such as the New Growth Path, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, departmental strategic plans, annual performance plans, municipal integrated development plans and every other government plan will fall under the umbrella of the National Development Plan. [Applause.]
The framework will be precise and clear in identifying indicators and targets to be achieved in the period from 2014 to 2019. The first draft of the 2014-19 NDP-aligned framework should be ready for a thorough discussion at the July Cabinet lekgotla. This can then be refined so that it can be submitted to Cabinet for approval as soon as possible after the 1914 elections. We look forward to a new way of doing things and a new culture, so that by 2030, we can say that we have arrived at the South Africa we all envisaged in 1994. The hon Cronin stated that opposition parties had sidelined themselves from the broad consensus-building processes under way in the country to address our many challenges. He was sceptical about their ability to join the mainstream. Unlike the hon Cronin, I am optimistic. I believe they will join the mainstream. [Laughter.] [Applause.]
As we move towards the 20th anniversary of freedom, there should emerge a common thread of patriotism that binds us all. Even if we disagree on many things, and whether we are here as the ruling party or the opposition, it is important that, as parties, we identify common things that are nationally strategic, that we can all rally round. [Applause.] In that way, in many years to come, should anyone other than the ANC be in charge - in so many years from now that I cannot even count them [Laughter.] - at least South Africa will be a country for all of us. We will all benefit, not on the basis of what ideology or beliefs we have. That is what we need to be working towards achieving. [Applause.]
That is why, at times, I worry that the opposition politics may go beyond the level where one can say, "As much as this one is in opposition, he loves his country, or she loves her country". We must be constructive. We must help the country to move forward. Elections come and go, but we must build South Africa. [Applause.]
We should put South Africa first. We all have a patriotic duty and the responsibility to build and promote our country. [Interjections.] In other words, we should, at times, reduce the rhetoric and grandstanding. We can do that type of thing in our free time. However, if we deal with matters of the country, of the nation, we need to bring in that seriousness about where we are going.
The National Development Plan 2030 provides a perfect vehicle for united action precisely because it has the support of South Africans across the political and cultural spectrums. Leaders in every avenue should be ready to rise above sectoral interests and, with greater maturity, pull together to take this country forward. When we go abroad, we should read from the same script, saying that South Africa is always a good country and, indeed, a destination for investment; it is a country open to business, and South Africa is the best destination for any investor who is serious about returns on their investment. [Applause.] We believe it is possible to do so, if we decide to put the country first and act in the national interest. We can disagree on as many issues as we want to, but we have to find issues where we put South Africa and our people first.
As an aside, when I was talking about elections, I must have talked about 1914. It is 2014. I must correct that for the Hansard purposes, so that I do not declare different dates!
In closing, let us draw inspiration from the words of our icon, President Mandela, our first President of the democratic South Africa. At the birth of our democracy, he had this to say:
We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation- building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfil themselves.
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!
God bless Africa!
[Applause.] I thank you. [Applause.]