NATIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION: Mr Speaker, the hon Fubbs is always a hard act to follow, but I will try. [Laughter.]
Hon Speaker, Deputy President, ministerial colleagues and hon members, I want to express appreciation for the indulgence of this farewell and convey a particular word of gratitude to the Parliamentary Oversight Authority for affording us this opportunity. I am completely humbled by the many contributions made here this afternoon, so much so that my mother, who is in the House, probably doesn't recognise her son from all of the nice things that have been said here today. [Applause.]
On reflection, I want to say that it feels good to be part of that generation, that very special generation in the life of the nation that had the opportunity to bring down an old order and be involved in the construction of a new one. [Applause.]
There are a number of very particular highlights, some of them that have been reflected on, but perhaps the one that we must single out and go back to - because, for future generations, this will be the touchstone - was the adoption of our fine Constitution. [Applause.]
It is a truly magnificent document - not created and not forced on us by those outside, by any multilateral agency. It is ours, it is owned by us, it is the product of what we have been through, and therefore we must cherish it for what it is worth for ourselves and as the bridge to the future from where we have been. [Applause.]
As a Member of Parliament, I want to say that I have appreciated working with all members of all parties. I remain of the view, albeit naively so, that we are all bound together by the same oath to our Constitution that we take in this House. We may come at it from slightly different positions, but ultimately we take an oath of service and an oath of loyalty to our Constitution, and that should be the acid test of who we are and what defines us in our relationship with our people.
I don't believe that any person can come here and take the oath to the Constitution and be a racist and a bigot, and if they are off the mark, we have to help them back, because ultimately the test is that which is defined in the Preamble to our Constitution, which asks of us in perpetuity to raise the living standards of our people and free the potential of each person. It's not an option; it's an obligation imposed by history, defined in our Constitution. And when we gather in this House, we gather for that purpose.
So, for me, the ability to have served here for 20 years as a member of this august Assembly is an honour that I don't take lightly. It's an honour that I am privileged to share with so many, and with so many who have been part of this Assembly for the past four terms. I was sworn in as part of the first group of 10 MPs in this democracy on 9 May 1994. There were many greats. I don't know what I was doing there! When I look at the photograph of the occasion, I see there were people like Ma Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Madiba, Jay Naidoo, Thabo Mbeki, Cyril Ramaphosa, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. All of us were sworn in together as the first group of MPs. And it wasn't an honour that I could have dreamt of in any part of my life before that point. [Applause.] The question is whether we remain true to that.
One of the reasons I am very privileged to have my mom here today is that she was also in the House on that day, 9 May 1994. [Applause.] All of us as members had elected the first democratic President of the Republic, and the first Speaker and Deputy Speaker. We left here and went to the Parade to hear our newly elected President address the country. He said:
Today we are entering a new era for our country and its people. Today we celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of South Africa.
That has been, in many ways, the genesis of what we will create as this democracy. I don't believe for a moment that it's something that ends. I don't believe that we can take a snapshot approach to the task of building democracy. It has to be ongoing because that statement by Madiba on 9 May 1994 contains, in fact, the profundity of the joy of responsibility to build that we all undertake.
So, for me, 20 years as an MP is a rare privilege. It is a rare honour to be called to serve in Cabinet uniquely by four successive Presidents - one of whom is here with us today, former President Kgalema Motlanthe. Only two of us who were called to serve in the first Cabinet remain - my benchmate Jeff Radebe and I. So, mngani [friend], you are on your own from now. I want to thank the ANC, obviously, and the four successive Presidents for their trust.
For me the 20 years has been a true journey of discovery of myself, of my colleagues, of my comrades, of my country, of the world - a discovery of possibilities and boundaries and, where the boundaries exist, identifying them so that together we can push them back.
I know that I leave here wiser than when I came. But, in that frame and in that vein, I want to ask all of us whether we really use this Chamber, and whether we understand the value of this Chamber, this Assembly, in the lives of our people in the way that we should. I want to mention a few examples, and I know that the swan song speech is meant to be uncontroversial, but forgive me - I am me.
Did we do justice to using this podium to explain to our people, each one of them, the impact of the 2008 crisis on their lives on a continuous basis - not to score points, but to say to our people that our Constitution requires of us to operate in a particular way?
I watched with awe the hon Fubbs lead a process in the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry just recently. It was a very important discussion on the way in which our people are impoverished through unsecured lending. The question I ask myself repeatedly is whether that debate should not have been on the floor of this House before legislation, so that our people understand that they deploy us here - each one of us - to take seriously what is happening in their lives.
I watch in horror what is happening in the Central African Republic right now. And I say "horror" because those moments of great joy for us as a nation born in April 1994 were the toughest times in the life of the Rwandese people when they lived through their genocide. We didn't even notice it happen. Of course, matters relating to the Central African Republic have been on the floor of this House, regrettably for what appears to be point-scoring. As we speak today there is a pogrom in Bangui. As we speak, we must be conscious of the fact that virtually every Muslim who was a resident of Bangui has been driven out. And we as a people who care, who want a caring democracy for ourselves, cannot be blind to the suffering of other Africans.
The floor of this House is fundamentally important in building our value system so that our people will know that we care as Africans and that we care deeply as people. This is because when we were in need as a people struggling for democracy, everybody else demonstrated care for us. So, the floor of this House, I believe, needs to be used more extensively to persuade each other and persuade our people of the values of our Constitution and the values that our democracy requires of us. We must know that we do carry the hopes and aspirations of every African. We can't ever be blind to those responsibilities. So I ask, provocatively, whether we use the floor of Parliament sufficiently.
During the 20 years I have been a member here all manner of things have, of course, happened to me, Mr Speaker. You told me not to say that. Madiba asked me to be the first Leader of Government Business. I was pretty useless at that. Not many people remember. Fortunately, the hon Koos van der Merwe is not here, because the Thursday morning meetings were very difficult then.
I was also an individual who flew in a plane that didn't look good for any Member of Parliament, least of all anybody coming from the ANC. I was berated and teased and reprimanded by this House. Fortunately, those planes don't fly any more - I forget what they were called - and the temptation has been avoided.