Madam Deputy Speaker, the President, the Deputy President, hon members, I would like to dedicate this speech to my former boss, Mrs Phyllis Naidoo, who employed me as a young article clerk way back in the seventies. May her soul rest in peace!
This year's state of the nation address is significant in many respects. Not only does it reflect on the strides we have made and challenges that we have encountered in the past year, more importantly, it provides an important yardstick by which the country's transition from apartheid colonialism to a national democratic society must be measured. This assessment becomes critical as we approach the 20-year anniversary of our constitutional democracy.
A concise and an honest reflection of where we come from gives us a better understanding of our destiny, as postulated by the National Development Plan. I'm sure I am speaking for everyone in this House when I say that the National Development Plan has succeeded in marshalling all of us around the same vision for a better country and a better future in the same way that the 34 Constitutional Principles that underpin our Constitution marshalled political opponents to a historical political settlement 17 years ago.
It is therefore befitting that the National Development Plan gets similar acclaim as the 34 Constitutional Principles that shaped our constitutional destiny. The National Development Plan is our cherished ideal of a nonracial, nonsexist, equal and prosperous society, an ideal that many laid down their lives for, in order for all of us to enjoy the fruits of democracy. Our transformative Constitution envisions a future where no child will attend school under a tree; everyone will be free from violence; and every person will realise his or her potential. I must hasten to caution that it would be tragic to share a common vision of where the National Development Plan is leading us to without understanding where we come from, a feat which our President has articulated so impeccably when he delivered his trend-setting state of the nation address this past Thursday.
The tabling of the National Development Plan in November 2011 occurred just before the commencement of the 100 years celebration of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid led by the ANC. The forces of colonialism and apartheid on the one side arrayed themselves against the forces for freedom and democracy on the other side. It was an epic confrontation which over time preoccupied the global agenda and culminated in heroic stunts by the United Nations when it declared apartheid a crime against humanity and a threat to world peace.
On the occasion of the debate on the state of the nation address, it is important to reflect on these historical realities because sometimes we get lost in the maze of political expediency and forget that peaceful democratic breakthrough of 1994, were achieved primarily because we collectively put aside our differences and reached out to one another. We triumphed over our differences because we all focused on the vision portrayed in the Freedom Charter, which yielded our world-acclaimed Constitution. It was the recognition that in spite of the untold suffering, strife and racial hatred sowed by apartheid, we all became bound by the vision of a shared constitutional destiny.
We must spare no effort in forging the same unity and common purpose in ridding our country of the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment which permeate the diagnostic review that culminated in the adoption of the National Development Plan by our people. This triple challenge reaffirm what our President and world statesman, Nelson Mandela, stated when he signed our Constitution into law, and I quote:
Out of such experience was born the understanding that there could be no lasting peace, no lasting security, no prosperity in this land unless all enjoyed freedom and justice as equals.
Our transformative Constitution is a commitment to save our people from the poverty trap and the vicious cycle of inequality perpetuated by the legacy of apartheid and colonialism. We cannot delay this promise any longer. The lessons of the Marikana tragedy, to which our President alluded in his address attest to the impatience that was waiting to implode. It is for this reason that the ANC, in its conference in Mangaung in December 2012, adopted a robust programme geared to transform our socioeconomic landscape. This programme is premised on the Bill of Rights enshrined in our Constitution, which states that:
This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.
As the ruling party, it is our proud heritage that the African Claims Principles of 1943 and the Freedom Charter of 1955 informed the golden thread of our internationally acclaimed Constitution. We are all enjoined to ensure its practical realisation in the lived experiences of all South Africa's people. We will therefore leave no stone unturned in living up to this commitment as the ANC, of a better life for all and to improve the quality of that life for all citizens and free the potential of each person as we are required to do so by our Constitution.
Madam Deputy Speaker, through the agenda it has adopted at its conference and which will translate into a government programme of action, the ANC seeks to reverse the legacy of the Land Act and restore people to what is rightfully theirs through the application of a just and equitable principle. It is in this context that the land reform initiatives, including the reopening of the lodgement date - as the Minister has indicated - will become the priority of our government. The Land Claims Court will also be strengthened to develop and enhance an appropriate land jurisprudence that has the effect of full restoration to those who were arbitrarily disposessed of their land. In dealing with Land reforms, we will be guided by our Constitution, which enjoins our government to implement compensation that is just and equitable, and reflects an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected.
In spite of the challenges of high levels of poverty and the continued socioeconomic vestiges of the past, we have in place state machinery across the three branches of the state, which is capable of delivering on the principles and mandate of our Constitution. In doing so, these equal branches of the state are bound together by the Constitution, which is a non-negotiable framework within which we must continue to express our political differences as we endeavour to build a better life for all.
Hon members, after dealing with our contentious issues during the crafting of our new democracy, it is essential that none amongst us politicises to the point of eroding the fundamental principles and values of our Constitution such as the Bill of Rights and the principles of the separation of powers as basis for a just order and peace and stability of our constitutional democracy. It is common cause that any false alarms about what are supposedly threats to values of the Constitution, including the principle of the separation of powers, may in themselves, ironically, be the actual threat to our democracy.
We must take this opportunity not only to reassure our people about the importance and place of our Constitution in our democracy, but also to implore all hon members not to create the impression that anyone amongst us is about to undermine the Constitution when the empirical evidence not only hails the ANC as its originator, as the African Claims could attest, but also as its architect, champion and defender.
Hon members, the legitimacy of our constitutional democracy rests on all of us across the three arms of the state, as well as on the shoulders of each and every citizen of this country. In our own respective ways, we must endeavour to ensure that the Constitution is a living document, one that requires all our people to put their shoulder to the wheel to ensure its survival and longevity well into the future.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and any act or conduct which is contrary to it is invalid. Importantly, we must all be mindful of the fact that the Constitution not only enshrines rights of citizens, but that concomitant with these rights are duties that must be observed by all. It is therefore fundamental that while the Constitution enshrines the right of assembly, demonstration, picket and petition, this right must be exercised peacefully and unarmed as the President indicated in the state of the nation address. This Constitution does not sanction any protest that violates the freedom and security of another person, lead to injury or death of persons or damage to property, regardless of the reason for such protest action. It is therefore important that the state exercises its authority to ensure respect for the Constitution and the law.
The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security, cluster will leave no stone unturned in its endeavour to maintain peace and stability and to protect the rights of innocent citizens and private and public property. Measures are already underway that include the enhancement of the capacity of law enforcement agencies and ensuring an integrated approach to fighting crime and lawlessness. These measures will be unpacked in the next few weeks when the JCPS departments announce their policy statements and plans for the 2013-14 financial year.
Our government also has adopted a zero tolerance approach to corruption, which is threatening to erode the fruits of our hard-earned democracy. The reality is that corruption is a matter about which we must collectively embark to uproot as government, and we have taken various measures in this regard.
Before I conclude, let me address the incidents of rape and violence against women, which are reaching alarming proportions in our country. We are moving steadfastly to combat this barbaric conduct by merciless perpetrators who show no respect for the right of women to enjoy the freedom of their security. We have taken the conscious decision to re- establish sexual offences courts to complement the work of the Sexual Offences Unit in the police.
We are in discussions with the judiciary to ensure that sexual offences cases are placed on a prioritised roll, that we strengthen the case flow management system to ensure that the chain from investigation to trial stage is water tight. [Applause.] We are also considering measures to strengthen our legislative framework. These include aspects relating to bail, admission of evidence and sentencing of perpetrators of this heinous crime.
I have confidence in the President of the Republic. [Applause.] The ANC has confidence in the President of the Republic. [Applause.] The people of South Africa have confidence in the President of the Republic of South Africa. [Applause.]
This is evidenced by the overwhelming majority that our President and the ANC amassed during the 2009 elections in which the ANC got 1 million votes more than it did in the previous elections in 2004. [Applause.] Those who are barking from the sidelines are in denial and I would like to remind them of a stanza from Maya Angelou's poem and I quote:
You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise.
I thank you. [Applause.]