Chair, I think you were lucky: Yesterday a stone would have been thrown at you. Some people came here demonstrating with stones that they were throwing in Johannesburg when they were marching to the Congress of SA Trade Unions, Cosatu, House.
Hon Chairperson, Minister, Deputy Minister, members, ladies and gentlemen, just a few weeks ago, on 27 April, as the people of this beautiful country we were celebrating 18 years of our hard-fought-for democracy. Since the demise of apartheid in 1994, we have witnessed our nation at work, dismantling apartheid social relations. We have seen the utmost determination of the ANC-led government working tirelessly to fight against poverty and inequalities. Our people have seen and experienced huge changes in their lives. We are truly a nation at work, united in our diversity and national quest to build a better life for all.
I am sure all of us in this House will agree that the masses of our people and our lives are better today, and we know for sure that tomorrow will be better than the dreaded years of apartheid social relations and discrimination.
We realise the immense challenges that we must still overcome. As the ANC government, we agree that a lot more still needs to be done and changed for the better. Our movement of the people, the ANC, has for years been about changing the lives of our people for the better, and we dare not for a second lose our focus. Instead, let us continue to work hard and strengthen social development even more, particularly education and health.
This point was emphasised even more by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan during his third Budget Speech this year when he said:
Education, health and social assistance will remain the largest categories of expenditure, sustaining and expanding the social wage over the Medium- Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, period ahead. Investment in people is at the centre of our growth and development strategy.
The Minister went on to say:
Social development is critical for sustaining the long-term viability not only of economic growth, but also of democracy itself. ... Social development does not simply involve quantitative advances but also incorporates critical normative elements.
On the one hand, it includes a focus on addressing problems of poverty, and expanding access to quality education, and health care and, on the other hand, it also involves addressing issues of social exclusion such as discrimination and lack of voice in social and economic processes.
What is at stake is quality of life with a sense of dignity ... "the ultimate goal of social development is to improve and enhance the quality of life of all people".
Today our focus is on women, children and people with disabilities. We are therefore called upon to take stock of or evaluate whether, as a government, we have been able to deliver in terms of improving and enhancing the quality of life of these most disadvantaged groups of our people. In doing so, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to be able to arrive at a conclusion that says: Yes, our government has covered a lot of ground, but a lot still needs to be done as these groups still suffer the most inequalities and discrimination in our society. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves about a critical issue, which is the creation of this Ministry.
If you read its background, it says: The creation of the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, announced on 9 May 2009, was a clear demonstration of government's commitment and political will to ensure that human rights, empowerment, equality and human dignity for women, children and people with disabilities are advanced, promoted, protected and developed.
But as we debate today, my biggest concerns are around, amongst other things, transport, education, health and access. On education, more empowerment programmes need to be developed. The process of skilling should also form part of these programmes, because I believe that education and the skilling of our women, children and people with disabilities will definitely go a long way in ensuring that indeed their dignity is restored as they will no longer be totally dependent on other people for their survival.
Most importantly, the whole question of accessibility of basic services should be prioritised and speeded up. It is indeed part of the Ministry's core function to make sure that various departments prioritise issues relating to our vulnerable people in our society. We are demonstrating our commitment and determination to ensure that women, children and people with disabilities enjoy the fruits of our freedom. It is for this reason that we support the budget of the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities. We know that this Ministry is a living symbol of our commitment to ensuring that women, children and people with disabilities also enjoy our freedom.
Chair, I must come back to this particular point. This is because unfortunately the Chair yesterday denied me the opportunity to do so. But I know that you will assist me in clarifying this particular issue. [Interjections.] [Laughter.] I said yesterday that some people want to build Europe in Africa. I say this precisely because when Europeans come to Africa - come to South Africa - they are called South Africans. When South Africans from the Eastern Cape go to the Western Cape, they are called refugees. [Interjections.] Now I want to remind them of the former leader of the "Deurmekaar [confused] Alliance", Tony Leon, who said there is no pure Jew in South Africa, and he went to Israel and married a Jew. That undermines our white people in this particular country. Thank you, Chair. [Applause.]