Hon Chairperson, hon Minister of Energy Ms Tina Joemat- Pettersson, hon Deputy Minister of Energy Ambassador Thembisile Majola, hon chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Energy Mr Fikile Majola, Deputy Ministers present, hon Members of Parliament, and invited guests, allow me to greet you.
On Friday, 18 July, the world, and South Africans in particular from all walks of life, celebrated Mandela Day. It was indeed a sombre moment for all of us to celebrate what Madiba stood for on the occasion of his first birthday anniversary since his departure. Mandela and his generation of cadres have left an indelible legacy of selflessness and commitment to the ideals of freedom for all, which we have to preserve and expand at all costs, so that each human being is able to attain his or her full potential without any hindrance.
It was Madiba's generation who proclaimed to the world that freedom in their lifetime was what they would fight for, and indeed they attained that objective. Equally so, they stated in our Reconstruction and Development Programme, RDP, which is a practical expression of the Freedom Charter, that we must all strive towards a better life for all our people. In that unequivocal statement of a better life for all, it was their strongest belief that indeed South Africa can become a better and just society by providing services and harnessing everyone's full potential without looking at his or her skin colour, gender, class, ethnicity, or geographic location.
Hon members, we are indeed proud that 20 years into our freedom and democracy our country, South Africa, is a much better place than it was before 1994. We can state boldly, without any fear of contradiction, that ours is a society under construction in pursuit of the ideals to which Madiba committed 67 years of his youth and adult life. Others of his generation had also committed years of their lives to these ideals.
As part of the ideal of a better life for all our people, the ANC-led government, since 1994, has implemented a massive electrification programme that has changed and is continuing to change the lives of our people for the better. Today, we have more households that are connected to the electricity grid, compared to what the apartheid government and its predecessors achieved.
As this House gathers to debate how to make South Africa a better place, fewer things rival the provision of energy to our people. This is something that was well understood by the apartheid regime. They knew that, like education, if you deprived a nation of electricity or energy, you deprived a nation of economic viability - deliberately setting back a nation, and setting up some for continuous privilege.
When the ANC-led government leaped forward to create a democratic South Africa, only 67% had electricity. On top of being deprived of their dignity on a daily basis, the majority of South Africans were deliberately plunged into darkness. Democracy has not only brought back the dignity of South Africans, but some have been literally pulled out of the dark. Hon members, in other words, electricity has become far more accessible now than it was before. [Applause.] Over 5,2 million households were connected to the grid between 1994 and 2010 alone.
Our work in this regard is not yet done. We need to continue providing electricity to our communities, efficiently and consistently. Some would respond and say that the only way we can do this is by privatising critical elements within Eskom. This is, of course, reliant on the capitalist principle that the market is the most efficient allocator of resources. This is the case with parties like the DA. The failure to understand that South Africa is a developmental state informs such asymmetrical suggestions. As the President of the ANC stated on 8 January:
The developmental state should maintain its strategic role in shaping the key sectors of the economy. This means that we need to strengthen the role of state-owned enterprises and agencies in advancing our overarching industrial policy and economic transformation objectives.
South Africans must be vigilant of the demagogues who, time and time again, claim to be paragons of perfection. Lest we forget, in 2011, the very same DA that the hon Maimane leads used the plight of poor people in the Western Cape. I'm not sure if hon Maimane will remember this, because he was then probably not part of the DA as yet. A television advertisement by the DA claimed that they had delivered electricity in Tambo Square informal settlement in Cape Town, only to find that it was "izinyoka" [snakes].
It was the party that abused a vulnerable poor community member, Ntombikayise Lugalo, to peddle lies amongst South Africans that the party had delivered electricity to her house. The ANC's head of campaigns and organisational development at the time, hon Fikile Mbalula, found that the area had not experienced much service delivery from the DA-led City of Cape Town since the party took over from the ANC in 2006.
Shockingly, he also found that the star of the DA's advert was paid with a food voucher, by a white man belonging to the DA, to heap praises on the DA for delivering electricity, in front of the camera, yet she still relied on candles and paraffin. The DA moved swiftly to provide an illegal electricity connection to Lugalo's shack. This is an illegal act that Eskom has often described as the work of "izinyoka" [snakes], which claims many innocent lives, particularly in informal settlements. Under the DA, poor people continue to be used as pawns for cosmetic effect. [Interjections.]
We want to see more cases like Thulamela Municipality in Vhembe, Limpopo. This municipality had an electricity backlog in approximately 27 000 households. The municipality, with the assistance of the Department of Energy, obtained R90 million and completed 4 500 connections in 2012-13, whilst an amount of R70 million was obtained in 2013-14, which resulted in 4 000 connections. In addition, Eskom also completed approximately 6 500 connections at the time, resulting in 15 000 connections being done in two financial years. The overall backlog in the Thulamela Municipality is currently at 12 000, and at this rate we will be completing some of this during this financial year. This is one of the good stories that we should tell. Thank you. [Applause.]