National General Council
Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma to the special sitting of the National Council of Provinces in Kwamhlanga, Mpumalanga Province
18 March 2005
Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP,
Honourable Members of the NCOP,
Honourable Chairperson of SALGA,
Mayors and Councillors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for inviting me to address this session of the National Council of Provinces taking place in this beautiful province of Mpumalanga .
I would like to commend the initiative of the NCOP in taking Parliament to the People by holding sessions in the provinces. In doing so you are truly giving content to the provisions of the Constitution, to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account.
I have said it before in this House that our system of government with national, provincial and local spheres – is the best. It might appear at times, cumbersome and difficult to run but the reality is that if you concentrate power in one point it can lead to a situation where people far from the centre feel left out and do not have their issues and concerns properly addressed. Democracy is time consuming, costly and difficult but it is the best way of governing.
The mobility of the NCOP indicates that our Parliament and government are serious about the development of a democracy that is founded on the principles of the participation of the people.
As government we are serious about ensuring that government leadership becomes accessible to the people. As elected representatives, NCOP members also need to be accessible to the public. Our unique democracy is therefore being consolidated daily, ensuring a wonderful legacy for future generations.
Our democracy is rooted in the traditions of our founding document – the Freedom Charter -which still remains relevant today almost 50 years after it was adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown on the 26 th June 1955 .
It is always important to recall that the Congress of the People was the first of its kind in the history of our country both in size and representivity as well as in content because it encapsulated the type of government and country the people wanted.
It was in this congress when the people said We the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people.
This statement signified the heart and soul and very being of what we were striving to achieve for our country.
When you interact with the people in this manner you are indeed proving once more that our country is a model of stable and prospering participatory democracy, where the people do indeed govern.
Honourable members, you have had a week of fruitful, enlightening and indeed helpful deliberations, which are going to assist us to improve the delivery of our programmes to the people.
You have considered key topics that directly affect the lives of our people such as poverty alleviation and job creation as well as the provision of water and trade and industrial zone development issues.
I particularly want to commend your examination of the implementability of recently passed local government legislation. It is vital that Parliament monitors and examines whether the laws that are passed are implemented successfully. There is no better place to do this than on the ground in one of the Provinces!
This process will sharpen our thinking and deepen our understanding of the peoples concerns and problems as members of Parliament.
In your provincial sittings you will have discovered many issues that require the urgent attention of government in each of the three spheres. I know that you will highlight these issues in your report on this visit and the debate you will conduct when you adopt the report.
What is however crucial is that you continue to monitor the progress being made in addressing the concerns raised so that the problems are solved and that you further intervene if it appears necessary.
Chairperson, when the President addressed the NCOP late last year in November, he focused on local government and mentioned challenges that affect local government. Chief among those was the lack of capacity in local government to deliver basic services to the people, even where resources are available.
The challenges that the President spoke about still remain with us today. As he also indicated in his State of the Nation address that one of the major challenges in our country is that of capacity in government, which impacts on the pace of government delivery.
We await the report to Cabinet due in May, by the Forum of SA Directors-General (FOSAD) on the review of the functioning of the government system as a whole, and proposals particularly on the capacity, skills and competence within the public service.
However, this does not mean that we can sit idle and wait for that report, where we see gaps in terms of capacity we have to address them now.
The issue of capacity confirms the fact that no matter how correct our policies and vision may be, if we do not have the proper personnel with the necessary skills to implement our policies, all our efforts will be futile.
It therefore becomes incumbent upon us to make sure that we deal with this matter as a key priority. We need to strengthen partnerships with other stakeholders in our society, like the institutions of higher learning, to check what role they can play in partnership with our government to resolve this matter of capacity building.
We have also realised the need to improve internal communication within the public service, to ensure the public servants understand the mission and vision as well as the programme of action of government.
Unless public servants understand the objectives and direction of this government, it will be difficult to achieve a customer-service ethos and people-oriented public service.
Our presence here today is an indication of the importance and high regard with which we hold the citizens of our country. We expect public servants to treat citizens in the same way – as the most important people in their day-to-day responsibilities.
Chairperson, this need to regard citizens as invaluable clients of public servants applies even more so at the local government level, to which people go for daily assistance.
I wish to emphasise that the NCOP has a unique role to play with regard to local government, particularly when the Provincial Executive needs to intervene in a particular municipality. In terms of the Constitution, such an intervention must be reported to the NCOP which also has the power to end the intervention by disapproving of it.
The NCOP also has the responsibility of reviewing the intervention regularly.
However, we need to ensure that such interventions do not become necessary. We can do this by assisting and strengthening local government before the problems reach a crisis point. It is imperative that we focus on building capacity especially in smaller municipalities to ensure that basic services such as water and electricity do reach the poorest of the poor.
We believe that the NCOP can play a critical role in monitoring service delivery in local government structures.
Chairperson, all provinces have opened their legislatures and what is running through all the State of the Province addresses by the Premiers is the commitment to boost provincial economies to ensure sustainable development, job creation and poverty eradication.
The Premiers are also in agreement about the need to strengthen close cooperation between local government and the provincial governments, as well as building capacity for local government to deliver.
These objectives need to be commended. At the same time the provinces need to ensure that they develop their capacity to monitor the programmes that they have adopted.
I must warn Premiers that Members of the NCOP will keep track of progress on all the programmes announced in the provincial action plans unveiled by the Premiers in the past few weeks. Your monitoring will ensure that provincial governments remain true to the wishes of citizens.
We are pleased with the progress made in the provinces, especially where backlogs were severe. One can mention the Eastern Cape where ensuring adequate health services has been a serious challenge.
In the current financial year, government has managed to build five new clinics and renovated 38 existing ones, while two clinics have been upgraded to health centres.
Forty-four clinics have been given the necessary equipment to ensure they function more effectively.
The province has indicated that the shortages of doctors and medicines in some clinics and hospitals needs urgent attention. The province will also continue with its programmes to ensure socio-economic development and better service delivery.
Mpumalanga has reviewed its Provincial Growth and Development Strategy and wants to ensure an alignment of development plans by provincial departments and local government structures.
Gauteng s five-year plan commits the provincial government to work tirelessly with the people of Gauteng to achieve the following objectives, to:
- Stimulate faster economic growth and drastically reduce unemployment
- Fight poverty and build secure and sustainable communities
- Develop healthy, appropriately skilled and productive people
- Deepen democracy and nation building and realise the constitutional rights of all the people and
- Build an effective and caring government.
North West has scored a number of achievements in the past year including successful interventions in municipalities. This has entailed strengthening institutional matters such as staff placements, performance management and financial management systems.
This is critical especially as we shift our focus to improving local government. The province intervened in the Mafikeng and Mamusa Municipalities , and continues to administer provincial interventions in the Maquassi, Kgetleng Municipalities and Lekwa-Teemane.
The province reports that the financial distress of Lekwa-Teemane has been addressed and the municipality operates in a positive balance. Equally, Mafikeng s cash flow has improved and the municipality is no longer on an overdraft.
Limpopo wants to profitably use its strategic location as the heartland of SADC and gateway to the rest of Africa , in addition to a focus on building infrastructure, ensuring sustainable economic development and to boost agriculture in order to capture even the SADC market.
I have also noticed, Chairperson, a determination by Limpopo to ensure that prominence is given to MORIA City and the annual ZCC pilgrimage, as it is done and happens with MECCA in Saudi Arabia and the Vatican City of Rome.
Western Cape has faced the challenge of healing past divisions and to build a Home for All.
The province also seeks to build human capital, particularly amongst our youth and accelerate economic growth.
Also important is the need to build social capital, also with an emphasis on youth, by intensifying the fight against crime and gang activity, and to arrest the proliferation of guns, domestic violence and sexual assault, high risk driving resulting in road accidents, alcohol and drug dependency.
KwaZulu-Natal is also focusing on healing and normalising the political relations in the province across political party lines and to achieve closure on the impact of past political violence. There is a focus on sustainable development including a plan to use agriculture as a first leverage for fighting poverty, especially in rural areas as well as building infrastructure to fast track economic development.
As part of redress, the province is also looking at creating a gender-representative administration, especially at senior management level.
All provinces are also expected to highlight the promotion of healthy lifestyles among all our people, and to improve public education around diseases such as HIV and AIDS, diabetes, and TB.
Our provincial governments are therefore geared up for a year of intensified activity. Chairperson I however want to emphasise that we need to always strive to ensure that the Provincial programmes build on and enhance the Programme of Action announced by the President in his State of the Nation Address.
We also cannot emphasise enough the need to focus energies on local government. We are convinced that this message has been heard and that we will see a difference in all the provinces.
Chairperson, colleagues, on Monday, the 21 st March we will be celebrating National Human Rights Day. Let us on this day honour the memory of those who laid down their lives fighting for freedom. We will on Monday unveil a monument to the seven young men who were killed mercilessly in Gugulethu in Cape Town in 1986.
We must on this day, while recalling the gross violation of human rights in Sharpeville, Langa, Soweto, Shobashobane and many other areas, also celebrate the road we have travelled in entrenching a human rights culture in our country, to ensure that never again would a state use its resources to kill its own people.
Once again, congratulations on bringing Parliament to the people of Mpumalanga . Together we can continue to lay the foundations for a prosperous, united, caring South Africa for all our diverse united people.
I thank you.