ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE JEFF RADEBE, MP, MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY FOR PLANNING, MONITORING AND EVALUATION; AT THE METHODIST CHURCH OF SOUTHERN AFRICA EASTERN CAPE REGIONAL SUMMIT; PALMETON HIGH SCHOOL, LUSIKISIKI
23 AUGUST 2017
The Presiding Bishop, Bishop Andile Mbete
Acting Bishop Nyembenya
Abefundisi abakhoyo apha phakathi kwethu namhlanje
Premier of the Eastern Cape, Cde Phumulo Masualle
Executive Mayor of Ngquza Hill Municipality, Cllr. Pat Mdingi
MEC for Social Development, Nancy Sihlwayi
MEC for Health, Dr Pumza Dyantyi
Traditional Leaders present here with us
Brothers and Sisters
It is my immense pleasure to address you on behalf of the government of South Africa, as we conclude this very important summit. It is truly inspiring to note that the Methodist Church remains deeply embedded in the people’s lives.
The role of the church in addressing social challenges cannot be overemphasised. Many of us would not be where we are today if it was not for the spiritual guidance of the church and its leaders. I was baptised and brought up in the Methodist church at the G-2 Section in KwaMashu, where my family played a prominent role. Umama wami, uEleanor Radebe — uMamChonco, wayeliGosa laseWesile. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of being part of the Young Men’s Convention in Port Elizabeth. Reconnecting with my family church again today fills me with a sense of spiritual revival.
It is clear from the discussions that ensued today that our country faces a plethora of social, economic, political and moral challenges that can only be mitigated through collective efforts. The thematic focus of this summit grapples with very complex and sensitive social and cultural issues that affect all sectors of society. In our quest for solutions to the challenges that face our society, we must seek guidance from the Lord.
2. THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN SOCIETY
It is truly inspiring to note that the Methodist church associates itself with the challenges faced by society at large. It is the duty of the Christian community to show leadership in society and address some of the challenges that confront our people. The church must serve as the guiding light and moral compass in our quest for salvation. We need spiritual guidance because when we put trust in our Mighty God all things are possible. If we turn to Psalm 9 verse 10, King David says:
“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
King David had so much faith in God that in everything he did he put Him first. He knew that his triumph over Goliath was not his — it was the power of God. Yiloo nto esithi kwiNdumiso 23, “Uyehova ngumalusi wam, andisweli lutho.” This is the trust in the Lord that kept many of us going during the liberation struggle. There were moments of despair, when it seemed impossible, but our hopes were kept alive by the blood of Jesus. The struggle was a long and arduous journey, but with the power of the Lord, we knew we shall prevail.
The involvement of the church in human conundrums is the fulfilment of its purpose of upholding righteousness amongst the human race. It is against this backdrop that the church has always been at the forefront of human struggles especially in our liberation struggle. Religious leaders occupied the frontline trenches alongside other political activists in our fight against apartheid in South Africa.
The African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party of which I am a proud member, was itself established on strong religious grounds. It was through the support and guidance of traditional and religious leaders that the oppressed peoples of our country formed the African National Congress (ANC). The inaugural conference of the ANC in 1912 was opened with the hymn, Lizalis’Idinga lakho (fulfil your promise), written by Rev Tiyo Soga, the son of the Eastern Cape and the first black South African to be ordained as a priest.
It was also on the occasion of the formation of the ANC that Rev. Elias John Mqoboli, a Methodist priest, was appointed as the Chaplain-in-Chief of the ANC. The man fondly called uMqoboli waseNqabarha, was one of the most courageous religious leaders who worked tirelessly to mobilise support for the ANC.
3. CONFRONTING CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES
In the same way that religious leaders gave hope to our people in the face of adversity, when the apartheid regime was at its most ruthless, they can help us in confronting contemporary challenges that bedevil the contemporary society.
The enemy that we are facing today is no longer identified by colour or ideology; we no longer have the oppressor and the oppressed dichotomies; our struggle is not defined by hegemony and counter-hegemony; the enemy is within us. The challenges that confront us are borne out of the dire socio-economic conditions to which many of our people are subjected.
As the government, we continue to do our level best to improve the living conditions of the people of South Africa since 1994. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of our freedom and democracy in 2014, government commissioned a national report for the twenty years of freedom. This report proved beyond reasonable doubt that South Africa is a better place to live in compared to what it was before 1994.
Since the ANC assumed the reigns of power, access to housing and basic services has improved through the construction of four million new houses since 1994, increasing connections to electricity to 95% of the households and piped water to 85% of households. The challenge now is for us to reduce income inequality so as to minimise dependence on social grants and free basic infrastructure.
Notwithstanding the progress we have made, there are a number of areas that are significantly lacking. The challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality remain an albatross around our necks. We have introduced a number of intervention strategies like the Radical Socio-Economic Transformation programme, which serves as the vehicle to expedite fundamental change in South Africa. Radical Socio-Economic Transformation is the pillar of the National Development Plan (NDP) and the catalyst for the change that we all desire.
The challenges that we face as a society are vast and require an integrated approach. This summit has demonstrated quite clearly that the social dynamics that threaten to reverse the gains of our democratic society demand all hands to be on deck. I must also admit that some of the issues raised here are astounding and totally unbelievable. Hearing that practices such as cannibalism are still happening gave me shivers down my spine.
Of course, the perpetrators of some of these heinous crimes have a very sophisticated method of operating. The most unfortunate thing is that legitimate customary practises like ukuthwala, which in their original cultural context were done with very noble intentions, have been misused and abused in recent times. I must make it abundantly clear that the custom of ukuthwala has got nothing to do with kidnapping and rape.
Our constitution recognises customary law and is committed to preserving our cultural identity. The role of traditional leaders is paramount in the preservation of our identity and customs, and it is for this reason that government established the Department of Traditional Affairs. Traditional leadership should fight against the perpetration of violence against women disguised as custom.
We all know how crucial education is in building a progressive and more prosperous society. We want to bring up a generation of young people that is self-sufficient and independent. Abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage deprives them of their right to education. It is even worse when they are forcefully married to old men who are widowed. As the society, we must safeguard the future of our children.
Culture like all good things, is susceptible to abuse by charlatans with the intent of achieving ulterior motives. As someone who emerged as a political figure when Black Consciousness was the mantra of the day, I remain very proud of my identity and my culture. It is regrettable that some would commit crimes and hide behind the veil of culture.
Much as we believe that our cultures should be preserved, we should also bear in mind that culture is not static. It evolves with time. We must keep certain customs for as long as they are in good service of humanity. Our constitution is very clear that while it recognises our rights to religion, belief and opinion, such rights should not infringe the basic rights of others. Chapter Two of the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, partly reads as follows:
“Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with provision of the Bill of Rights.”
The Bill of Rights is the cornerstone of our democracy and affirms the values of human dignity, equality and freedom. I have on previous occasions spoken quite extensively about the importance of creating strong synergies between government and the church. We need to bring the various stakeholders together to collectively find solutions to our challenges as the nation.
4. ESTABLISHING A SOCIAL COMPACT
Our democratic society was established with the values of social justice and human rights as some of its fundamental pillars. Our constitution sets out the rights and duties of the citizens and defines the structure and responsibilities of our government.
In my role as the Minister in the Presidency, I am duty-bound to plan and monitor the performance of government programmes and evaluate their impact on ordinary citizens. Over the past few months, I had discussions with different stakeholders including business, academia, traditional authorities and the religious sectors.
Some of the recurring concerns in all these engagements include poverty, unemployment, crime and the scourge of corruption in our society. These are some of the issues that we as government identified and inhibiting factors to development. We also know that many of these issues are intertwined and have got ripple effects. There is a clear connection between unemployment, for instance, and the escalating levels of crime.
In my portfolio, I have also been entrusted with the responsibility of serving as the custodian for the National Development Plan (NDP). Government in consultation with the various stakeholders across the realm of society, developed the National Development Plan (NDP) as a blue print for the creation of a more prosperous South Africa by 2030. Employment creation, alongside the eradication of abject poverty and reduction of gross inequalities are some of the core priorities of the NDP.
It is indeed regrettable that while we are making remarkable headways in some areas, we have suffered devastating setbacks in our growth strategies. Yesterday we heard from the latest Statistics South Africa report that the number of people living below the poverty line is increasing.
As government, we take cognisance of the fact that young people bear the brunt of unemployment in South Africa. The latest figures indicate that youth unemployment increased by 1.6% to make a total of 38.6% nationally.
Government, business and civil society organisations should work together to combat poverty and unemployment. They should provide skills development opportunities through training, internships and mentorship for young graduates and budding entrepreneurs. This is how we can establish a solid foundation for rapid and inclusive economic growth in our country.
We must expose the youth to as wide a variety of technological innovations as possible. It is our local innovators and entrepreneurs who will ultimately create the millions of jobs that we need to grow in order to have an inclusive economy.
My department will soon be launching a programme for the NDP brand youth ambassadors, wherein some of the most successful young entrepreneurs will play an active role in society to encourage and inspire other youth to venture into various areas of business. The NDP brand ambassador programme is an endeavour aimed at providing a platform for young people to share ideas that will take South Africa forward. This is a very important venture to ensure that youth are self-sufficient.
After listening to the discussions today, I am encouraged by the spirit of unity in this summit. While we may have differing opinions about how to tackle the challenges that we face, I believe that as a matter of principle we agree on the nature of common problems that bedevil us. I want to encourage all stakeholders to continue with engagements and collectively find amicable solutions.
We must promote justice and equality in our society. If Christians are complicit to socio-economic injustices, they become accomplices in the reinforcement of an unjust society. We must reinvigorate the spirit of activism in the religious sector. The same way the church and religious leaders played a fundamental role in the struggle for freedom, the church has a crucial role to play in shaping the moral fibre of our country.
The challenges that we face as the nation are not insurmountable. I am once again making a clarion call for unity and corporation among the key stakeholders in society. We need government to work together with the church, traditional leaders, business and labour, in order to expedite fundamental change in our society. Where there is unity, victory is certain.
I thank you!