Speech by the Hon. Jackson Mthembu, MP, Minister in the Presidency; on the Occasion of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) Debate; National Assembly, Parliament of the Republic of South Africa; Cape Town
18 February 2020
Thank you, Madam Speaker:
His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa
Deputy President of the Republic, the Hon. David Mabuza
Honourable Chair of the NCOP
Esteemed Members of Parliament
Esteemed Premiers and all representatives of SALGA
Distinguished Guests in the Gallery
Fellow South Africans,
Allow me to begin this address by paying homage to the recently departed South African music icon, uBaba uProf Joseph Shabalala. He was the founder and lead singer of the legendary isicathamiya group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, which took traditional music to world stage and brought honour and pride to our nation. As we convey our deepest condolences to his family, friends and music lovers, we say your loss is not yours alone.
It is also fitting that uBab' uShabalala passed away on 11 February 2020, the day that marked exactly 30 years since the founding President of the democratic South Africa, uTata uNelson Mandela, walked out of Victor Verster Prison after being incarcerated there and on Robben Island for 27 years. These icons have now been eternally joined to the hip by this historic moment.
Honourable Chair of this Joint Session,
Every South African, including those who claim ignorance, know for a fact that Apartheid was a crime against humanity. It was our lived reality. Trevor Noah puts it succinctly in the title of his book – Born A Crime. Therefore, the question of whether or not Apartheid was a crime against humanity should not even arise to begin with.
Whilst the majority of South Africans have looked to us to unpack Government's plans to create a better life for all, we have allowed opportunistic elements to derail and defocus us.
The theatrics we witnessed here last week from the EFF will not transform society, will not create jobs, and will not grow our economy. Instead of engaging in a battle of ideas, we were subjected to spurious points of order, childish antics and unruly behaviour.
We agree with Father Michael Lapsley in his characterisation of the EFF's behaviour in this house as anti-democratic, totally unacceptable and actually reprehensible. Their uncouth and disrespectful behaviour demonstrates the disdain they have for this august house and the people of South Africa.
You are the ONE AND ONLY Commander in Chief in this country. It is you, in terms of our Constitution, who decides when to appoint or dismiss Ministers in your Cabinet. Those who are seized by delusions of grandeur, fashion themselves as commanders in chief and instruct the Head of State to fire a Minister need to have the state of their heads examined.
Late last year, President Ramaphosa launched the 25 Year Review Report, which illustrates quite clearly that despite a number of setbacks, South Africa is a better place to live in than it was before 1994.
One of the key findings of the 25 Year Review is that while a lot has been done to transform the economy, wealth distribution is skewed, as a result the gap between the rich and the poor remains huge. Unemployment is high due to the grossly imbalanced structure of our economy and this is exacerbated by the skills mismatch that is so prevalent in our country.
As one of the measures to address our prevailing economic challenges, Mr President, when you first came into office in 2018, you set a very ambitious target of attracting R.1.2 trillion in investments in South Africa over a period of five years.
We have in the first two years of our investment drive, raised a total of R664 billion in investment commitments, which is more than half of our five-year target of R1.2 trillion.
Mr President, in your address during SONA 2019, you announced that government will be setting up an Infrastructure Fund to address the infrastructure backlogs we are faced with.
To this end, Government has set aside R100 billion over a decade to co-finance programmes and projects that blend public and private resources, with R10 billion in the baseline for the next three years. To date, the implementation unit for the Infrastructure Fund has identified possible projects and programmes amounting to more than R500 billion.
President, you further committed to look at the National Macro Organisation of Government (NMOG) with a view of making Government more effective and efficient in removing duplication across government departments.
In May 2019, you announced a reconfigured Cabinet from 36 to 28 Ministers, appointing for the first time in South African history, a Cabinet which comprised of 50 percent women. This progressive step made South Africa join a list of 10 other countries in the world who have a gender-balanced Cabinet.
Our Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF 2019 -2024) which was adopted by Cabinet last year is built on the fundamental pillar of rebuilding and restoring public confidence in the State and Government's ability to efficiently deliver quality services as informed by the National Development Plan.
We have therefore introduced the District Development Model to ensure that all spheres of government cherish a common vision and are guided by the same framework, integrated and overarching plan.
I am recounting all of the above, not only to boast about the achievements of our ANC led Government over the past year, but also to share our vision for the future growth of this country. This vision was clearly articulated by President Ramaphosa in this House last Thursday.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate President Cyril Ramaphosa on delivering what was nothing short of an inspiring State of the Nation Address. Many South Africans have characterised the 2020 SONA as a pointed and honest appraisal of Government's work with clear time bound targets.
The speech focused on the Seven Apex Priorities of Government addressing urgent issues facing the nation such as the energy crisis, youth unemployment, growing the economy and building a capable state.
We welcome Government's plan to ensure that Eskom works to restore its operational capabilities, while implementing measures that will fundamentally change the trajectory of energy generation in our country such as putting in place measures to enable municipalities in good financial standing to procure their own power from independent power producers.
The President rightfully observed that “The solution to the crisis of youth unemployment must be two-pronged – we must create opportunities for youth employment and self-employment." He further presented a compressive plan to be executed through the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention.
In an effort to create a larger market for small businesses, we welcome the plan to designate 1,000 locally produced products that must be procured from SMMEs.
Mr President, we know that you wanted to sign Performance Agreements with Members of the Executive and Directors-General last October already, however due to the delay in concluding the MTSF and as well as the Cabinet Lekgotla which was only held at the end of January this year – you could not. We are happy to announce that the Performance Agreements are now ready to be signed as from next week. These will ensure a solid framework for accountability and management.
Through the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, we will be monitoring and evaluating the effective implementation of all SONA commitments through an efficient institutional architecture. The DPME will also coordinate the Presidential Assessments of both the institutional performance of Government departments as well the Executive Authority on a bi-annual basis. This will provide the President a line of sight of the performance of Government in the implementation of the MTSF and SONA Commitments as informed by the Seven Priorities of Government.
We must also congratulate President Cyril Ramaphosa on his appointment as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU). Mr President, this appointment is the affirmation that the peoples of Africa – from Cape to Cairo — have confidence in your capable leadership and that of our country.
We will be giving you support in the six priority areas you will be pursuing during your AU chairship, which include among others driving the implementation of the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative (PICI) in support of the African Continental Free Trade Area. We reported to the 33rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa and our report was most welcomed.
In conclusion Honourable Chair of this Joint Sitting,
This SONA was inspiring, factual, clear and elaborated on what is to be done differently, faster and effectively in the year ahead.
Having learned from what our ANC led government has done since 1994, I can say without a shadow of doubt that the Sixth Administration brings a new dawn, renewed hope and prosperity to our nation. The ANC supports President Cyril Ramaphosa's brilliant State of the Nation Address.
I thank you.