Address to the Joint Sitting of Parliament On the Occasion of the State of the Nation Address Debate 16th February 2021 Delivered by Cde Buti Manamela

Hon President and Deputy President

Hon Members of Parliament

South Africans

Humorist, writer and self declared genius, Oscar Wilde once wrote that “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”. 

Wilde’s injunction speaks of the nature of the debate on the state of our nation, and some of the responses the leaders of the different opposition parties made in its response even outside of this house.

There is no denying that we are faced with some of the most difficult challenges this country has ever seen since the formal ending of apartheid.

We’ve lost two million jobs in a short space of time.

We are losing lives because of Covid19 at an alarming rate and given the challenges faced by our healthcare system, we are working to change things for the better.

Our criminal justice system is hard at work to expose and prosecute corrupt individuals in government and their collaborators in the private sector.

Women live in constant fear of being raped and killed.

Our economy is probably at its worst.

To repeat all of these surmountable difficulties that define the temporary gutter that we find ourselves in makes none of the opposition parties that spoke here, the heroes of the debate.

The real test of leadership, is whether we can see the stars that helps us navigate out of this gutter.

It’s a call for true leadership that will give hope where despair reigns.

True leaders do not murmur the plight of the people without presenting workable solutions to the state of our nation.

One of the people who is looking at the stars is 30 year old Hlayisani Sono from Valdezia in Limpopo.

She used to dream of being a social worker but could not find funds to further her studies.

She lost her parents when she was a child.

But she made it through the gutter when she finally became an artisan and registered her own company, Mhani builders, and through it, she will build a staircase to reach for her stars.

There is a reason why she and millions of South Africans went out to vote for us to be here, because they see in us men and women whose preoccupation is not to further fracture our vulnerable nation, but to become the glue that binds us into eternal unity.

So to come here to this house and behave like a commoner with no responsibility to stabilize our nation, our economy and all the important factors that will build a new nation is a betrayal to the trust bestowed on you by the electorate. 

Your state of the nation, president, took place almost at the same time as Nelson Mandela was speaking here in Cape Town 31 years ago after his release from Victor Vester Prison.

It is a moment that defined the future of this country, and was followed by the negotiations and consultations with the people of this country on the kind of democracy this nation is building.

Nelson Mandela, together with the people of this country, fought for this democracy whilst others, including some in the EFF, were running around in their diapers without an inkling of the kind of precipice this country was finding itslef.

With the benefit of hindsignt, and flirting with the honeypot of populism, EFF leaders such as their former spokesperson, Hon Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, once again repeated the lie that Nelson Mandela was a sellout. 

The Honorable Ndlozi is oblivious of the kind of violence that engulfed our country and the thousands of black lives that were lost in our townships, including that of Chris Hani.

The negotiations process that this country found ourselves in as a way to usher in a new democracy was as a result of the need to end low intensity war unleashed by forces Hon Ndlozi cannot even comprehend.

But at every moment of those negotiations, the ANC and its alliance partners were determined to take the people along and put them at the centre of a future, peaceful and prosperous South Africa.

Yes, negotiations did not fully yield the desired outcomes, but that’s in their nature, especially if the enemy still held its gun to the heads of the leaders and the oppressed people of this country.

It was a collective effort, and one which challenged future generations to build on. If the EFF’s preoccuation is to out the ANC and single out Nelson Mandela as the culprit of the challenges we are faced with in this country, they do not speak for this or future generations whose determination is to look at the stars and build a better South Africa.

The Honorable John Steenhuisen, leader of the opposition, has become nothing but a howler of ANC inadequacies whilst applying the see no evil, hear no evil and defend the evil when it comes to those of his political party.

In his long winded endemic monotony of a speech, he mentions the ANC a whooping twelve times and his own political party only twice.

He speaks of accountability, and yet forget to make his own Premier here in the Western Cape to account for the rampant corruption and cadre deployment; neglect of the people of Khayelitsha or Mitchelle’s Plain in changing their lives for the better.

According to the Daily Maverick’s opinionist and GOOD Secretary General, the DA has appointed their former human resources director Penny Tainton and with no competence or qualifications, are paying her more than a million rand. What did Steenhuisen do? See no evil, hear no evil and defend the evil.

The same was the case with Former DA MP Vusumzi Magwebu who was connected to a job as Cape Town’s ombudsman. Or Allen Paulse, found guilty of financial misconduct amongst others and the municipality ordered to open criminal charges against him. What did Steenhuisen do? See no evil, hear no evil and defend the evil.

The Honourable Julius Malema is, once again, a changed man.

Renowned revolutionary and psychyiatrist Frantz Fanon would have defined your behaviour as a mild case of political cognitive dissonance.

On a good day, we are children of Mandela; and on any other day, Mandela is a sell out.

One moment you shout from the rooftop of ignorance “that the problem with this country is Thabo Mbeki” and claim that you were misled; and when thirst demands you rush as quickly as you can to meet with Mbeki.

Your transition from “kill for Zuma”, to “Kill Zuma” and then to swiftly move towards killing time and have tea with Zuma is nothing but a reflection of someone who is willing to change their ethics, morals, politics and allegiances more often that you would change your red overalls.

You accuse the president of not having a backbone, and yet you go around with a backbnone of malva pudding seeking for tea with anyone whom you would deem as essential to your political agenda.

What have we learnt today from your speech other than mhlonyane?

  • With an entire ochestra of learned fighters, only the EFF leader is allowed to hog the debate and elbow and bully each and everyone of his MP’s, including his deputy; to be the only one who speaks in this debate until he gets tired.
  • The EFF CIC has oncemore stuck to his strategy of maligning the person of the President and completely neglected engaging with the SONA, and on one or two occasion when he tried to, he was incoherent and made unsubstantiated claims he knows he has no obligation to prove.
  • The EFF leader paid absolutely no attention to what the President said, and is only preocupied with disagreeing with the person of the president.
  • Now that he has politically emasculated everyone of his opponents in the EFF, he is smelling new blood. Not in the ANC. Not this time around.

For the Honorable Rev Meshoe, who has been in this parliament much longer than even he can remember, to rush out huffing and puffing just after the SONA, boiling with the same bile he has been spewing since, to reduce the speech as an ensemble of words only offering hope shows how much longer he wants to stay in the gutter.

Since Mandela, and every other President thereafter, all that the Reverend Meshoe offered to the people of South Africa is nothing but rehashed vitriol just for his upkeep in this house.

A pantomime of wasteful and fruitless expenditure. 

How is it that you missed the practical interventions that the President spoke about right at the beginning of the speech, including R500 billion that went into the pockets of millions of South Africans; 18 million people receiving grant payments; R57 billion in wage support to more than 4,5 million workers; R1.3 billion for small businesses and R18.9billion for 13000 businesses.

This may not be five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish, or turning water into wine, Rev Meshoe; but these are practical interventions that moved the SONA beyond hope and touched millions of people to cope with the economic challenges imposed by COVID19.

The lack of depth, commitment to sinking to the lowest gutter, intellectual bankruptcy, inability to grasp the momemt and willingness to focus on the person and not the ideas and vision presented is in summary what the opposition parties presented here today, with a very few exceptions.

It is at this time, president, that lack of foresight and vision should be characterized as nothing but the preoccupation of the ruffians.

We’ve been told a thousand and one times that the people have lost hope and faith towards the ANC-led government.

But this is far from the truth. The true measure of confidence is not winning a Twitter poll that the EFF has become popular about, but defending all the 71 wards that the ANC contested and even won four more in last December’s local govermnment by-election, including regaining the City of Johannesburg.

This is because we offer hope, but also action for the people. And through our leadership, they see the stars.

Since 2019, president and honorable members, we have seen strides being made that many of the ANC speakers here spoke about, and even more in the education, training, scince and innovation spaces.

  • The inrease in the number of students enrolling in TVET colleges and Universities to well over two million in line with the NDP2020 targets;
  • Graduating close to 20 000 artisans a year, therefore producing the needed skills for the economy;
  • Close to 220 000 graduates from our universities in 2019
  • This year, we will fund more students through the NSFAS bursaries despite some of the challenges they are faced with, and we are working hard to to ensure that it becomes a smooth machine to service the many students who otherwise would not have had a chance to study at higher education institutions;
  • Our institutions of higher learning were bereft with protest just on the day you were sworn in as President, and most if not all are becoming more and more stable;
  • We have ensured that no student is left behind during the COVID19 pandemic by introducing remote learning strategies and may even see better results for the 2020 academic year;
  • We have reprioritised R68 million towards Research and Development on COVID19, specifically aimed at diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, surveillance and genomic epidemology which helped discover the new COVID19 variant;
  • The Student Housing Infrastructure Project have been bolstered with funds so that we are able to cover ground of the needed 300 000 beds by 2030;
  • All our universities and TVET colleges are concluding or have concluded their 2020 academic year and are ready to resume 2021 with lessons learnt last year during lockdown;
  • We are leaving no stone unturned to esnure that there is stability, learning and teaching and better results from all our higher education and training. This is a government at work, that not only gives hope, but accompanies it with action.

The South African story for the majority will always be about pain where there was never joy, Honourable Mulder.

It has veen about poverty where there was never plenty.

About unemployment where there were never jobs.

About an economy that’s marred with inequality where there was never an intention for inclusivity.

These are the scars we carried from our previous generations.

The blemishes on this rainbow nation.

But it is not a story this government and this ANC want to hold on to and let it define our future.

Thus, the sleepless nights we spend, despite our shortfalls, are because we are daily striving to change that narrative.

To build on the foundations laid by Nelson Mandela and those giants who were prepared to die for the liberation of our country, and not be excited like little kids by shooting a gun under peaceful conditions in a rally.

Yes, hope alone is not enough to bring food to the table of the hungry, jobs to those who want to work, equality to those who have been excluded, or ultimate freedom and unity in a country ravaged by an ugly past.

Thus, this state of the nation address cannot be defined by hope alone, but by evidence of a government at work and in action.

For the millions of South Africans who lived under the shadow of violence, who saw their loved one’s gunned down by the apartheid system, who experienced violence without provoking the system, who had no hope and future, who had no houses, water and electricity, who had no access to education and health, who had to scramble for the crumbs that fell off the table laid exclusively for whites by their government, for those people, hope matters.

And I can hear their exasperating voices and chants: The opposition is dead, the opposition has no solutions, long live the spirit of the dead opposition.

Unlike them, we are not in the business of building beautiful coffins, we are in the business of keeping South Africans alive, and this nation prospering.

Their currency as illustrated today and on many other occasions is to exaggerate the extent of our problems and underestimate our ability to overcome them.

Yes, we are all in the gutter, but you, President, like many South Africans, are looking at the stars. They are what brings hope, but also action, for us to navigate out of this mess.

Ultimately, we shall overcome. Victory is certain. The struggle continues.

Thank you