Speech by Dr Mathole Motshekga during debate on the state of the Nation Address Debate

19 February 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

We meet today, heavy in the heart at the horrific and brutal loss of life of innocent babies, children and women through domestic and sexual violence. The scourge of this disease has taken hold in our communities and as much as we develop interventions, programmes and campaigns to stem this tide, we can all agree that the roots of this violence and the notion that life is cheap, can be traced all the way back to our dark and unjust past.

The evolution of our society has many lessons to teach. Institutional racism and discrimination involved the rationing of resources and power to ensure and achieve social exclusion through formally legitimated state policies. The dispossession of black people from their land took place over many years in our early history and largely through conquest. But the systematic land dispossession by the state came into effect after 1913, when 13% of the land area of South Africa were given as reserves for the Africans and excluded them from the rest of the country, which was made available to the white minority population.

The 1913 Land Act was instituted to ensure that more land was available to white farmers, to impoverish and enslave black people through dispossession and make them dependent on their white employers for survival. This led not only to a creation of a pool of cheap labour for the white farms and the mines but also to enforce racial segregation. By denying the black people the right to till their own land and access natural resources, there was the creation of cheap, black labour in the form of farmworkers, labourers, mine and domestic workers. The consequence of this political dispossession and economic exploitation of black people was in a way, deprivation of their humanity (Ubuthu/Botho). Such a deliberate act of dehumanisation by one group against another was the most inhuman and the worst of its kind to be instituted against human beings. The teachings of white superiority and black inferiority doctrines and the creation of race as a mechanism for violence led to the nurturing of violent- and crime-hardened individuals who indulged in violence as an extreme sport or at the slightest provocation. Sociologists believe that this led to the development of retributive reactive attitudes among all population groups. And thus, the results of the dehumanization process endangered everyone in South Africa.

I refer to this dehumanization process because it pervaded and still pervades every facet of our lives. The denial of access to markets, infrastructure and education to those categorised as black was apartheid`s worst contribution, but especially, the denial of quality education.

Under your leadership, Hon President, we have a government which has steadfastly resolved to address and redress the basic inequalities inherited from a past ridden with racially discriminatory laws and practices, decades of entrenched inequalities and separate development. The five priorities you identified: economic growth and job creation, fighting crime and corruption, education, health and rural development and land reform are regarded by the ANC as key to transforming our socio-economic inequities.

To restructure our society and focussing on the future you introduced, the National Development Plan, a broad strategic framework which sets out a coherent and holistic approach to uniting South Africa around a common programme. As articulated in the Plan, "to build a socially cohesive society, South Africa needs to reduce poverty and inequality by broadening opportunity and employment through economic inclusion, education and skills, and specific redress measures; promote mutual respect and inclusiveness by acting on the constitutional imperative that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, and that all are equal before the law; and deepen appreciation of citizens` responsibilities aIn so doing, the National Development Plan will draw on the energies of all our people, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, enhance the capacity of the state, and promote leadership and partnerships throughout society.

The dehumanisation of individuals through sub-standard education is a legacy issue. Living under institutionalised oppression, for many of us, our humanity was taken away, we were dehumanised. Hon. President you prioritised education, believing that education is an instrument of liberation and is essential for our development as a nation. Through education and social change, we become re-humanized and we can reclaim our dignity, our voices, and our humanity.

Hon President, your Nation Building and development Strategy finds support in renowned political thinkers. It was Ernesto Che Guevara who stated that "Education is the property of no one; it belongs to the people as a whole. And if education is not given to the people, they will have to take it." Our icon, Nelson Mandela equally believed that education was liberation and his famous words: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" is a mantra worth repeating. Under your leadership, Hon President, we can be proud of how far we have come and how much we have achieved.

The ANC supports your resolve to use education to empower society as a whole, to change our mindsets and, most importantly, we support your resolve to make education the base of every development – social, political, economic and industrial, to enhance social justice and to eliminate ignorance and all form of religious, cultural and political intolerance. The ANC is fully conscious of obstacles to delivery that your administration faces but we are satisfied with your ability to overcome these.

We have not escaped unscathed by the global recession. Unemployment, poverty and inequality threaten to derail our national democratic revolution. Your administration has identified targeted outputs of job creation; youth development and growing the economy and developed clear proposals on the potential of all sectors of the economy to generate substantial jobs, empowerment of the youth and effective monitoring of all the targets that have been set. Your infrastructure roll-out as well, would provide means to create jobs and build the economy.

In focussing on the future, re-emphasising that this is a government that looks forward, the country`s National Development Plan which aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 must be embraced by all.

In support of your Nation Building and Socio-economic Development plan the ANC will ensure that we stop the oversight stampede by co-ordinating and integrating oversight programmes of all three spheres of government as well as between the NA and NCOP. We shall ensure that your Programme of Action, Hon President, is taken to and co-owned by our people.

As public representatives we can unashamedly tell South Africa, Africa and the world that you have a vision, a plan, the willingness and ability to deliver on your plan. The ball is in our court as public representatives to support you and your administration. We have full confidence in you.

In support of your administration Parliament and its representatives will move beyond the norm of merely accepting reports of the executive, briefings by various departments, rubber stamping the budgets of departments and entities, we shall move beyond merely accepting the legislative proposals by the Executive and initiate critical legislation. Our constituency offices offer a closer view of the trials and tribulations affecting our people. Engaging with the youth, listening to the aged, supporting the disabled and assisting the unemployed men and women in our communities allows us to open lines of communication, and offers us an opportunity to know where the people are, what they aspire to, and to respond to them faster and with consistency. When we visit pohospital official who is asleep instead of offering a key service, when we visit a school and find the teacher assaulting a learner or teachers who are absent for days instead of teaching, when we catch a corrupt government official accepting a bribe for services they should be rendering as part of their job, when we see young girls being sexually harassed by men on the street, we will not turn away and fold our arms. We will rise to these challenges and know that when we do so, we are building this country brick by brick.

More recently, Parliament has been media fodder for the manner in which we seem to have abdicated our responsibilities to the courts. The opportunistic use of the courts by the opposition to score political goals has tarnished the image of this great institution. To effectively represent citizens, members of parliament must carry out their legislative and oversight roles in a way that is demonstrably in the public interest and do so in a way that reflects the ethical standards of their community and their standing as leaders in such communities.

The ANC has a proud tradition of consultation, engagement, contestation and consensus-seeking. The Freedom Charter stands as a testimony to those methods. We utilised those same significant methods in our Constitution-making process, our Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the recent National Social Cohesion and Nation Building Summit, held at Kliptown in July last year. We believe in these methods, because we believe fundamentally in the principles of the Freedom Charter and our Constitution and that this country belongs to all who live in it. We would therefore like to urge opposition parties to utilise these methods of engagement rather than the expediency of the courts.

Hon President, our people are responding to and supporting your Nation Building and Social Cohesion Project. The ANC received a delegation of 8 members of the Afrikanerbond led by Mr Pieter Vorster who told us that they are fully behind your vision and Development Plan and wish to be partners with both parliament and government in implementing it. The National Interfaith Council of South Africa (NICSA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with government, through Cogta, to support government`s nation building initiatives and fight against the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

We wish to thank Minister Richard Baloyi for spearheading this partnership. To ensure that the achievements of government and NICSA reach the people NICSA and the SABC have concluded a Memorandum of Understanding. We wish to thank Prof Ben Ngubane, Chairperson of the SABC Board and Mr Hlaudi Motsoening, Chief Operating Officer, for putting the public broadcaster at the service of the people.

Parliament, and all legislatures, will assume the responsibility for the promotion of democratic values and consolidate Peoples` Power for social and economic development. This is not a party-political responsibility; it belongs to all political formations and civil society organisations.

Hon. President, this annual parliamentary debate is called upon to afford diverse constituencies, who are represented in this august institution by various political formations, a platform to contribute meaningfully to the important reflections you made on the state of our Republic on Thursday. This exercise is very critical as it is at the heart of our representative and participatory democracy, which makes this Parliament an institution of the people, not an institution of the few leaders who represents their jackets.

However, Hon. President, the large section of the views that are going to be expressed in this important national debate will not be a reflection of the aspirations of the diverse constituencies who voted some of the political parties on my left in this institution. Instead, what we will hear during this debate today and tomorrow will mostly be the views of the Democratic Alliance.

This is because, except should be commended for staying true to their principles and visions, the rest have surrendered their independence to their new political master in the form of the Democratic Alliance. Following the State of the Nation Address on Thursday, these parties were summoned by the Leader of the Official Opposition to a hastily convened to what was euphemistically called ‘coordinated strategy for SONA debate`, while in fact what they were called for was to obtain the marching orders and to later escort Hon Mazibuko to a media briefing.

We are aware of the increasing difficulties confronting these parties, particularly the principal challenge of their dwindling appeal to the electorate. However, by selling their soul and surrendering their autonomy to the DA means they can no longer claim to represent the views and aspirations of the constituencies they represent in this institution. They can no longer claim to enjoy freedom of thought and freedom of opinion, as their political views on parliamentary matters must now be sanctioned first by the Democratic Alliance. They can no longer claim to advance their respective political policies or resolutions, as their mandate now is to advocate the policy decisions of the DA`s Federal Council.

It is an antithesis of a multiparty democracy system, which provides for diverse and multiplicity of political views and interests, to have the throng of political leaders from diverse ideological persuasions dancing to a tune of the neo liberal and conservative agenda of their political master. Surely the constituencies of these parties did not elect these leaders into Parliament to serve the DA, to seek DA`s permission before making statements on matters of national importance, and to advance the political fortunes of the DA.

Hon. President, I am raising this curious development precisely because it signifies the dearth of the democratic traditions of multiparty engagements, which this Parliament represents.

But what also means is that, with the exception of the few parties that have elected to guard their political independence, what we will be hearing in this debate are the views of the DA, dressed in different party colours. These views would be dressed in different suits and faces on this podium, but we know that they were cooked in a Blue pot. Therefore Hon. President, when you hear constant similarity of views and thoughts amongst these political parties during this debate, it is not because there is a convergence of thought on your reflections on the state of our nation, it is because they will also be singing from the same hymn sheet of their political Master.

Be that as it may, Hon President, I envisage your job of responding to these views being much easier than before, given that there will now be fewer parties to respond to.

Last, but not least, we wish to salute the founders of the Organization of African Unity and join the peoples and nations of Africa in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the OAU and acknowledge the great contribution it made to our liberation. We shall also not rest until the people of Palestine, the Saudi republic achieve their right to self-determination and independence.