Speech By The Honourable Mathole Motshekga, Chief Whip Of The Majority Party During The Occasion Of The Debate Of The State Of The Nation Address

15 February 2010

Mr Speaker
Hon President and Deputy President
Hon members of this House

As the ruling party the ANC once again wishes to join the masses of our people in thanking President Jacob Zuma for calling the joint sitting of Parliament on the evening of 11 February 2010 to deliver his state of the nation address.

The timing on the State of the Nation Address is particularly important because it coincided with the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the release of our icon, Seaparankwe Nelson Mandela, from prison.

The delivery of this important address in the evening, when workers and students were at home, was an affirmation of the activist character of the fourth democratic Parliament. The ANC and the masses which it represents believe that the release of Nelson Mandela will remain a watershed moment worthy of auspicious celebrations.

We therefore wish to thank the President for dedicating the 2010 Mandela Moment leaders to Nelson Mandela and all sung and unsung heroes and heroines of our struggle for liberation. Our gratitude also goes to the ANC, the National Interfaith Leaders Council, and the Mandela Moment leaders, for organising and participating in the re-enactment of the release of Nelson Mandela.

For some days before the State of the Nation Address, there was a debate as to who had brought about the release of Nelson Mandela. Some attributed it to Mr F W de Klerk, while others credited it to the exiled leadership of the ANC. The president has cleared the confusion away and laid the matter to rest.

However, the debate has offered us an opportunity to rewrite the history of our country, not only for posterity, but also to reflect on the struggle between humanity and inhumanity and the triumph of humanity and its inherent values of equality, freedom and justice for all.

In his address to the first Pan-Africanist conference in 1900, W E B du Bois foretold that the colour bar would be the greatest problem of the twentieth century.

Hardly two years thereafter, in 1902, the Boers and the Britons concluded the Treaty of Vereeniging, which reconciled these two imperialistic, colonial and settler communities on the basis of social exclusion of the black majority. This social and political exclusion was consolidated and constitutionalised through the South Africa Act of 1909, which created the white supremacist Union of South Africa. The President correctly observed that this exclusion of black people from the apartheid union was one of the chief reasons for the formation of the ANC in 1912.

The centenary of the establishment of the Union of South Africa presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the struggle between humanity and inhumanity and celebrate the victory of humanity and its inherent values of equality, freedom and democracy, over a period of 100 years. The struggle started with the wars of resistance which were waged by the likes of Inkosi Bhambatha.

In 1892, Mangena Mokoni, founder of the Ethiopian Church of South Africa, called on the African people to unite and co-operate to defend themselves against settler communities who were forcibly depriving them of their land and natural resources.

Recently, President Jacob Zuma rightfully bestowed the Order of Mapungubwe on Mokoni as a leader of the church that espoused the Pan-African ideals and a champion in the promotion of African unity and co-operation.

In the same year, 1892, John Langalibalele Dube called for a spiritual, humane and prosperous Africa.

In 1905, Pixley ka Seme not only embraced these values, but also called for a unique civilisation for Africa and Africans. Chief Albert Luthuli embraced such a civilisation, relating it to the ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilisations. The distinctive feature of this civilisation began to emerge in the 1921 speech of Z R Mahabane, who observed that the Union government had forcibly dispossessed black people of their land and natural resources, degraded and dehumanised them, rendered them voteless, hopeless, homeless and landless.

Going forward, the ANC was left with no choice than to fight for the recovery of the humanity of black people and its inherent values of equality, freedom and democracy. Their demands of freedom were incorporated into the 1923 and 1943 Bills of Rights.

The struggle between humanity, as espoused by the ANC, and the inhumanity of the colonial system, escalated in 1948 when the National Party came into power on the platform of apartheid, that is, separate but unequal development of black and white people. The apartheid system used a host of legislation to deprive black people of their humanity and fundamental human rights.

In 1955, the one and only genuine Congress of the People, led by the ANC, responded by adopting the Freedom Charter, which negated the inhuman apartheid system, and offered a constitutional vision after a thorough consultation with the people, and presented a blueprint for a post apartheid South Africa.

Henceforth, there were two contesting value-systems in the country, that is, the democratic values of freedom, equality and justice for all, and the inhuman apartheid values which reduced black people to subhuman beings.

The banning of the Communist Party of South Africa in the early fifties, and the ANC and the PAC in the early sixties was recognition by the apartheid authorities that human and progressive values were occupying a high moral ground. The banning of these people`s organisations did not deter people from their struggles. The vision of the new South Africa embodied in the Freedom Charter dealt a deadly blow to the white supremacist ideology and produced two competing value-systems in the country.

The host of repressive legislation used to suppress the progressive values contained in the Freedom Charter and the banning of political organisations such as the ANC, PAC and SACP led to armed resistance against the inhuman apartheid system. The 1976 Soweto uprising and the mushrooming of mass democratic organisations during the first half of the eighties testified eloquently that the struggle against was essentially a war about values.

Addressing the ANC consultative conference in Kabwe, on 16 June 1985, O R Tambo characterised this war of values as follows:

The conviction, that to be white was to be a missionary of civilisation, has given birth to a tidal wave whose strength will not abate until civilisation in our country is reckoned in the language of freedom and democracy. The pursuit of the certainties of a bygone age has itself become the gravedigger of fond hopes that injustice could be rationalised into a system of thought, implemented as a practice and imposed as a decree and be accepted by the victims of that injustice. Illusions closely held for many a year, that white minority rule would last until eternity, are stalking all the enclaves of white South Africa proclaiming everywhere that, in fact, they are illusions, fleeting shadows without substance. The apartheid system is in crisis.

Therefore, President Jacob Zuma correctly observed that the release of our icon, Nelson Mandela, was brought about by the resolute struggles of our people. It was these struggles that forced P W Botha and his colleagues to initiate talks about talks. However, the President correctly acknowledged Botha`s contribution in this regard.

Before acknowledging other people`s contribution, it is fitting to highlight that O R Tambo effectively laid the foundation for this country to become a shining example of freedom, equality and democracy and enabled humanity to achieve victory over inhumanity.

Under the leadership of O R Tambo, the ANC realised that
P W Botha was not yet ready for genuine negotiations as was evident in his Rubicon speech of 1985 which called for a new constitutional dispensation based on group rights rather than human and people`s rights.

The ANC interacted with various progressive lawyers and facilitated the establishment of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, Nadel which promoted human and people`s rights and vehemently opposed the group rights ideology. On the 01 May 1986 conservative and progressive lawyers faced each other at the University of Pretoria where the human and people`s rights concepts surfaced for the first time in the constitutional discourse.

The conflict between group and human rights played itself out at his conference. The human rights perspective of the progressive lawyers that surfaced in this conference found expression in the ANC 1987 statement on the question of negotiations which rejected group rights and secrete negotiations. In the same year the Arushia Conference called The World United Against Apartheid reaffirm that the Pretoria regime was both illegal and illegitimate because it was not based on the will of the people.

By 1989 the resolute struggles of the people convinced the ANC leadership that the Nationalist Party government had no option but to negotiate. Thus, in 1989 the ANC published the constitutional guidelines for a democratic South Africa whilst OR Tambo championed the formulation of the Harare Declaration which set out the objectives and management of the negotiation process.

President Jacob Zuma correctly pointed out that it was the resolute struggles of the people and the outstanding leadership, foresight and clarity of vision of OR Tambo that laid the ground work for the historic announcement by President F W de Klerk 20 years ago.

In the spirit of nation building and social cohesion President Zuma has acknowledge all those who contributed to the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. These include former political prisoners, the legal team in the Rivonia Treason Trial, the international community, Mrs Helen Suzman and `uMtwana ka Phinda ngene` Hon. Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

Upon his release Nelson Mandela recognised and acknowledged the tireless and heroic sacrifices of the people and committed himself to serve the people.

President Jacob Zuma`s call for Parliament and the nation to recommit itself to build a better future for all South Africans black and white in pursued of the ideal that Madiba has fought for in his entire life, the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. This bears testimony to the fact that the Zuma presidency is fully anchored on the values that Madiba embodies, espouses and epitomises.

In this regard we wish to comment President Jacob Zuma for being consistent because since his first State of the Nation Address in 2009 the President linked the recovery of the humanity of all South Africans with the creation of decent jobs, provision of quality health and education, rural development and the fight against crime and corruption. The practical measures announced during his 2010 SONA show that the President has a clear and pragmatic plan to improve the quality of life of all South Africans.

As we did in 2009, we will celebrate 17 July as the Nelson Mandela Month through a series of community activities aimed at helping the needy and the poor in the spirit of Ubuntu and its inherent values as embodied by Nelson Mandela as well as the past and current leaders of the ANC.

The ANC leadership calls for an overarching value system that can unite all the people regardless of race, class or gender. In this regard we have also committed ourselves to strive for the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and prosperous society in which the value of all citizens is measured by their common humanity.

However, we recognise and respect the cultural, religious and linguistic diversity of our people and shun all attempts by any group to impose its values on other groups. The common humanity of all South Africans has provided a framework for an overarching value system.

President Zuma has already committed his administration to build a new South Africa based on Ubuntu, values and principles. This vision found support in the meetings of multiparty leader`s forum where leaders of political parties called on the President to find a common ground and platform for nation building, social cohesion and moral regeneration.

The leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Hon Mangosuthu Buthelezi, shared the president`s vision in his response to the 2009 State of the Nation Address. He observed that the national celebrations of historic importance are mostly attended by African people from the townships and villages. He suggested that we should follow an inclusive approach in nation building and social cohesion.

The multiparty Chief Whips Forum unanimously endorsed the inclusive approach to nation building and identified two already existing mechanisms for its realisation. These mechanisms are the Parliamentary Millennium Programme, PMP and the Parliamentary Interfaith Group. These mechanisms will be resourced by Parliament to enable all political parties to assume joint responsibility for moral regeneration, nation building and social cohesion.

The President has often called all political parties to identify national issues around which we should co-operate in our quest for nation building and social cohesion. We believe that this mechanism offer appropriate platforms for these purposes.

We have identified the need to incorporate the views of the electorate in the legislative and oversight business of Parliament as a strategic objective for the Fourth Parliament by providing a platform for schools, tertiary institutions and rural communities.

Parliament as a nation building institution must provide an opportunity for the electorate to engage and consider issues on democracy, heritage, education, nation building, social cohesion, service delivery and moral regeneration as well as international relations and co-operation.

The PMP should be a non-partisan project resourced by Parliament and should be used as a vehicle to take Parliament to the people. The project would allow members to co-operate more regularly on constituency work despite their party political affiliations. The PMP will therefore cement and give effect to the concept of an activist parliament at a multiparty level.

Since 1994, a parliamentary religious group existed. It often received support from Parliament without formal recognition. The support of all political parties for the President`s call for the recovery of the humanity of all South Africans both black and white and the promotion of moral regeneration for social development, reawakened interest in the place of religion and politics. Thus, the multiparty Chief Whips Forum decided to revive the parliamentary religious group and to rename it Parliamentary Interfaith Group.

This group has already forged ties with the National Interfaith Leaders Council and has affiliated to the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa, IFAPA. The two organisations together with the ANC commission for religious and traditional affairs have met the Sudanese Inter-religious Council which has invited them to visit Sudan before national elections.

The Parliamentary Interfaith Group, PIG and PMP are destined to play a critical role in the promotion of nation building, social cohesion and the African agenda. The ANC as the majority party in Parliament has begun this year fully rejuvenated and ready to continue intensifying the implementation of the programmes with which it has entered into contract with our people during the current term of government.

We are encouraged by the message of the President to the people which reflects a caring government that endeavours to improve the material conditions of our people, particularly the poor. Last year we committed ourselves to what we called an activist parliament during this five year term of Parliament.

Practically what it means is that, as the majority party in this institution, we shall work with more resoluteness, vigour and decisiveness in the course of executing our duties within both Parliament and constituencies.

During this particular year that we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of former President Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners as well as the unbanning of liberation movements, we shall spare neither strength nor energy to ensure the objectives of our glorious liberation struggles are brought into practical reality. We will, indeed, move with the necessary speed employing extraordinary unusual means to rollback the frontiers of poverty and underdevelopment, joblessness and other social ills faced by the majority of our people. These we shall do while building on the many gains South Africans achieved since the dawn of democracy 16 years ago.

In this regard constituency outreach programmes and intensified parliamentary oversight, which are the very backbone of the activist parliament, shall be the prominent and central strategic future of the work of each of our Members of Parliament.

The ANC`s National Executive Council, NEC `lekgotla` resolved that the deployees of our movement at all levels of government will be subjected to a rigorous performance assessment system to ensure that nothing impedes our drive towards achieving the goals our people have set for us.

I thank you!