President Cyril Ramaphosa: Reply to questions in National Assembly

14 Mar 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa has told Parliament that the South African economy is already seeing the green shoots of an economic recovery with a 3.1% GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2017 and a stregthening currency boosting investor confidence.

The President was replying to Questions in the National Assembly today, Wednesday 14 March 2018, for the first time in his capacity as President. He further said that it would be critical to mobilise all social partners to unite behind a common programme of economic recovery and transformation.

The responses are as follows:

Honourable Members,

The South African economy is seeing the green shoots of an economic recovery.

The economy achieved GDP growth of 3.1% in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Our currency has strengthened and investor confidence has improved significantly.

It is imperative that government, labour, business and civil society agree on a set of fundamental actions and work in concert to implement them. At the same time, each of these social partners needs to commit themselves to specific undertakings.

There are a number of areas where agreement has been reached and firm commitments made.

Government, for example, has committed itself to ensure policy certainty and consistency, strengthen the capabilities of the state, end corruption and wastage and to sustain investment in economic and social infrastructure. We are working to create an enabling environment for businesses to invest, thrive, create jobs and reduce inequality.

As part of its contribution, business should undertake to invest more, create more job opportunities, implement measures to reduce income inequality, improve working conditions and invest in skills development and innovation. Labour should work with employers to strengthen collective bargaining, reduce labour instability and support measures to improve productivity.

We look to civil society to mobilise South Africans from all quarters to participate in an economic recovery. South Africa has demonstrated at critical moments in our history the value of cooperation among social partners to tackle intractable problems.

We came together soon after the advent of democracy to craft a new labour relations framework to assert the rights of workers and usher in a new era of cooperation and stability. Following the global financial crisis of 2008, government, labour and business effectively worked together to ensure South Africa was spared the worst effects of the crisis.

These partners came together again in early 2016 to respond to downgrades from ratings agencies and a decline in investor confidence to establish the CEO Initiative, which has done much to promote investment, support small business and tackle youth unemployment.

Most recently, we have worked together to introduce a national minimum wage as part of our efforts to reduce income inequality. Later this month, we will launch the Youth Employment Service, which we referred to in the State of the Nation Address, and which promises to significantly improve the absorption of young people into the work place.

Over the course of the next few months, we will be engaging social partners in preparation for a national Jobs Summit. The summit will agree on a series of practical measures that will create jobs, particularly among the youth.

The outcomes of the summit will form an important part of the broader social compact that we are striving to build. It will be supported by cooperation in other areas, such as in the deliberations on the mining charter, consultations on land reform, preparations for the social sector summit, engagements in Nedlac on comprehensive social security and other matters, and the ongoing work of the CEO Initiative.

There is much that we need to do to achieve and sustain an economic recovery. Working together, bound by a common vision of a just, prosperous and equal society, I am certain that we will succeed.

I thank you.

Question 2 – Government’s position on the expropriation of land without compensation

Honourable Members,

Land is central to human existence. For millennia it has supported life, enabled the creation and development of societies and made economic activity possible.

It is fundamental to the dignity and well-being of our people. The dispossession of the land of the indigenous people of this country is therefore the original colonial sin that continues to constrain the realisation of the potential of our people. The return of the land to those who work it is fundamental to the transformation of our society and it is critical if we are to improve the lives of the poor.

In this, the Year of Nelson Mandela, we need to work together to ensure his vision for land reform is realised. This Parliament and Government should therefore be committed to the implementation of a comprehensive land reform programme that corrects the historical injustice of land dispossession, provides land to the poor in both rural and urban areas, strengthens the property rights of all, increases agricultural production and improves food security.

Since 1994, the democratic government has embarked on a series of interventions to advance land reform, including restitution, redistribution and tenure reform. While more than 3 million hectares of land was restored between 1995 and 2014, the Land Audit Report indicates that whites still own around 72% of the farms owned by individuals, coloureds 15%, Indians 5% and Africans only 4%.

It was also reported that males own 72% and female only 13%. We must therefore work with urgency to significantly and sustainably accelerate the pace of land reform. The expropriation of land without compensation is one of the mechanisms that government will use to do this.

As I indicated in the State of the Nation Address, government will undertake a process of broad consultation to determine the modalities of the implementation of this mechanism. Following this announcement, the National Assembly passed a ground-breaking resolution on this matter, opening up an opportunity for all South Africans to participate in this critical debate.

This matter has been firmly placed on the national agenda and we applaud those who have come forward with views and proposals. This process of engagement presents an opportunity for a new, reinvigorated drive for meaningful and sustainable land reform. This is an opportunity to assert the transformational intent of our Constitution.

It is an opportunity to recognise that the property clause in the Bill of Rights is a mandate for radical transformation. The property clause was never constructed for the purpose of retaining existing property relations. It is a transformative instrument, constructed to facilitate the lawful transfer of land and property to South Africans who had been deprived of land through colonial and apartheid policies.

The property clause in the Constitution specifically requires that the state take reasonable legislative and other measures to “enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis”.

It also requires that the state take steps to guarantee security of tenure and restitution of land to those affected by apartheid dispossession. There is a strong case to be made that the use of expropriation without compensation in certain circumstances to advance land reform is entirely consistent with the provisions of the Constitution.

It is our collective responsibility to use these provisions of the Constitution more effectively and more directly to drive land reform with greater urgency and purpose. We should not reduce the enormous task of land reform to a debate on expropriation without compensation.

During the process of consultation and engagement, we must review the full extent of our land reform programme since 1994, identifying where there have been shortcomings and undertaking measures to strengthen policies and programmes. One of the areas where we must acknowledge a lack of progress is with respect to the processing of claims by labour tenants.

We therefore take very seriously the responsibility given to government by the Supreme Court of Appeal to urgently develop a programme to process outstanding claims. It is clear that we must strengthen the institutions that have been tasked with effecting land reform, ensuring that they have the capacity and resources to meet the needs of the poor.

It is critical that this is an inclusive process, in which all South Africans are actively involved in finding just, equitable and lasting solutions. It requires responsibility and maturity from all leaders.

We should not pretend that there is anything revolutionary in encouraging people to illegally occupy land. Nor should we resort to the kind of ‘swart gevaar’ electioneering that some parties have resorted to. Let us engage in this debate as a nation. I invite all those who are angry, anxious, uncertain, excited and inspired to be part of finding a solution on this issue.

Throughout this process, we need to work together, guided by the needs of the poor and landless.

I thank you.

Question 3 – Legal costs pertaining to former President Jacob Zuma

Honourable Members,

According to information from the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, government has contributed R15.3 million to the personal legal costs of former President Jacob Zuma since 2006.

Of this amount, approximately R7.5 million was spent in the period between 2006 and the withdrawal of the charges against the former President in 2009. An amount of R7.8 million has been spent since 2009.

This stems from a request by the former President in 2006 for legal representation at state expense in respect of the criminal proceedings. The request was approved by the Presidency based on advice by the state attorney’s office and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (as it was then).

The former President signed an undertaking to refund the state if he was found to have acted in his personal capacity and own interests in the commission of the offences with which he was charged.

This administration is guided by the fundamental principle that public money should not be used to cover the legal expenses of individuals on strictly personal matters or who are found to have committed criminal offences.

I thank you.

Question 4 – Mining Charter

Honourable Members,

As I indicated in the State of the Nation Address, there is massive potential for South Africa’s mining industry to grow, create jobs, stimulate industrial activity and promote social development. Though mining’s contribution to the national GDP has fallen from 21% in 1970 to 7% in 2016, it still represents almost 60% of exports.

Over the course of the next few months, government will be engaging with stakeholders in the mining industry to develop a new Mining Charter for South Africa. This follows agreement between government, the industry and other stakeholders to suspend legal action pending further consultations on the charter.

This needs to form part of a broader undertaking by all social partners to ensure that mining is indeed a sunrise industry that benefits all South Africans. Mining needs, in particular, to contribute to the growth of the economy.

It needs to fundamentally change the living conditions of affected communities and ensure that they are active participants in the process of transformation. The Charter should be guided by the following broad principles:

The fundamental transformation of the ownership and management of the mining industry is necessary not only to promote equity, but also to enable the industry to develop in a sustainable and inclusive manner. While some progress has been made, there is a need to accelerate the transfer of ownership of the industry to black South Africans and women. It is necessary to agree on ambitious ownership targets that can be progressively and sustainably realised.

Mineworkers need to have a greater role in decision-making and should be assisted in acquiring equity stakes in mining companies. The interests of affected communities need to prioritised, ensuring that they are able to benefit in a meaningful and lasting manner from mining operations on their land. The South African mining industry needs to be attractive to investors through a Mining Charter that offers certainty, stability and a clear transformational path.

The Charter should have specific provisions to ensure job creation, beneficiation, local procurement and employment equity. It should promote skills development, technological innovation and exploration. While mining has long been a mainstay of our economy, it has a history of inequity, exploitation and abuse.

Through the Mining Charter, all role players have an opportunity to chart a new path of growth, development, transformation and inclusive prosperity.

I thank you.

Question 5 – The role, powers and functions of Traditional Leaders

Honourable Members,

The institution of traditional leadership is a fundamental part of South Africa’s constitutional democracy. As I said during the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders last month, we will continue to ensure that our Constitution and the laws passed by our people remain effective in supporting and adapting this institution to better serve our citizens.

In the years since the Cabinet Committee’s recommendations in 2000, government has worked with traditional leaders to develop a common approach to the powers, role and functions of traditional leadership. This was one of the matters covered at the Indigenous and Traditional Leadership Indaba in 2017 and during the debate of the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders.

The Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Zweli Mkhize, will develop a detailed plan on how we are going to address the issues raised during the debate. We are committed to ongoing engagement on the legislative framework on traditional leadership, not only with traditional leaders but also with affected communities and other stakeholders.

I am confident that the concerns of traditional leaders can be addressed without the need for a constitutional amendment.

I thank you.

Honourable Members,

Public confidence in institutions like the National Prosecuting Authority is critical if we are to build a better, prosperous and more equitable society. That is why, in the State of the Nation Address, we prioritised the restoration of the stability and integrity of the NPA.

The matter of the position of the National Director of Public Prosecutions is currently before the courts. We will continue to do what we can to ensure that the matter is speedily resolved in the interests of justice, the rule of law and fairness.

We all have a responsibility, as political leaders, to ensure that the NPA is able to undertake its mandate without fear or favour. The NPA must work in a way where it serves the interests of our people by being efficient and effective, and promoting the rule of law in South Africa.

It must act without fear, favour or prejudice.

In terms of both the Constitution and the NPA Act, the President has clearly defined obligations in relation to the NPA. In performing these obligations, including the appointment of the NDPP and other directors of Public Prosecutions, I will ensure adherence both to the spirit and letter of the statutory requirements and jurisprudence emanating from our courts in relation to these matters.

There are good women and men in the National Prosecuting Authority, people with integrity, experience and specialist knowledge. With effective leadership, with a more stable institutional environment and with our support as leaders, I am certain that they will be able, once again, to undertake their important responsibilities with purpose and distinction.

I thank you.