Reply by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the debate on the Presidency Budget Vote

24 May 2018, National Assembly, Cape Town

Madame Speaker,
Honourable Members,
Distinguished Guests,
Fellow South Africans,

I wish to extend my gratitude to all the Honourable Members who participated in the debate on the Budget Vote of the Presidency.

The debate provided ample evidence of the dynamism of our democracy, of the ability of our institutions to give a platform to a diversity of views.

It provided a valuable opportunity for the representatives of the people of this country to articulate some of their views, interests and expectations.

It demonstrated that we disagree, often vigorously, but that we are bound together by a determination to make this country work.

We are bound together by a desire for a South Africa that is at peace, that is free, just, equal and prosperous.

We are bound together by a desire for a South Africa that has confronted the divisions of the past and healed them.

We are bound together by a set of Constitutional values and principles that clearly differentiate our democratic present from our apartheid past.

Several speakers yesterday spoke of nation building and the need for reconciliation.

Die Agbare Groeneweld het gesê:

“Ons is almal Suid-Afrikaners, wat hierdie land moet bou.”

By the same measure, we are all South Africans, and we all have an equal responsibility to foster unity and reconciliation.

That requires that we recognise both the injustices of the past and how the legacy of that injustice endures in the social and economic terrain of the present.

When we talk about white privilege and black poverty, Honourable Maimane, we are not only talking about the past.

We are talking about the present.

We cannot build a united nation unless we fundamentally change that material reality.

We cannot achieve reconciliation until we have torn down the barriers that still divide us.

Some of those barriers exist in people’s minds.

They exist in the minds of people who think that it is acceptable to sing Die Stem and display the old South African flag.

These are not symbols of Afrikaner identity; they are symbols of discrimination, oppression and misery.

These barriers exist in the minds of those who would deny that apartheid was a crime against humanity.

These barriers exist in the minds of those who measure people’s worth by their race, gender, language, ethnic group, class or income.

These barriers also exist in the landscape of our country, between those who live in the former homelands and those who live in cities and towns, between those who live on the periphery and those who live in the centre.

And these barriers exist in people’s daily conditions of life, between those who have jobs and those who are unemployed, between those who have skills and those who do not, between those who have assets and those whose assets have been taken from them.

Honourable Members,

As we work to build a united nation, we need to tear down the barriers that prevent women from occupying their rightful place in society.

This was a matter that Minister Dlamini raised very sharply and directly yesterday.

We tend to think that nation building is about reconciling black and white South Africans, yet it is also about reconciling women and men.

It is about achieving equality in the home, at schools, in colleges and at universities, in the workplace, in this Parliament, in government and in every public institution.

In every area of government work, there is a need to give specific attention to the representation of women – whether it is in the black industrialists programme, our public employment programmes, infrastructure development, public procurement or small business support.

We need to prioritise the education of the girl child and remove the impediments that prevent her from completing her schooling and advancing to higher education and training.

Government is doing much in this regard, but we need to do more.

We need to build on programmes like the ‘She Conquers’ campaign, increasing its reach and its impact across the country.

Today is ‘Take a Girl Child to Work Day’, an initiative that demonstrates to the girls of this country that their rightful place in society is wherever their dreams take them.

We welcome the learners who are joining us here today as part of this initiative.

We are hopeful that from among this group will emerge a new generation of public representatives, ready to take up the needs and interests of our people.

We are hopeful that from among this group will emerge one – or more – of our country’s future Presidents.

Madame Speaker,

Our Constitution envisages a state founded on the principles of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms.

As we work together to overcome the divisions of race, gender and class that have characterised our country over decades, we often overlook the discrimination, oppression and disempowerment of people with disabilities.

As the Hon Newhoudt-Druchen said yesterday, the ANC-led government has done much to advance the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities over the last 24 years.

But it is equally true that we have not done enough.

Our approach needs to begin with a greater awareness of the challenges facing people with disabilities and how this should impact on the way we design public infrastructure, how we provide public services, our recruitment and human resource management practices and our approach to procurement and enterprise development.

We must, in particular, attend to the specific needs of people with different forms of disability within our education and health systems.

It is not enough for every department, public entity, company and private organisation to have a policy on disability – they need to have programmes to affirm and empower people with disabilities.

Honourable Members,

The mandate of this government is to tear down the barriers between those who have and those who don’t.

It is in fulfilment of that mandate that we have embarked on a massive and far-reaching investment drive.

As we have said before, we are seeking to mobilise investment from within South Africa, from elsewhere on the African continent, from Asia, from the Middle East, from Europe and the Americas.

We are seeking investment from private companies, from sovereign wealth funds and from public entities.

We have had several meetings with the CEOs of some of this country’s larger state owned companies, where they have given us an indication of their investment plans over the coming years.

They have informed us that over the next 5 years, they expect to invest a total of R420 billion into the South African economy.

We are seeking investment that expands the industrial capacity of our economy, that creates jobs on an unprecedented scale and that lifts millions of our people out of poverty.

This is not some elite project.

This is a revolutionary project.

It is revolutionary because – taken together with the other programmes of this government – it promises to fundamentally alter the economic conditions of the majority of South Africans.

Investment in itself is not a guarantor of growth, nor of job creation.

But without investment, neither of these will be possible.

Countries that succeed in generating investment are countries that succeed.

Honourable Members,

As we have said before, the creation of jobs, the reduction of inequality and the eradication of poverty – and indeed the success of investment – is dependent on our ability to correct the distortions of the apartheid legacy.

This includes our intensive efforts to address the huge skills deficit in our country by ensuring access for the children of the poor to quality education from ECD level right through to higher education and training.

It includes our efforts to provide our people with houses, land and other assets so that they may break the cycle of poverty, through which poverty is passed from one generation to the next.

Land reform is fundamental to the eradication of poverty.

It is fundamental to restoring the dignity of all South Africans, to foster reconciliation and to forge national unity.

It is for this reason that this government – guided by the resolutions of the 54th National Conference of the governing party – is undertaking measures to accelerate the redistribution of land, the extension of security of tenure, the provision of agricultural support and the redress of spatial inequality.

We need to unlock the economic potential of this country’s land.

If ownership, tenure and use of this country’s land remains restricted to a small minority, we will never realise the contribution it can make to the growth and development of our economy.

If poor people cannot own property and live close to the economic centres of our towns and cities, the cost of living will remain as high as the cost of looking for work.

That is why we must use every means at our disposal to make this happen.

That is why we will not relent in our determination to use expropriation without compensation as one of the mechanisms to effect land reform.

We do so understanding that expropriation without compensation is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.

And we must therefore use it in a manner that advances the objective of meaningful, radical and sustainable land redistribution.

Madame Speaker,

During the debate yesterday, both the Hon Maimane and the Hon Malema introduced into this House a figure that is known as a ‘straw man’.

The dictionary definition of a ‘straw man’ is “an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent`s real argument”.

The Ramaphosa definition of a ‘straw man’ is a fake policy conjured up by a desparate party in order to make a false claim.

Both the Hon Maimane and the Hon Malema have sought to misrepresent the position of the ANC on the issue of the expropriation of land without compensation.

However, if you go through the resolutions of the ANC’s 54th National Conference, its January 8th Statement, the State of the Nation Address, replies to questions in this House and the recommendations of the ANC’s recent land workshop, there is a clear and consistent thread.

We will not be diverted from the path that we are on.

We will not shy away from the debate.

We will engage, we will consult and we will seek to build consensus.

But we will not compromise on our determination to resolve the land question in this country, once and for all.

The restoration of the land to the poor and dispossessed through a constitutionally-mandated programme of redress and reform is a revolutionary act.

The illegal occupation of land is not.

We must remind ourselves why we have a Constitution and why we value the rule of law – it is to protect the poor and the vulnerable from the arbitrary exercise of power and to prevent a repeat of the abuses and violations of our past.

Our Constitution is an instrument of radical transformation.

We should treasure it, we should safeguard it and we should use it to achieve fundamental social and economic change.

Madame Speaker,

A number of speakers touched on the crucial issue of governance and the need to build a capable, developmental state.

Some Honourable Members would have us believe that this is simply a matter of the size of the Cabinet.

It is much more than that.

The reconfiguration of the state is a far greater and more ambitious undertaking that must go to the heart of the capacity of government to meet the country’s developmental needs.

We need to address issues of structure, not just of national departments, but of all spheres and all public institutions.

We also need to address issues of efficiency and resource allocation.

Not only must we end all fruitless, wasteful, irregular and unauthorised expenditure, but we must also make sure that the money that we do budget is allocated to programmes that have the greatest beneficial impact.

Budgeting is about making choices.

We need to have the capacity, the data and the political will to make the right choices.

As Minister Dlamini-Zuma said, we are working to establish an institutional framework to integrate planning across government and ensure alignment between national, provincial and local government planning and other sectors.

We are working to improve our capacity to monitor and evaluate the work of all areas of the state, and to employ the great advances that have been made in information technology to better understand and analyse the wealth of data that is available about our country and its people.

We need to address the culture of government.

It has been several years since we introduced the Batho Pele principles, but adherence to these principles is inconsistent.

The vast majority of public servants are conscientious, honest and committed, but in too many parts of the state the experience of our people leaves a lot to be desired.

That is why we are working to do things differently, to promote efficiency, to encourage a culture of performance and to find opportunities for public servants to deepen their skills and experience.

We have heard Honourable Members describe the situation in many of our frontline departments, those that provide essential services to our citizens.

There are indeed areas of grave concern – and these to which we are giving priority attention.

Our health system is under great strain.

As the Minister of Health has said, the public health service takes care of 80% of the people in the country, including large numbers of immigrants.

We have neverthless managed to initiate four million people with HIV on antiretroviral treatment, deliver more than 1 million babies a year and provides treatment to 300,000 people with tuberculosis annually.

The increased burden of disease and our attempts to treat as many people as possible has increased the pressure on the public health system.

A ministerial team identified common problems in different hospitals around the country, primarily in human resources, financial management, procurement and supply chain, and maintenance of infrastructure and equipment.

The National Department of Health is dispatching teams to turn around poorly performing hospitals.

It is undertaking work to fill vacant posts and contracting private health practitioners to provide specific services.

To reduce the burden of disease and therefore the pressure on clinics and hospitals we are in the process of strengthening community based services.

Madame Speaker,

One area that particularly concerned Honourable Members was the report of the Auditor-General that there has been a regression in the overall audit outcomes of municipalities from 2015/16 to 2016/17.

This reinforces the observation we made yesterday that there has been an increase in the number of municipalities that are in a dire state.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and the National Treasury have begun working together on a structured and coordinated approach to support financially distressed or dysfunctional municipalities.

Working together with provinces, their joint response focuses on three of the five pillars of the Back to Basics initiative – namely, institutional and administrative capacity, good governance and sound financial management.

Municipalities are being supported to implement robust improvement plans, which will be monitored closely by the departments.

The departments are working to address the reality that some municipalities are failing at effectively delivering services, billing for services and collecting the revenue due.

A simplified revenue plan is being implemented to improve revenue management, reduce municipal consumer debt, and enhance municipalities’ revenue collection potential.

This work will feed into, and be reinforced by, the Presidential Local Government Summit for which preparations are underway.

Honourable Members,

Several speakers yesterday raised the issue of violence and crime, which continues to deny our people the peace and security that they deserve, need and demand.

As we indicated yesterday, we have made several important appointments to strengthen police management, including the appointment of a new Divisional Commissioner of Crime Intelligence and, yesterday, a new head of the Hawks.

It is hoped that these critical appointments will strengthen the criminal justice cluster and the police will be able to infiltrate syndicates and arrest syndicate members.

The Minister of Police has instructed the police management to conduct preventive crime intelligence driven operations in dealing with serious and violent crimes such as armed robberies, cash heists and murders.

I have appointed an inter-ministerial committee comprising the Ministers of Defence, Police, State Security and Justice to address the problem of political killings in KwaZulu-Natal.

The IMC has begun meeting key stakeholders in the province and is expected to present a comprehensive report by the end of the month on measures to end these killings and to bring those responsible to justice.

Madame Speaker,
Honourable Members,

From all the contributions yesterday, even from among the doubters, it is clear that we have entered a new era.

It is a new era that holds much promise for renewal, growth and transformation.

But it will only succeed if we all work together to make it a reality.

It will only succeed if we put aside our narrow interests and pursue the shared future that the people of this country desire.

“Ons is almal Suid-Afrikaners, wat hierdie land saam moet bou.”

We are all South Africans, and we must all build this land.

I thank you.