Honourable Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces,
Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces,
Honourable Members of the NCOP,
Premier of Gauteng,
Mayor of Ekurhuleni,
MECs and Provincial Speakers,
National and Provincial Chairpersons of SALGA,
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders,
Religious, community and traditional leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my privilege to address this special sitting of the National Council of Provinces, which is a vital part of our democracy and which gives voice to the diverse views, needs and interests of the South African people.
The NCOP is one of the most important instruments of the Constitutional principle of cooperative governance, linking the national, provincial and local spheres of government.
It is in our provinces and municipalities that we are charting the course for our country’s development by providing water, electricity, housing, health care and other services to our people.
Most of the work of improving people’s lives happens locally.
The drafters of our Constitution recognised that a strong, effective and capable local government system is necessary for meaningful transformation and progress.
The Constitution clearly outlines not just the developmental duties of municipalities, but also places an onus on national and provincial governments to support and strengthen them to enable them to perform their functions.
As such, the NCOP can be justifiably proud of its innovative programme of Taking Parliament to the People.
Every year, our MPs conduct oversight activities to identify challenges with government’s service delivery programmes, and make recommendations on how these can be resolved.
We are striving to consolidate the gains of our democracy and chart a new trajectory for development in difficult times.
In the past few years, we have seen a rise in service delivery protests across the country.
What is troubling is that these protests have become increasingly violent.
Municipal IQ, an organisation that monitors local government, noted earlier this year that 94% of the service delivery protests recorded so far in 2018 involved elements of violence.
In some instances, people have resorted to the wanton destruction of public property.
While there can be no excuse in a democratic society for violent protest and the destruction of property, it is necessary that we own up to some of our own failings in government.
When citizens complain about lack of services and are treated with condescension, indifference and sometimes arrogance by officials, they resort to other, unacceptable, methods.
This tells us that we have sometimes strayed from the principles of compassion, service, accountability and transparency.
We have sometimes strayed from the principles of Batho Pele.
The levels of disaffection and dissatisfaction highlight a growing impatience at the slow pace of service delivery and unhappiness with the quality of services provided.
We are not meeting the expectations of our citizens.
It is not acceptable that communities can be left without access to water for months, even years.
It is not acceptable that sick and dying patients are left languishing in waiting rooms at clinics and hospitals before they are attended to by a health professional.
It is not acceptable that victims of crime are unable to obtain recourse because their police stations are poorly-run or poorly resourced.
What is most unacceptable is that some of our people have become resigned, so accustomed to poor levels of service delivery, that they believe that the abnormal is normal.
The role of our MPs in providing oversight and in holding organs of state accountable for service delivery is therefore vital.
At this time, we have to face up to a number of sobering realities.
We need to face up to the fact that, despite improvements in some areas, the vast majority of our municipalities continue to achieve poor audit results.
This points to a lack of compliance and internal controls, and, in some cases, the outright abuse of state funds.
We need to face up to the fact that many municipalities find themselves in a protracted financial crisis, unable to properly fulfil their responsibilities to residents.
The reasons for this range from financial mismanagement and non-payment for services to the absence of a meaningful revenue base and a weak economy.
This requires the attention of all spheres of government and it requires the close attention of the NCOP.
We need to face up to the fact that unless we are able to bring our economy out of this period of stagnation, we will be unable to create a better life for our citizens.
When our economy is strong, when our people have jobs, when government has more resources, our ability to deliver good, quality services is vastly improved.
We have embarked upon a new path of growth, renewal and transformation.
Our economy has faced a number of challenges over the past decade, resulting in slow growth and deepening unemployment.
This has constrained our ability to increase social spending, build and maintain infrastructure, and above all, to create a conducive environment for the creation of jobs for our people.
However, we have taken decisive steps to start to turn this around.
In an improved political environment, and through a combination of economic recovery measures and policy reforms, we are working to restore the economy and capacitate the state to fulfil its developmental mandate.
We are working to ensure more effective delivery of houses, of social security, of education, of health care and other essential services.
We are doing everything within our means to ensure that the growth of the economy benefits all, especially society’s most vulnerable.
In September this year, we announced an economic stimulus and recovery plan containing a range of measures to ignite economic activity, restore investor confidence and create new jobs.
It also included measures to address challenges in education and health care and improve municipal social infrastructure.
We are reprioritising public spending to ensure that resources are directed to activities that have the greatest impact on growth and jobs.
In his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, the Minister of Finance announced that an amount of R50 billion has been reprioritised to address infrastructural and other challenges in our public health care and education systems, and to bolster the Expanded Public Works Programme.
It is a priority of this government to improve ageing, dilapidated and outmoded social infrastructure, whether they are hospitals, clinics, schools, water and sanitation facilities or police stations.
If we are to industrialise as a country, we need reliable, world-class infrastructure that ensures greater integration, connectivity and development.
We are therefore establishing an Infrastructure Fund to coordinate infrastructure initiatives across government.
This fund will be capitalised by government, but will also draw in resources from the private sector and international financial institutions.
The economic stimulus and recovery plan also focuses on unlocking the potential of key growth sectors such as agriculture.
We are increasing resources to provide support to black commercial farmers to increase their entry into food value chains.
We are facilitating the signing of leases to enable farmers to mobilise funding for agricultural development.
We are only too aware of the legacy of apartheid spatial planning that has resulted in the neglect of both township and rural economies.
That is why we have earmarked several industrial parks in these areas for revitalisation.
This will go a long way towards providing opportunities for entrepreneurship and job creation.
We are clear that employment and economic opportunities must be created where people live.
Getting our people working, and providing a favourable economic climate for jobs to be created and sustained, is the greatest task of the present.
In October this year, we convened a successful Jobs Summit, which agreed on a range of measures to create more jobs, to avoid jobs being shed, to facilitate more investment in black-owned enterprises and to support companies in distress.
The summit was a collective show of strength of the partnership between labour, business, government and communities – and we look forward to the implementation of a framework agreement that has the potential to create around 275,000 jobs annually.
We are immensely encouraged by the commitment made by the financial sector of R100 billion to support mainly black-owned businesses over the next five years.
South Africa has also successfully hosted two landmark investment summits in the past two months – the South Africa Investment Conference and the Africa Investment Forum.
The overwhelming consensus at both of these events was that our country, despite recent challenges, is a favourable destination for investment.
Several companies, many of them international, announced investments in the country, either to establish new operations or to expand existing ones, confirming South Africa’s global competitiveness.
These announcements, together with the many other investment pledges we have received, underline the critical importance of well-run and capable provincial and local governments that are able to sustain the pipeline of investment.
Whether it’s a factory or a mine, a call centre or a shop, every investment is located in a municipality.
It is therefore vital that municipalities create an environment where businesses are able to operate without difficulty, with access to reliable services and efficient regulatory processes.
There needs to be effective coordination between municipalities and provincial and national government bodies to remove obstacles to investment.
Ultimately, our ability to deliver on our commitments – to fight poverty and inequality and grow our economy – rests on making the most efficient and effective use of limited resources.
The people of South Africa have entrusted us with the responsibility of leading them and improving their lives.
We can and must attend to the core business of government and not allow ourselves to be distracted from carrying out this responsibility.
We have registered significant gains in our quest to deepen democracy, to strengthen the capacity of the state to deliver, and to deliver a better life for all.
We are emerging from a period of turbulence that we must now put behind us.
Now more than ever we must send a signal that ours is a government committed to openness, to transparency and above all, to accountability.
The National Council of Provinces, and indeed our entire Parliamentary system, is constitutionally and ethically bound to these principles.
When local and national government is not working, it is Parliamentary oversight that will put us back on course.
We must work with our municipalities to ensure greater levels of compliance.
We must dutifully fulfil our functions as MPs to ensure that policies are being implemented at a local government level.
Shortcomings must be identified, remedied and resolved.
We must take seriously and act upon information concerning corruption in our municipalities – where political patronage is being dispensed in return for favours, or where service delivery is suffering because a few, well-connected individuals are the beneficiaries of state largesse.
We must find lasting solutions for the many problems in local government – for when local government fails, South Africa fails.
Over the past year, you have traversed South Africa as part of bringing Parliament to the People.
You have conducted oversight visits, held public hearings, conducted monitoring and evaluation, and made recommendations on how we can improve our programmes.
These recommendations must be acted upon by all those responsible.
South Africans expect of us that we are in government not for personal material gain, but to improve their lives.
There can be no higher calling than being of service, and we are duty bound to ensure this is done with diligence and humanity.
In this spirit of selflessness exemplified by the likes of Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu – whose centenaries we observe this year – let us take forward our task to correct past mistakes and build a better society.
The time you have left as the Fifth Parliament is brief.
So use it well and use it wisely.
Let unfinished business be concluded, and let the concerns raised during this year’s Parliament of the People be resolved.
We are united in our commitment to cooperative governance.
Although we may have political differences, we share a common sense of purpose and have a common duty to serve our people.
It is when we work together – as different parties, as different spheres of government, as different sectors of society – that we make the greatest progress in transforming our society and building a new nation.
I thank you.
President Cyril Ramaphosa