Chairperson, I would like to point out that, in terms of the speaker's list, I have 12 minutes allocated to me, but here I see 10. Oh, that has been corrected.
House Chairperson, special delegates from provinces, Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, under the theme "Working together to ensure the delivery of quality services to communities", the NCOP embarked on its annual programme known as the Provincial Week, from 7 to 11 September 2009.
Members of the NCOP visited all nine provinces, meeting with various provincial leaders, including the provincial Premiers, Members of the Executive Councils and their departments, provincial legislatures, including the Speakership, the Whippery and Chairpersons of Committees, and other key stakeholders such as local government leaders and the South African Local Government Association.
The purpose of the week was to interface with the local communities through meetings and by conducting visits to various sites in order to monitor progress on service delivery. This year's programme was unique mainly because it was the first one of its kind of the Fourth Parliament, which makes it historic.
The Provincial Week was established in line with the provision of the Constitution which obligates the NCOP to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government. The week provides a forum for the exchange and sharing of ideas on the progress that has been made around service delivery issues, and of the challenges that are confronting the provinces in fulfilling their mandates.
Since its inception, it has proven to be successful in informing provincial delegates about the needs of the people in their respective provinces and affords delegates an opportunity to keep abreast with developments in those provinces. It further enables provincial, local, and national governments to work together as a collective in order to ensure effective and efficient service delivery.
The NCOP report for the period 2004 to 2009 suggests that there is a need to ensure that the views of the people, expressed during public participation engagements, are taken into account and followed up.
One of the justifications for the Provincial Week includes strengthening the debate with people on the ground. The theme further reaffirms the position and commitment of the ruling party to co-ordinate efforts towards working together in ensuring the delivery of quality services to communities.
The NCOP's recent strategic workshop resolved, among other things, to forge co-ordination with the three spheres of government when engaged in our NCOP activities and in exercising our oversight role. Implementing this decision will assist us to reach our commitment of speeding up service delivery in order to impact positively on the lives of our communities.
If one looks at the past and recent activities of the NCOP, it is evident that we have always sought to do this. However, the challenge to sustain these relations amongst the spheres of government and in our own parliamentary operations remains.
Our own experiences indicate that there is a need to find and implement a co-ordinated approach in our process to oversee speedy service delivery. The programmes of the NCOP, such as Taking Parliament to the People and follow-up visits to provinces, have been informed by this approach and thus include the national, provincial and local authorities.
Over and above this, the involvement of the people at the grass-roots level has been the cornerstone of these programmes. We continue to strive and improve our approaches through various public participation mechanisms such as public hearings and oversight visits to the provinces and communities.
Programme 2009 emphasises the need for provincial legislatures and municipalities to participate in national programmes of Parliament. It acknowledges that provinces and municipalities are the cornerstones of service delivery and serve as important links between government and the people. The Provincial Week ensures that the Council represents the interests of provinces and accords provincial delegates to the NCOP the opportunity to review their mandates by being visible in their constituencies.
While we understand the importance of co-operative governance as we implement programmes such as the Provincial Week, we are mindful of the importance of co-ordinating our work within the precincts of Parliament. For example, we understand that we need to ensure that the work of the Committees of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, with particular reference to oversight, is intertwined. There is no need for the two Houses to summon before their committees the same entities to report on a similar issue. Instead, an effort should be made that the committees either sit jointly or communicate the areas of concern as a collective. Reports of such briefings of oversight activities could then be shared by the relevant committees. Our co-ordination should begin with us so that, by the time we interface with the provinces, municipalities or the national spheres, we are ready to take forward the issues that affect our people the most, without any duplication or confusion.
This matter has been raised not only by the NCOP, not only by the municipalities, but in actual fact by provinces themselves during our strategic planning session. Provinces felt strongly about the issue of duplication, a view that was repeated by the Deputy President when he addressed us on how we as Parliament could best ensure that we avoid what he termed "an oversight stampede" in the provinces.
For example, the list below indicates some of the issues that our people across the provinces raised during the Provincial Week as challenges they face on a daily basis: In all the provinces, our people said that they have a problem with water shortages. In some provinces this is exacerbated by river pollution caused by sewerage and pesticides. They experienced problems caused by the impact of migration on the infrastructure and quality of services rendered to the community.
They experienced problems caused by high rates of unemployment, by sanitation problems and by budget constraints endured by local municipalities. These all hamper service delivery.
They experienced problems around housing, caused by the nonavailability of land for housing purposes. This is a matter whose solution should seize the NCOP and Parliament. It is quite a challenge now and is a very difficult problem. We have heard from the Department of Human Settlements that it is very expensive to get land because of a deliberate attempt by those who own the land to frustrate government in its attempts to secure land for human settlement.
Then there was the issue of the shortage of hospital personnel - a matter that was frequently raised.
Lastly, the question of HIV and Aids was raised as a matter that needs urgent attention. Of course, we know about some of the practices that our people engage in.
These challenges cut across all our provinces. Seen in this light, it presents our committees, together with our provincial legislatures and our municipalities, with opportunities to develop programmes that are clearly co-ordinated in terms of content and in terms of us doing our oversight work.
If we do call upon departments, we are able to refer to a report and thus we, as committees of the NCOP, need to reflect on that report to ensure that we engage with some of the issues that were raised by our communities.
There are, of course, also positive things that we have observed during the Provincial Week. For instance, in Limpopo, in the Sekhukhune district, there are projects and co-operatives led by women. One such project is the Ikageng Ga Masha co-operatives, led by Mrs Elizabeth Moraswi, which forms an umbrella co-operative within the province.
The co-operative produces potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, and so on. What is fundamental here is that this project has about eight casuals and ten beneficiaries, all from the neighbouring communities. The project of course receives assistance from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. It has received numerous provincial awards for outstanding achievement and compliance.
In our debates about fighting poverty and unemployment, I think these are some of the things that provinces need to take into account. We should give support to such initiatives in our respective provinces.
These initiatives include, for example, projects that are led by young people, including young women, especially in the rural provinces. These are some of the things that I think are quite important for NCOP to be concerned about and support.
I am also elated by the input and reflections put forward by the delegations suggesting further follow-up. Indeed, this was a good start for us and we hope to improve over the course of the following programmes.
I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to all the staff involved in the programme for their commitment and dedication. We know how supportive they were in this particular programme as well as in the development and drafting of the report.
In conclusion, allow me to say that, for the first time, one of the highlights of the programme was the level at which the media gave attention to it. Thank you. [Time expired.]