Speaker, Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, all presiding officers, hon Deputy President, hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers, premiers, and fellow South Africans, I would like to thank hon members for their participation in the state of the nation address debate. This debate has taken place during a difficult period for the people of Barberton in Mpumalanga and indeed the whole nation.
Three mine workers remain painfully trapped underground at Lily Farm gold mine: Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyirenda. The families are in deep pain and feel helpless in such an overwhelming situation. We once again request that we all keep the families of the three compatriots in our thoughts and prayers. Government is providing as much support as possible to the families during this most difficult time. This incident has brought into sharp focus the question of mine safety. We want to know what happened so that this can be prevented in future. Government will further prioritise this matter in discussions with the mining sector. It is a truly painful and frustrating situation for all.
Last Thursday, we placed the economy of our country on the centre stage. Our country, together with many other economies in the world, faces a challenging economic reality. Eight years after the financial crisis, the global economy continues to show signs of strain. Low commodity and oil prices have placed the balance sheet of commodity-exporting countries like ours under strain. This is a serious matter. If the economy does not grow, jobs will not be created, and existing jobs are at risk. The 2016 state of the nation address is thus about uniting the country in boosting economic growth and creating jobs that will lead to a better life for all our people.
Inkulumo yesimo sezwe ibigxile kwezomnotho. Ikhuluma ngokuntengantenga kwezomnotho nokuthi kumele senzeni ukuze sibuyise amandla omnotho ukuze kwakheke imisebenzi.
Amazwe amaningi abhekene nalenkinga yokwehla kwamandla omnotho. Amanani okuthengiswa lokho okumbiwa phansi okunjenge golide nokunye okudayiswa phesheya, ehlile kakhulu emazweni omhlaba jikelele. Lokhu kuwushayile kakhulu umnotho wezwe lakithi nomnotho wakwamanye amazwe futhi.
Yingakho njengoba uhulumeni esebenzisana nosozimboni ukuze sibhekane nalenselele, sivuselele umnotho wezwe, ukuze abantu bangalahlekelwa imisebenzi. Isikhathi esinzima lesi kakhulu ezweni lakithi, kwezomnotho kanye namanye amazwe. Lesisimo asihlasele thina sodwa, sihlasele wonke umuntu ehlabathini, emazweni amaningi ahlukahlukene. Kuwona kubalwa amazwe anjengo-Russia, no-China, kanye no-Brazil kanye namanye futhi amazwe.
Kubaluleke kakhulu uma sixoxa ngalolu daba, singaxoxi ngalo sengathi yinto eyehlele iNingizimu Afrika kuphela ngoba lokho kungenza ukuthi singakwazi ukubona ukuthi yini ngempela okufanele siyenze. Singakwazi futhi nokubona ukuthi kufanele ukuthi sibambisane ngoba singacabanga ukuthi mhlawumbe yenziwe abantu abathile. Hhayi! Udaba lolu olwasuka ezweni elikhulu eliyisikhondlakhondla kwezomnotho iMelika, lapho khona amabhange angena khona enkingeni. Kwasho ukuthi ngoba izwe laseMelika lixhumene nawo wonke amazwe, kwase kuba nomthelela kuwo wonke amazwe. Okwethu ukuthi njengezwe senza kanjani ukuthi sivike ukuthi singalimali noma singalimali kakhulu. [Ihlombe.] (Translation of isiZulu paragraphs follows.)
[The state of the nation address focused on the economy. It spoke of the wavering economy and what can be done to strengthen the economy so that we can create job opportunities.
Most countries are challenged by the recession. The market value for minerals such as gold and the likes that are sold abroad, have declined globally. This seriously affected our economy and the economy of other countries as well. That is why government is working together with business people in addressing this challenge, to boost our economy, so that people will not lose their jobs. This is a very difficult time for the economy of our country and other countries. This challenge is not only facing us, it is affecting everyone in the world, including countries such as Russia, China, Brazil and others.
It is very important that when we discuss this issue, we must not discuss it as if it is only affecting South Africa because that prohibits us from seeing what must be done. We might not know how to work together because we probably think it is the result of the doings of certain people. No! This traces back to where it started in a country with the most powerful economy, America, where the banks were faced with challenges. But because America has relations with all the other countries, it then affected all those countries. Our challenge as a country is to see what we can do to prevent suffering or further suffering. [Applause.]]
Hon Maynier, thank you for your suggestions on what can be done to contribute to the economic turnaround. Whether one agrees with you or not, at least you discussed the matter at hand. [Applause.]
We have spent a considerable amount of time discussing this in Cabinet, and I also briefed premiers on the new direction we are taking in cutting wastage, improving the performance of the state and boosting growth. In this regard, stronger measures to restore a sustainable fiscal path have been endorsed at the highest levels of government. Our position is that since we cannot change the global economic outlook, we will focus on correcting domestic circumstances that have affected confidence in the economy.
We are happy to have the support of business, as it is a key stakeholder in the path we have undertaken. We have met four times with business since mid January, and the partnership is yielding results. Business established three work streams ahead of my meeting with chief executive officers. These streams made a presentation on the three main issues at the last meeting. These are the prospect of a sovereign downgrade, identifying areas for coinvestment and small, medium and microenterprise, SMME, development. High up on our agenda is to prevent a sovereign downgrade. A downgrade would have an adverse effect on all South Africans.
Business provided eight points to be taken forward. Among these points is the need to unite behind the National Development Plan, fiscal consolidation, improved management and governance of state-owned enterprises, promoting public-private partnerships, especially in infrastructure development, and the review of certain regulations and laws that impede investment in the economy and which make doing business in South Africa expensive. Other issues raised are the need to improve labour relations and create an environment for youth employment, collaboration on fighting corruption and also the need to strengthen institutions.
Minister Gordhan and the chairman of Telkom, Mr Jabu Mabuza, were appointed to lead two implementation teams to take these matters forward. I will meet again with the chief executive officers of top companies in May to take stock of progress after the World Economic Forum on Africa session that will take place in Kigali, Rwanda. We will be meeting labour very soon to take the discussions forward towards reigniting growth and creating jobs.
I assure hon members that we are implementing the National Development Plan. I am happy that, this time around, we seem to be coming together with business, government, and labour to agree on general issues that must be addressed to assist our country in moving forward. [Applause.] In my presentation, I think I hinted that it would be good if political parties or political entities also come together as this affects all of us. It is not going to cater for one political party. It will affect all of us. In other words, the point I made was that we should put the country first this time around. [Applause.]
The implementation of the National Development Plan remains the cornerstone of our economy. It provides a basis for collective actions required to stabilise the economy, build confidence, raise the level of investment, and return South Africa to a path of inclusive economic growth. The National Development Plan remains the foremost blueprint to take forward the fight against the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment that still persists. All programmes of government are now aligned to the National Development Plan. We translated the National Development Plan into an implementable programme, the Medium-Term Strategic Framework running for five years, focusing on 14 outcomes that mirror the 14 thematic areas of the National Development Plan.
The first National Planning Commission, which developed the National Development Plan, completed its term in May 2015. A new commission was appointed in September 2015 and started working immediately. Credible plans will be developed in sectors such as water, energy, food security, spatial planning and public transport to ensure that the challenges we currently experience become a thing of the past. The National Development Plan is supported by the nine-point plan for economic renewal, which I reported on in the state of the nation address. As Ministers indicated during the debate, whilst the situation remains difficult, there are many positives in the economy for us to build on. South Africa has proved to be a resilient economy due to the solid economic fundamentals that have been laid since the advent of democracy. [Applause.] The country's prudent fiscal management and sound monetary policies support macroeconomic stability and promote competitiveness. It is for this reason that we say that South Africa's positive attributes far outweigh the challenges, and these challenges are being addressed through dedicated programmes and plans.
I wish to assure hon members that we are determined to implement the steps we have committed ourselves to in order to alleviate the most binding constraints to growth. Some of the steps we have committed to are the following: continued investment in infrastructure; improving the management and governance of the state-owned enterprises that are facing difficulties through appointing the right people with the appropriate skills and also through the implementation of the Presidential Review Committee on state- owned enterprises; expanding the energy mix and especially the Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme which has proven to be a successful partnership with business; encouraging affordable, reliable and accessible broadband access; promoting black ownership of productive industrial assets, for example our Black Industrialist Programme; finalising amendments to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act to end uncertainty in the mining sector; enhancing business incentive programmes in all economic sectors to ensure that resources support labour-intensive, job-creating outcomes; and promoting new sectors such as the oceans economy.
Hon Shenge, we have already acted on the need to assess the possible negative impact of policies before passing them. We took a decision that from 1 September 2015, all future legislation and regulations would be subject to a socioeconomic impact assessment before being passed. [Applause.]
Indeed, we are investing in education more than any other item in the budget. It remains an apex priority. I am happy this matter was raised by many hon members. This investment is the key to a brighter future for our country. [Applause.] To date, government spends R1,8 billion on early childhood development for children up to the age of four, reaching more than a million children. [Applause.]
Hon Pandor provided statistics indicating the progress we have made in expanding access to Grade R, Grade 1, and education for children with disabilities. Let me also join her in congratulating girls. They are doing very well in matric. They are beating the boys hands down. [Applause.]
Sengathi amadoda ashaya kancane nje. [Uhleko.] [It looks like the boys are being defeated. [Laughter.]]
Also important is the expansion of free education in basic education. More than nine million learners attend school without paying fees. The same children receive free meals daily to improve concentration and participation in class. [Applause.]
I was very happy to see on television that the Free State has a system of creating places for children who travel long distances to school. [Applause.] According to the report, this has improved the participation of children. From an educational point, I wish we could look into that - for them to be there Monday to Friday and then go home over the weekend. It will help a lot. They will concentrate; there will be people looking after them. They will be guaranteed three meals a day. That will change the quality of their lives. [Applause.]
Government is now promoting technical and vocational education in our schools. An amount of R1 billion has been made available for all provinces through the mathematics, science and technology conditional grant. This investment will assist towards the National Development Plan goal of producing 30 000 artisans annually. [Applause.]
Gradually, there will be an alignment between technical-vocational programmes in schools with the technical-occupational programmes offered at technical and vocation education and training colleges. The Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training are in discussion about this much-needed alignment.
I must also add the Operation Phakisa in Basic Education, which focuses on information and communication technologies and was launched last year, as one of the key investments in education. Government is scheduled to connect 2 892 schools to the internet this year ... [Applause.] ... and also train teachers and learners in the use of technology to improve learning and teaching.
We are also expanding school infrastructure. We are building three new universities and 12 technical education and training colleges. Through the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, we have delivered 136 state-of-the-art schools. [Applause.]
A further 571 schools were provided with water. A total of 410 schools were given decent sanitation, and 294 schools were provided with electricity. These interventions have been life changing to the learners and educators at these schools. Indeed, government is serious about education. [Applause.] Siyaqhuba, asidlali! [We are working, we are not playing!] We thank partners from the private sector who continue to invest in basic education in various ways.
Hon members, we must also root out violence in our schools and make the schools peaceful and productive centres of learning and teaching. In December, 2015 a summit was hosted by the Department of Basic Education involving teachers, learners and parents through their different organisations, where they all committed to work together to root out violence, drug and substance abuse, and other antisocial behaviours in our schools. Schools should be peaceful and productive centres of learning and excellence.
Hon Van Damme, youth development, including youth employment, is an integral part of all government programmes. Following an extensive consultation with young people, we now have a National Youth Policy 2020 which was adopted by Cabinet in May 2015.
Five priority areas are the focus of the National Youth Policy. These are economic participation and transformation, education, skills and second chances, healthcare and combating substance abuse, nation-building and social cohesion, and effective and responsive youth development institutions. These have been added to the annual performance plans of departments, as outlined by Deputy Minister Manamela.
In taking forward some of the key projects identified, this year we will be rolling out the National Youth Service Programme. The purpose is to inculcate amongst young people a sense of solidarity, sacrifice, service to the nation and a sense of patriotism. [Applause.] Already, more than 100 000 young people were involved in a variety of programmes including the War on Leaks, Working for Water, the Youth Build programme and the National Rural Youth Service Corps amongst other National Youth Service Programmes. Let me take this opportunity to invite business executives to partner with the National Youth Development Agency in mentoring young businesspeople as part of the Mara Mentor programme. We launched this programme on 16 June last year.
Hon Ntshayisa, hon Holomisa and others who raised the matter of action against corruption, we are strengthening the legislative framework and also continuing with other measures in order to further clamp down on crime and corruption. The Asset Forfeiture Unit has done a lot of good work in the past financial year. The unit completed 463 asset forfeiture cases worth about R2 billion. [Applause.] The unit executed 342 freezing orders to the value of R2,8 billion. [Applause.] A total of R1,6 billion recovered from corrupt activity was paid back to the victims of crime; R11 million was recovered in cases where government officials were involved in corruption and other related offences. [Applause.]
With regard to legislation, the Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill will be tabled in Parliament this year. Its primary objective is to provide protection to whistle blowers so that we can fight corruption better and more effectively. The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Amendment Bill will also be introduced into Parliament. The Bill improves the application of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act in order address practical challenges and to close gaps. Another new law being introduced is the Cybercrimes and Related Matters Bill, which is scheduled to be introduced into Parliament in the first half of 2016.
Still on security issues, I would also like to announce two new developments in the SA Police Service. As part of the Back to Basics strategy, the Ministry of Police will establish special units to deal with drugs and related ... [Applause.] ... transnational crimes as well as violence and proliferation of firearms in our society. [Interjections.]
The two units are the SA Narcotics Enforcement Bureau and the National Bureau for Illegal Firearms Control and Priority Violent Crime. [Applause.] The units will fall under the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, commonly known as Hawks.
Hon Holomisa, as you were speaking yesterday calling for an economic Codesa, someone said to me that we should organise this, as he was of the conviction that it would bring the solution. The economy is the most- discussed subject in this country. This is discussed by everybody. I am not sure what an economic Codesa would do for us because we, as parties, we might not have the same policy on the economy. We might not be ready to agree in that congress, conference, or summit - whatever we call it. Then what happens thereafter? You have an economic policy as the UDM. I am sure other parties have economic policies. [Interjections.] Now, are we going to fail to agree here as parties and then hope that the Codesa would help us agree? [Interjections.]
I am raising the issue merely because you consistently raise the matter. You believe it would solve problems. I am not sure unless parties agree beforehand that they are ready to abandon their policies and agree to one policy for all parties with one economic system for the country. So, I think it is a rather good suggestion - I'm not saying it is not good - but if we were to do that, I can tell you that we will argue from the time we start until the end without agreement. [Interjections.] Each party will promote its policy. If you say that we would solve that problem through consensus, and you say that we would have to see what the majority says, all ANC policies will be passed because we are a majority. [Laughter.] [Applause.]
I think that would not be fair. Really, it would not be fair. Let us articulate ... let us try and persuade one another, as we go forward, rather than calling for an economic Codesa. If it was another issue, not the economy - you know, if there were half a dozen economies in the House, there are about 12 economic assumptions, so how do you agree with each group believing their assumption is correct? I just thought, because you always raise this issue, I should say as much and, as I have never responded to it, express my feelings. We can have it, but I doubt we would agree. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Hon members, you are correct. Drought is a big problem, and it needs all of us to work together to mitigate the impact. The impact on the agricultural sector is severe and will affect us for a long time to come. It will be felt through food price increases and price increases in feed grain. It will also cause rising debt levels for farmers and job losses for farm workers. Farmers are facing a serious challenge of livestock dying due to the drought. Aside from the fact that we experience climate change, the fact of the matter is the drought is here. It needs all of us to work together. In addressing this matter, we have to work together as a country. About 2,7 million households are affected by the drought disaster.
The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries is providing support to farmers while Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs is co- ordinating the government response to the drought nationally. The Department of Water and Sanitation has invested more than R450 million for drought relief. The funds have been spent on water tankers, borehole drilling and rehabilitation as well as the improvement of dysfunctional infrastructure with regard to water.
In addition, as stated by Deputy Minister Cele, a total of R498 million has been approved nationally in addition to R124 million allocated by provinces, to assist affected farmers with livestock feed and water. The Minister of Water and Sanitation provided a report on the infrastructure that is being built such as dams.
Hon members raised concern about the proposed law on the ownership of land by foreign nationals. The Regulation of Agricultural Land Holdings Bill will prohibit the acquisition of agricultural land by foreign nationals. They can only lease the land. [Applause.] The Bill will be presented to Cabinet this year.
Hon Gaehler, the Office of the Chief Procurement Officer is operational. Registering with the Central Supplier Database will be compulsory from 1 April 2016. This means all suppliers doing business with government will only register once. This reduces the cost for suppliers as they do not have to go to multiple institutions if they wish to do business with government. [Applause.]
The use of the tender portal will be compulsory from 1 April this year for all departments. This means that all tenders will be advertised in one place and will be accessed free of charge. [Applause.] Government tenders will thus no longer be advertised in newspapers, and this will be another cost saver for government. [Applause.] [Interjections.] Statistics shows that these procurement reforms are already bearing fruit and are saving the state hundreds of millions of rand.