Hon Speaker, hon Deputy President, hon Ministers, hon Deputy Ministers and hon members, I wish to begin by saying that I do regret that you, hon Deputy President, had to tolerate my heckling in your time in this House. If I caused you not to hear intelligent contributions from the DA, then I apologise, but I assure you, you missed very little. [Laughter.]
While I am honoured that the Chief Whip asked me to speak in this debate, I must confess that I do so begrudgingly. I am not happy at the retirement of the Deputy President. The Deputy President is, first and foremost, a tried and tested freedom fighter. [Applause.] He has experienced South Africa from all angles - apartheid state, emerging democracy, fledgling constitutional state and increasingly robust nation of the world. In each of these stages of the state of South Africa, the Deputy President made an honourable contribution.
He is a dignified person, a strong-willed man of principle, very suited to his name, Kgalema, which means "caution, correct, guide", ba kgaleme. Comrade Deputy President, the name befits you in an extraordinary way. [Applause.]
I have been on official trips with the Deputy President to a number of countries and served in the National Executive Committee of the ANC during his tenure as secretary-general and deputy president. He has always impressed me with his immense grasp of the detail of politics and with the dignity he brought to representing South Africa in the international arena.
I recall, in particular, a meeting with the President of Finland, a meeting that was anything but ceremonial or an exchange of pleasantries and greetings. The Finnish President was genuinely interested in hearing about our various matters, matters to do with our politics. He wanted information at first hand and Deputy President Motlanthe was more than equal to the occasion. He responded without notes, showing a full command of the issues confronting South Africa and Africa today. He was genial, courteous at all times and engaging, and he won supporters for our country, representing us brilliantly on that occasion and several others.
I had the honour to serve in the Cabinet of former President Motlanthe, and I believe he served that office well during his tenure.
However, it is his service as the Leader of Government Business that has impressed me most. In a context where many executive leaders seek to diminish Parliament, he asserted the importance of Parliament, and the need for the executive to account to Parliament.
His views on complex policy issues always show a strategic grasp of the core issues that must be addressed. He can speak on economic issues, on the nature of the postcolonial struggle in Africa, and on the importance of stakeholder collaboration to achieve national transformation.
The Deputy President has led our government on several important initiatives. He is the chairperson of the Human Resource Development Council, and has steered the council's stakeholders to a number of important decisions about human resource development policy initiatives and implementation programmes. In this structure, he brings together and leads government, labour, business and a range of education practitioners, and forms an interesting unity with the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, in steering this particular council.
He has brought robust energy to the work on the Presidency's War on Poverty initiative.
Within the ANC, he can be relied upon to assert principle over expediency. He knows the movement, lives its belief and fully merits the decision that he will head the ANC political school. I can think of no better leader for the ANC political school. [Applause.]
The Deputy President is a man who came from the union movement, led within it and fully understands the struggles of the working peoples of our country. That is why he continues to work today to create stability in the mining sector and is trusted by workers within it as an honest broker. It was because of his experience in the union movement that he was able to lead the ANC's secretariat with such effective command.
It is because of his experience in leading the ANC that he has been a capable Deputy President.
I am fully aware that the Deputy President does not relish praise, but we are pleased in the ANC to say that we are proud of this servant of the nation, servant to South Africa and servant to the ANC. [Applause.]
I have heard you say, Deputy President, that you plan to spend time after your parliamentary retirement with the Congress of South African Students, further proving your courage. The fundamental message you have indicated you'll convey is the following:
Remember, progress is always a function of working out opposites. Once there is a monopoly, even in the realm of ideas that can only lead to stagnation.
I would urge you, Deputy President, to consider assisting the future government by offering orientation to the next Leader of Government Business to ensure a similar commitment to keeping our Parliament vibrant, transparent and accountable.
We wish the Deputy President well in his next undertakings. I believe he will be sorely missed in Parliament, but I am certain, as I am sure all members of the ANC are, that he will continue to have an important impact on South Africa. He will continue to play a role in the ongoing transformation of our country and in ensuring that that which we aspire to, in regard to the national democratic revolution, is achieved by South Africa led by the ANC.
We thank Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe for his service to the nation and for his service to the ANC, which will continue, and we wish him well in all his future endeavours. Thank you. [Applause.]