Honorable Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise;

Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Honorable Amos Masondo

President of the Republic of South Africa, his Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa;

Deputy President, Honorable David Mabuza;

Honorable Members; and

Fellow South Africans

Madam Speaker, as the President has stressed, this State of the Nation Address Debate takes place in the midst of the deadly Covid19 pandemic that continues to inflict untold social, economic and human suffering to our people; especially the poorest of the poor and the working class.

Honorable President, it is therefore fitting to join you in saluting our people for their collective resilience and patriotism in the midst of this turbulent time. This period has demonstrated once more that, South Africans, across different sectors organized labour, big business, the religious fraternity, organs of civil society and political formations across ideological differences, can rise to the occasion and seize the moment in defense of our common destiny.

As we steadily rise from the shackles of Covid19 to begin a new trajectory of economic reconstruction and recovery, we must constantly remind ourselves that we have faced and defeated worse challenges.

The decisive intervention of government to mitigate the miseries of our people during the Covid19 pandemic has actually demonstrated the capacity of the African National Congress to live true to the ideal of being a caring government.

Precisely because we emerge from this pandemic with the state of unemployment, poverty and inequality worse than before, the road ahead will be defined by constant struggle between hope and despair that will seek a permanent place in the minds of our people about the better future we seek to construct.

Honorable President, in your inaugural State of the Nation Address three years ago, you identified strategic priorities for the current term of government. These are appropriate policy measures necessary to accelerate the reconstruction and development of our country.

They were appropriate then, they are even more appropriate today.

As the African National Congress, we are greatly inspired to join you in declaring that it must be business unusual this year. We reaffirm our support for your bold pledge to the people of South Africa that:

The year ahead must be a time for change, for progress and for rebirth. It must be a year in which we rise. This is no ordinary year, and this is no ordinary State of the Nation Address.

First, we must defeat the coronavirus pandemic. Second, we must accelerate our economic recovery. Third, we must implement economic reforms to create sustainable jobs and drive inclusive growth. And finally, we must fight corruption and strengthen the state.”

Contrary to some insignificant sentiments in this chamber, the African National Congress welcomes the State of the Nation Address as representing continuity in change in the protracted struggle to achieve a better quality of life for all. The need for economic reconstruction and recovery is even more urgent to cure the ills of an economy that benefits a few.

Honourable President, we must not be defocused by those amongst us here who conceal their lack of capacity to provide an alternative vision to the African National Congress behind empty slogans which effectively dismiss the State of the Nation Address as something that is not new.

South Africans are waiting with keen interests to hear something new from them, and they will certainly be disappointed to hear the same old slogans with no relevance to the conditions of life of the overwhelming majority of our people. No understanding, no vision, no concrete alternatives! That’s what the opposition – behind all their noise – amount to!

Honorable President, your address is consistent with both our historic mission and our electoral mandate to push back the frontiers of poverty, unemployment and inequality. We are not apologetic for stating these facts over and over again. In doing this, we draw inspiration from the Freedom Charter which proclaims;

These freedoms we will fight for, side by side, throughout our lives, until we have won our liberty.”

What is fast becoming clear is that we can only inspire our people through credible policies and effective implementation, not through slogans. When will the opposition learn this?

The ANC has always made it clear that for us to realise the vision we have set for the country, we need to build a capable and developmental state with an integrated co-operative governance system. This is important in order to position our local government at the cutting edge of service delivery, local economic development and the transformation of the apartheid spatial development patterns.

In this regard, the National Development Plan (Vision 2030) correctly identified the persistence of fragmented planning and poor coordination between our three spheres of government as one of the critical challenges of governance in the post-apartheid South Africa.

It may be useful to restate what we have said before i.e. the more we build a developmental state, the more we create the conditions for a more integrated cooperative governance system. And the more we strengthen the cooperative governance system, the more we create the conditions for a developmental state.

There is a mutually reinforcing relationship between a developmental state and cooperative governance.”

Madam Speaker, in his State of the Nation Address of 2020; the President acknowledged the following amongst others that:

for the effective implementation of our seven priorities, the structures of government will need to function with maximum coordination and cooperation as it is envisaged in our Constitution. The truth is that lack of coordination between national and provincial governments, between departments and particularly at local government level, has not served us.”

Pursuant to this strategic task of strengthening our evolving system of integrated co-operative governance, the cabinet adopted a framework on District Development Model. The main objective of the District Development Model is to ensure greater alignment, coordination and integration of planning and resource allocation between the three spheres of government.

This model is being piloted in some municipalities and we are confident that the roll out of this model country wide will enhance greater co-operation, coordination and joint planning. This will in turn assist to address the uneven capacity and development between the different provinces by enhancing the coordination of support and monitoring of local government by the national and provincial government.

Honorable Speaker, we agree that leaving the apartheid spatial development patterns intact is tantamount to perpetuating the apartheid legacy of racial segregation which subjected the vast majority of our people to under-developed, under-serviced and densely populated settlements that are located far away from economic activity.

It is precisely for this reason that the African National Congress welcomes the President’s vision on the transformation of the apartheid spatial development patterns through the creation of the post-apartheid smart cities.

This is long overdue!

Since you first announced this initiative Honorable President, we are proud that South Africa will soon see its first smart city in Lanseria – located in the west of Johannesburg. It is our strongest view that the smart city initiative should not be isolated from the agenda of the integrated urban renewal and development, but be integral part to it.

Honourable Speaker, we need to equally demonstrate a commitment to transform old townships of South Africa such as Soweto, Mdantsane, New Brighton, Umlazi, Botshabelo, Gugulethu, Mitchels Plain and many others into liveable spaces that uphold the dignity of our people. There is indeed a need for greater investment in the upgrading of old townships and intensifying of efforts to integrate human settlement planning & development.

This will require coordinated efforts between our three spheres of government through the District Development Model. However, we will need to build stronger local government in order to achieve this. We cannot over-emphasize the need for strong, ethical and decisive leadership as well as coordinated support and monitoring of local government.

The resources of national, provincial and local government must be harnessed towards the revitalisation of factories and the building of new ones in the municipalities. There are already emerging pockets of excellence in this regard upon which we should build moving forward.

For instance, the Industrial Parks Revitalisation Programme designed to refurbish state owned Industrial Parks located predominately in South African Townships and former homelands is being implemented across the country.

I state this without fear of contradiction because the people of Botshabelo in Free State are beneficiaries of this important intervention.

The partnership between the Free State Development Corporation, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Department of International Trade and Industry has started revitalising the old Botshabelo Industrial Area. This initiative aims to create more than five thousand (5 000) direct job opportunities as well as other indirect job opportunities for the community of Botshabelo and surrounding areas.

In our recent NCOP Local government focus week, we came across many alarming allegations mismanagement and corruption which deprive our people of basic services. In some instances, municipalities have been turned into personal piggy-banks of corrupt politicians and officials. The employment of incompetent and unqualified officials, illegal awarding of tenders, non-payment of service providers are amongst the challenges faced by local government.

For instance, most municipalities [Free State, North West & Eastern Cape] owe billions of rands to Eskom and Water Utilities thus threatening the capacity to provide these basic services to communities. Honorable President, we believe that some of these issues need to be followed up by law enforcement institutions.

Honorable Speaker, the debate is raging in the public about the effectiveness of parliament in discharging its oversight function. We raise this because without effective and robust parliamentary oversight, the state cannot fulfil all the priorities it has set for itself. This is even more important in the context of deteriorating state of local government.

As a house that is located at the intersection of the three spheres of our system of governance, the NCOP has a critical role to oversee and monitor the compliance with this constitutional injunction. In this regard, the NCOP will strengthen systems to improve capacity to exercise its oversight mandate. The following areas of operation will certainly be improved;

  • Local Government Week

  • Provincial Week

  • Taking Parliament to the people

In conclusion, allow me Madam Speaker to thank the President for his pointed and straight forward call for action to change the quality of life of our people.

Thank you.