Farewell speech by the ANC Chief Whip, Dr Mathole Motshekga, Innational Assembly

24 November 2011

We draw to a close this session of Parliament amidst much debate on the COP 17 climate change talks to be held in Durban from 29 November-9 December 2011. We are confident that just as we demonstrated to the world that we could host a successful FIFA Soccer World Cup last year, so too can we ensure that the Climate Change Conference will proceed with success. We are confident that this conference will further the work of previous conferences towards building an international system of climate change.

As we end this 2011 Parliament, it is important to reflect on the year that was and take stock of what we have managed to accomplish. We began this year, acknowledging that it marked the 21st anniversary since the release of President Nelson Mandela from prison. We also participated in the inaugural meeting of BRICS in April in China, and we have taken up our non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, which we will use to promote the African agenda as well as peace and security in Africa and the world.

On 18 May 2011, we held our fourth successful democratic local government elections where the majority of the people once again mandated the African National Congress to lead. We also paid homage to the four retiring Commissioners who have served the IEC with distinction for 14 years and have presided over four free and fair democratic elections. They are: Chairperson Dr Brigalia Bam, Deputy Chairperson Ms Thoko Mpumlwana, and Commissioners Mr Fanie Van der Merwe and Mr Terry Tselane (who is now serving as the Deputy Chairperson).

The campaigning which preceded the local government elections was vigorous, dynamic and spirited. Such demonstrations augur well for our democracy and speak to the fundamental goal of wanting to ensure we provide a better life for our people and a prosperous society. We all concede that such a mammoth task cannot be achieved without us all working together for a common and prosperous future. The hallmark of our participatory democracy is that of adopting an inclusive approach and partnering with each other to arrive at a common future. As the ANC, we believe that the responsibility entrusted to us by the people of South Africa is not one we take lightly. Our approach of consultation, engagement, interaction and collaboration is in recognition of the fact that we learn and grow together. All parties are to be commended for the spirit with which they have worked together and mutually co-operated to take forward the programme of this parliament.

We acknowledge that often times the debates were heated, the exchanges emotive, the arguments personal and the humour adding a touch of comic relief. But I think we can all agree, that it was never out of malice.

On 24th October 2011, the President reshuffled his Cabinet in a bid to significantly strengthen government performance and capacity. Vacancies created as a result of this reshuffle in Parliament were timeously filled thereby ensuring that work continues unabated. In our pursuit of building a People`s Parliament and an activist Parliament, we do so mindful that the work that we do must remain true to the ideal of building a better quality life for all the people of South Africa. We welcome the decisive action and leadership of the President and applaud his commitment to building a performance-orientated State.

We also bid farewell to Former Chief Justice Ngcobo and welcomed current Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa Mogoeng-Mogoeng.

A highlight on the Parliamentary programme was the hosting of the 2011 International Consultative Seminar, which focused on the role of Legislatures in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, recognizing the legislative sector`s role in evaluating and reviewing strategies and interventions and in forging consensus to ensure that our country meets its national commitments.

Parliament also hosted the Women`s Parliament Women and a joint sitting of Parliament`s National Assembly and National Council of Provinces also debated the theme of this year`s Women`s Parliament - "WORKING TOGETHER TO ENHANCE WOMEN`S ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AND SUSTAINABLE JOB CREATION".

Deepening a People-Centred Transformational Agenda was the theme of the People`s Assembly which took place in Mangaung in the Free State on 22 and 23 September 2011. Carrying forward the vision of an activist Parliament the People`s Assembly (PA) can be described as a vehicle through which Parliament engages with the people in order to address matters of mutual interest.

Giving further impetus to the upcoming COP 17 Conference, Parliament hosted the National Consultative Seminar on Climate Change: Building Tomorrow Today; Working Towards a National Consensus on Climate Change in the African COP17. Representatives from all sectors of our society were invited in an effort to meet the objectives of the seminar which were to generate greater understanding among a range of representatives from national and provincial legislatures, local government, civil society organisations and government about the South African government position on climate change and to strive for a national consensus on this position.

Just last week, we convened the first Parliamentary Interfaith Dialogue. This was linked to a resolution passed by both the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces in March 2010 to form a Multi-Party Parliamentary Inter-faith Council which would interact with other religious structures outside Parliament on issues of spiritual and moral support, and conflict resolution on the African continent. It will also create a platform for an activist Parliament that would further advance, forge and renew relations amongst different religions and to influence and focus discussions on issues affecting different religions; and intensify efforts to contribute to nation-building and social cohesion and promote peace and co-operation among religious formations in South Africa.

Members have worked tirelessly, specifically with regards to the legislative programme of Parliament. The exchanges and debates were a testimony to our democracy. We all know as elected public representatives seated here, that we share a common mission which remains the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.

We must also pay tribute to those who have passed on this year who have made such enormous sacrifices and contributions to building our democracy. We remember former Members of Parliament, Ms Albertina Sisulu and Mr Paul Harry Kgomotso Ditshetelo and two Members of this House, Bishop LJ Tolo and MS Nontsikelelo Magazi.

We also bade farewell to Mr Mike Ellis of the Democratic Alliance who retired after 24 years as a Member of Parliament. Committed, dedicated and passionate about serving the country and its people, he will be remembered and missed.

The coming year sees the African National Congress celebrating its centenary to mark the 100 years of selfless struggle by the people of South Africa under the leadership of the ANC in its pursuit for freedom, democracy and unity of all South Africans. And as we celebrate the centenary of the ANC we want the broad society of South Africa to join in and be part of the celebrations because the legacy of the ANC is the legacy of the people of South Africa.

In the words of our beloved Madiba at the opening addressing the Special Debate on the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: "As we reached out across the divisions of centuries to establish democracy, we need now to work together in all our diversity, including the diversity of our experience and recollection of our history, to overcome the divisions themselves and eradicate their consequences."

Finally, both the Deputy Chief Whip and I would like to thank the Speaker, Mr Max Sisulu, Deputy Speaker, Ms Nomaindia Mfeketo, House Chairpersons, Mr Cedric Frolick, Mr Ben Skosana and Ms Fatima Hajaig and the management and staff of Parliament for their assistance and contributions to the work of all Members.

May you all have a safe, peaceful and restful festive season.