STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, THABO MBEKI, TO THE JOINT SITTING OF THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, Cape Town, 8 February 2002
Madame Speaker and Deputy Speaker,
Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP,
Honourable Members of our National Parliament,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Chief Justice of South Africa as well as other members of our judiciary,
Heads of the Security Services,
Governor of the Reserve Bank,
Honourable Premiers and MECs,
Representatives of Local Government,
President Mandela and Mrs Machel,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Fellow South Africans:
Decision-makers across the globe have accepted the reality that the global struggle to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment is fundamental to the well-being of human society.
We know this as a matter of fact that the struggle to eradicate that poverty and underdevelopment in our own country is fundamental to the achievement of our own national goal to build a caring and people-centred society.
Of decisive importance to the millions of our people and the future of our country, as we meet here today, the central question we will have to answer at the end of the day is whether what we are doing as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, as well as the fourth estate, civil society, is helping to lift from the shoulders of our people, the intolerable burden of poverty and underdevelopment.
This fourth opening session of our second democratic parliament, including the debate that will take place next week, must answer this question in a frank, honest and forthright manner.
What I know and can say without any equivocation is that during the past year, our country has, in real terms, and within its means, moved further forward towards a society free of poverty and underdevelopment. This I will also say, that we are nowhere near liberating millions of our people from these scourges.
But I will also say this, that gradually, step by step, we are progressing towards the achievement of the historic goal of the eradication of a centuries-old legacy of colonialism, of racism and apartheid. This I will also say, that the overwhelming majority of our people consider themselves as actors in the unfolding and measured drama of the eradication of that legacy.
Madame Speaker, our Deputy President, the Honourable Jacob Zuma is not with us today because he had to attend a summit on NEPAD in France, at the invitation of President Jacques Chirac. At the end of the summit, he will proceed directly to Dakar, Senegal, for another summit with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Accordingly, Madame Speaker, I am honoured to convey an apology for his unavoidable absence today.
We wish Madame Speaker also to acknowledge the presence of Mrs Rebecca Kotane on this occasion of her 90th birthday and also Mrs Nontsikelelo Biko, in this year when we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Steve Biko.
Madame Speaker, scientists say that anatomically modern humans, people who look like us, evolved in Africa about 150,000 years ago and then slowly spread out to occupy most of the globe. They say that a key question has been when and where did these people first become modern in their behaviour. Until now, archaeological evidence has pointed to Europe as the centre for this development about 35,000 years ago. The markers for modern behaviour include the production of art, bone tools and a capacity for symbolism. Lack of evidence of these behaviours suggested that people in Africa lagged behind those in Europe.
Remarkable new finds by South African archaeologists at Blombos Cave in the southern Cape indicate that the prehistory of Africa and its people now needs rewriting. Blombos Cave has produced evidence that African people were producing exquisite bone tools and delicately-made stone spear points more than 70,000 years ago. But the most spectacular find is a slab of ochre engraved with abstract designs 77,000 years ago.
Described by the South African Museum as "the world's oldest art object", this invaluable slab of ochre is on display in this case here next to this podium, an example of the extraordinary heritage of the evolution of humanity that resides within our country and which we must preserve. The designs on the slab were made deliberately and with symbolic intent. The scientists say that it is now to Africa that we look for the origins of the human imagination and human ingenuity and for the genesis of art.
We thank the South African Museum for lending us this exhibit for a few hours as well as the presiding officers for agreeing that it should be brought into the chamber.
I am especially pleased to welcome to our parliament Prof Chris Henshilwood, who led a team of scientists that found the Blombos engraving. All of us are committed to do everything we can to support our scientists who are working selflessly to unravel the mysteries of the evolution of humanity.
We also look forward to parliament's own Millennium Project which aims to collect, collate and interpret our diverse heritage so that we may build a common identity and nationhood.
We meet here at the beginning of a year during which our country will host two important summit meetings that are of great significance to Africa and the world. These are the founding Summit Meeting of the African Union in July and the World Summit for Sustainable Development in August-September.
In addition to launching the African Union (AU), the first of these Summits will, among other things, take important decisions about the critical issues of peace and stability on our continent, good political governance and good economic governance. It will also have the possibility to consider specific and implementable NEPAD development programmes, whose central objective is the elimination of poverty and underdevelopment on our continent.
The Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development, the largest high-level international gathering this year, will also focus on the critical matter of development and the eradication of poverty. This is of fundamental interest to our country, our continent and the rest of the developing world.
It will build on what was agreed at the historic United Nations Millennium Summit of the year 2000 and the Monterrey, Mexico, conference next month, which will discuss Financing for Development.
The nations of the world elected to come to our country because they understand and appreciate what we have done in the last seven-and-a-half years to address within our own borders precisely the same questions that constitute the global agenda. They chose to convene in South Africa because they are convinced that we have something of value to contribute to the building of a new and more equitable world order that must surely emerge.
The recognition by the peoples of the world of the fact that we have established ourselves as a winning nation, as a people determined to succeed, places an obligation on us in fact to succeed.
Today, millions of our people ask themselves the question - how can I lend a hand in the national effort to build a better life for all!
During our recent visit to New York to participate in the proceedings of the World Economic Forum, we had the privilege to meet South Africans who live in or have become citizens of the United States. These are Marco Piovesan, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and Cathy Gorille, who lives in Seattle, Washington.
They and their friends, all born in South Africa, have also been asking themselves the question - how can we, who reside in the United States, lend a hand in the national effort to build a better life for all South Africans!
From across the Atlantic, they have decided to make their own contribution to the common national effort by concentrating their resources and expertise in a programme for the reconstruction and development of our country. Correctly and interestingly, they have entitled their programme - Vukï¿½ uzenzele! - which idiomatically might be expressed as Arise and Act!
The call they have made applies to each one of us as we review a year in which we called for unity in action among all South Africans for change. It is an abiding challenge as we set out the programme of government for the coming period.
On the occasion of our address to the joint sitting of our two Houses of Parliament last year, we set out a programme of action focused on taking us further forward on the road towards a better life for all our people.
The programme, as further elaborated by Ministers in their addresses to Parliament and their public briefings, was concrete. Where possible, we indicated the time frames within which particular actions would be undertaken. And so the time has come to account.
A few weeks ago, we received an unsolicited report from a team of academics at the University of Stellenbosch, led by Professor Willie Esterhuyse, which comments on our government's performance during the course of the year 2001. Having studied the programme government set itself at the beginning of the year, the team undertook a systematic analysis of what had been done to implement this programme.
This is what the team says:
"The President made 43 'promises' in his speech. By 8 January 2002 - eleven months after the speech was made - 65% of these have either been achieved or are credibly in progress. 16% have not been achieved. That gives a ratio of 4 items of progress versus one item not yet completed.
"On a further 19% we do not have sufficient information to make a call...
"65% vs. 16% is in our opinion a very good performance. Governance is not about pushing buttons and things happening instantaneously. Various obstacles like inertia, vested interests, competing agendas, lack of capacity and the like must be overcome.
"From various speeches and press releases it is clear that Ministers are working towards the goals set by the President. Looked at closely, there is coherence and a sense of purpose and integration.
"Some of the 16% of items not yet achieved are those with a very large impact on the economy and society like the Telkom IPO, clarity on telecommunication issues and an effective campaign against AIDS. We have taken a hard line and suggested that these have not been achieved, although government can certainly argue that they are in progress."
The team then explains why in its opinion things do not "look and feel better", as they put it, despite the progress that has been achieved.
In its view, firstly this is because "communication by government is not always optimum". Secondly, it is because despite "a lot of good progress" on "macro issues that are vitally important", these are "far removed from the [person] in the street". "We should also submit that, looking back at 2001, the very solid progress recorded has been overshadowed by developments in Zimbabwe and around HIV/AIDS".
As government, and even as Members of Parliament, we may not agree with some or other part of these comments. But there is no gainsaying the fact that the analysis provides a fair assessment of government's work in the past year.
And as the team says, the national successes are cause for celebration. Overall, we should all be proud that steadily, our country is moving away from the past of racism, poverty, conflict and economic stagnation.
The weaknesses pointed out by the Stellenbosch researchers reflect a variety of limitations in the structures and systems of government that should be put right. We can proffer a host of cogent reasons for these and other shortcomings. But, to the extent that we have the capacity to do something about the problems, we should and do take responsibility as government.
I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and thanks to Professor Esterhyuse and the team for an informative, honest, frank and dispassionate assessment of the work of government. Besides putting the resources of the University at the disposal of the nation's current endeavours, there is an important moral to this initiative. Without being asked by anybody in government, in a very practical manner, the Stellenbosch team answered the question - how can I lend a hand in the national effort to build a better life for all!
Madame Speaker, Chairperson, the past year has brought to the fore many patriotic South Africans who have found a practical answer to this question.
These include the school principal at Sandi Secondary School near Umtata, Bongi Peyana, who put in an extra effort to raise a derelict institution towards the highest summits of success in teaching and learning.
They include Ivan Booth, a young South African who, after numerous debates with his peers about the opportunities that democratic South Africa offers to all its people, decided to draft a manuscript for a publication entitled, "South Africa: Reasons to Stay". Ivan says the book is dedicated:
"...to the nation that won its place in history
...he nation with the brightest future
...the nation that fights and wins
...the nation that doesn't know how great it is".
In a postscript to his foreword, this young and proud South African reports:
"Several people have mentioned that anyone publishing such a book is effectively pushing themselves into a corner, should they ever wish to leave South Africa. Hell, yes. But what a corner...!" I trust the presiding officers will excuse the language.
These heroes who are lending a hand to make South Africa succeed include the children of the Inkonjane Senior Phase School in Soweto who, in partnership with the Sunday Times, volunteered their time and meagre resources to help fellow children in rural Ingwavuma, KwaZulu-Natal affected by AIDS and ill-health.
They include the people of Rockville, Soweto, who during the course of last year strengthened their co-operation with the Police Service, and have, as a result reduced crime in their area by half in 2001.
These and many other South Africans are the true leaders and heroes and heroines of the nation - the volunteers whose selfless dedication will ensure that we make progress to make ours truly a nation of hope.
We have it within us as a nation to join them and many others to forge a massive movement of volunteers - dedicated workers in all fields of life - and bring to life those enduring attributes of all our people, of perseverance and persistence in the struggle for our own good and the good of humanity.
Madame Speaker, Chairperson, the assessment of the Stellenbosch team that we referred to earlier is that we are making progress as a nation in addressing the social backlogs that we inherited from the past. Let us examine, from data available in government, what the trends are in this regard.
In the five calendar years leading to the end of 1998, three million South Africans had been provided with access to clean running water through the community water supply project. In only three years since 1999, four million more have been connected, bringing the total to seven million.
In the five calendar years to the end of 1998, 2,3 million electricity grid-connections had been made. In the three years since 1999, 1,2 million new connections had been made, bringing the total to 3,48 million.
444 000 hectares had been redistributed in the land reform programme in the five years to the end of 1998; in the three years since then, the number has increased by 600 000 hectares, bringing the total to over one million hectares. The pace has dramatically increased in the case of land restitution, with 48 claims settled at the end of 1998; while by the end of 2001 the total number of settlements has increased to 29 000.
While the number of houses built or under construction was 514 000 at the end of the financial year in 1998, the number currently stands at 1,2 million.
These figures speak to the progress we are making in providing basic services to the majority of South Africans.
They add to the qualitative improvements in learning and teaching in our schools and the dramatic improvements in Matric results, which show that the transformation process is starting to bear fruit.
The masses of our people, both black and white, both resident at home and abroad, are, like the peoples of the world, driven by hope and confidence in our future as a country.
They are determined to see our country progress, refusing to demobilise themselves by succumbing to carefully cultivated pessimism and despair. As a government elected by the overwhelming majority of our people, we have an obligation to respond to and sustain this hope and confidence in a rational, realistic and a practical manner.
As it must do, the Government has conducted its own thorough assessment of its own performance as well as the state of the nation. We have also studied carefully the findings and comments made by the academics from Stellenbosch.
We have also recalled our constitutional and legal obligations. We have also taken into account what the Stellenbosch academics said, that 'governance is not about pushing buttons and things happening instantaneously'.
The programme we will pursue this year builds on the foundations that have already been laid. It is informed by the broad objectives our country agreed upon in the context of the goal of reconstruction and development, at the centre of which is the eradication of the legacy of poverty and underdevelopment.
This year, the Government will work further to reduce the level of poverty in our society. This will be expressed in concrete, time-specific programmes.
This year, the Government will work further to develop our greatest resource, our people, including the working people, the women, the youth and the disabled. Particular attention will be paid to such matters as health, including AIDS, education and training and the National Youth Service.
This year, the Government will initiate additional programmes to improve the quality of life of all our people, encompassing such issues as safety and security and moral renewal.
This year, the Government will further intensify its attention on questions of social equity. This will include matters of black economic empowerment, women's emancipation, and justice for the disabled.
And this year, the Government will further increase its focus on the issue of achieving higher rates of economic growth and development. This will include promotion of domestic and foreign investment, trade promotion, a social accord and the convening of a growth summit.
This year, building on the agreement we have reached with the public sector unions, the Government will work further to improve the efficiency of government. We will pay particular attention to such questions as improving professional competence at all levels of government radically to change the quality of service delivery.
This year, the Government will take additional steps further to strengthen and entrench our system of democratic governance. This will include the appropriate celebration of the 5th anniversary of our Constitution and the resolution of the various questions relating to cultural, language, and religious rights, as well as the issue of the place and role of our traditional system of government.
This year, the Government will work to discharge its current international responsibilities. This will include the hosting of the Summit Conferences to which we have referred to and other tasks that relate to specific instances, including the situation in the Middle East, as well as the fight against terrorism.
Finally, this year, the Government will work further to strengthen its links with the masses of our people. Accordingly, we will participate in, encourage and promote the involvement of as many of our people as possible in the people's campaign Vukï¿½ uzenzele! In this context, we will strive to give real meaning to the strategic challenge facing the Public Service - Batho Pele!
In pushing back the frontiers of poverty, we shall do this in partnership with many in our society who are ready to lend a hand in the national effort to build a better life.
Let us cite some of the tasks in this regard. We need massive mobilisation around registration for social grants.
Government paid out 3,3 million grants in November 2000, and the number increased to 3,8 million by November 2001, the greatest increase being in child grants. In its programme for the medium-term, government had targeted the registration of three million children eligible for a grant by 2005. As a result of better awareness and improved efforts by the Public Service, we are on course to meet this target by the year 2003.
Government will in the next few weeks approach religious bodies, trade unions, traditional leaders, youth structures, civic associations, women's organisations and others, for all of us to lend a hand so that in the next three years, we register all who are eligible for the child grant and other social allowances.
With each one of us lending a hand, we can attain this, and further ensure that we not only improve the integrity of the system against corruption, but also that new registrations are conducted in reasonable time.
I would like to add that, as the Minister of Finance will elaborate in the Budget Speech, we shall this year increase allocations to both old age pensions and child grants by far more than the rate of inflation.
This call for a national partnership in support of the beneficiaries of social grants, and the increases we have referred to, underline the commitment of this government to improving the conditions of the most vulnerable sectors of our population. The plight of the poor is at the top of our agenda.
Again, as part of our work to push back the frontiers of poverty and expand access to a better life, possibilities have been created for further tax cuts particularly for the lower end of the salary scale, a critical contribution by government to higher real wages for our workers.
Preserving and developing our human resources is a matter that all of us should pay particular attention to, both individually and collectively.
Government has implemented the Human Resource Development Programme conscious of the fact that it is the surest guarantee to sustainable employment and economic growth. Tens of thousands of trainees have benefited from this, ranging from science and mathematics teachers, agricultural inspectors, information and communications technology learnerships to retrenched mine-workers and so on. This work will be intensified during the course of this year.
Studies that we have conducted in our interaction with the Presidential ICT Councils, whose establishment we announced last year, have shown that a critical and pervasive element in economic development in the current age is the optimum utilisation of information and communications technology. In addition to the many programmes we have introduced in this area, including tele-centres, we shall as a matter of urgency complete the work towards the establishment of an ICT University. Microsoft informed me last week that it would donate all the software needed in the 32 000 public schools.
The implementation of the National Plan for Higher Education will gain momentum in the coming months; and government is under no illusion that the process will be easy. We are confident though that, working in partnership with higher education institutions, we shall fashion a system that will ensure that we meet the challenges of the modern world.
Again, in the spirit of Vukï¿½ uzenzele, we must arise and act in partnership across the nation and ensure proper teaching and learning in our schools.
Government will in the current medium-term expenditure period allocate the necessary resources to ensure that no child studies under a tree. Consultations will be held with provincial administrations to ensure that this programme is put in place as a matter of urgency. Further, through the Community-based Public Works Programmes, it should be possible to allocate resources for massive restoration projects in our schools, clinics, hospitals and other amenities across the country. The Gauteng Province informs us that R500 million over three years has been allocated for this purpose already.
As we push back the frontiers of poverty, the Integrated Rural Development and Urban Renewal Programmes assume critical importance. Work has started in all the 13 rural nodes identified last year, with integrated programmes ranging from community production centres, Multi-purpose Community Centres, social infrastructure projects and others being laid out. In the urban nodes, business plans have been finalised and a number of projects are already being implemented.
Particularly in rural areas, emphasis will be laid on ensuring food security and community-based job-creation projects, so as directly to address the state of poverty in which communities live.
Consolidating this integrated work in the nodes already identified will be the focus of government's work this year. This will then lay the basis for the extension of the nodes to other parts of the country in the near future.
We intend, within the next three years, to complete the land restitution process, which is a critical part of our land reform programme.
In each Province of the country, intense water and sanitation programmes are being implemented to improve hygiene, with emphasis on schools and cholera-affected localities in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Though we have contained the worst impact of this disease in these areas, we operate from the premise that the long-term solution is quality services to all.
Government, working in partnership with all sectors, particularly the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC), will intensify its comprehensive programme against AIDS, sexually-transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and other communicable diseases.
In implementing the agreement we reached with the pharmaceutical companies, we have initiated discussions with some of them to examine new ways of making drugs more affordable and to strengthen our health infrastructure. They are responding positively indeed.
The work that is being done by various institutions within or related to government on the health profile of the nation - the burden of disease, regional and local trends, mortality statistics and so on - is critical in fashioning a comprehensive response both in the public and private sectors. In addition to the many campaigns to change our lifestyles for healthier living, the focus of our programmes in the coming period will be the improvement in quality of services in public health system.
With regard to AIDS in particular, our focus remains: a massive prevention campaign directed at ensuring that the high rates of awareness translate into a change of lifestyles; care for the affected and infected; treatment of all diseases including those associated with AIDS; and research into a vaccine. This programme has been described by the head of UNAIDS, Dr Peter Piot, as the largest and most comprehensive in Africa and one of the largest in the world; a programme, he says, with very high levels of government investment, which is starting to show results.
Proceeding from the accepted premise that there is no cure to AIDS, we are convinced that, besides the individual and collective responsibility for us to take care of our own lives, protection and enhancement of the immune system is a critical intervention in both the prevention and management of AIDS. By implication, therefore, poverty reduction and appropriate nutrition constitute an important front in this campaign.
At the same time, continuing work will be done to monitor the efficacy of anti-retroviral interventions against mother-to-child transmission in the sites already operational and any new ones that may be decided upon.
Our partnership across society should advance these multiple interventions required for us to deal with this epidemic. Any focus on one issue, at the expense of the others, may have the effect of undermining what we all seek to achieve.
Honourable Members, last December, the South African Police Service released comprehensive statistics on the incidence of crime in our society and the trends that attach to the rates of various forms of crime.
It is our hope that Honourable Members and the whole of our society, including the media, will continue to apply their minds to the issues raised in that briefing, the better to appreciate the role that society as a whole needs to play in dealing with this scourge. Indeed, when impassioned calls were made for the release of statistics, we believe the aim was not to "check" whether government is "delivering" as it is said, but to ensure that all of us lend a hand in the effort to combat and prevent crime.
The simple fact that most of the crimes of assault and murder happen between Friday and Sunday, among people who know one another, and with many of them under the influence of alcohol or drugs speaks to the critical importance of community organisation and systems of social censure.
Clearly, many of these crimes, as well as those related to rape, domestic violence and child abuse cannot be policed with any measure of success by the security agencies acting alone.
Credit is due to the thousands of South Africans who have joined the Community Police Forums and our Police Service as reservists. Together, if each one of us lends a hand we can do much better. During the month of February, communities and their organisations have mobilised to enlist more volunteers. Sustained throughout the year, and with each one making a contribution, we can surpass the 30 000 target set by the Police Service.
The Police and the Department of Justice will continue their interaction with communities and organisations to ensure that particular attention is paid to assisting in such areas as clerical work in police stations, as well as in the courts, so we are able massively to reduce the backlog of cases pending trial. Legal and other professionals, students and other sections in our communities can play an important role in this regard.
Having set itself the target of stabilising 145 police station areas where over 50% of crimes are committed within three years, our security agencies have managed to attain this in one year.
More attention in the coming period will also be paid to improving the intelligence capacity of our security agencies, particularly to build on the successes that have been made in dealing with organised crime.
As we said earlier, these trends in crime incidents as well as other problems within society, including white-collar crime, call for partnership across society to improve our moral fibre to strengthen community bonds, to pull together in the direction of hope and success.
Consultations have started with various organised formations to convene a Moral Regeneration Summit as a matter of urgency. Such a Summit should address the issue of the responsibility that each and all of us should take for our lives, moving from the understanding that, as we were our own liberators in resistance against apartheid, so too should we today act as our own liberators in dealing with this legacy.
Moral regeneration also means inculcating in us and our youth that service to the people, selfless commitment to the common good, is more valuable than selfish pursuit of material rewards. Productive investment is more valuable than aimless gambling in markets for derivatives. Payment for honest work is more fulfilling and sustainable than theft. Children and women are there to be respected, not to become targets of abuse.
As part of the people's campaign Vukï¿½ uzenzele, we must intensify our work on the questions of social equity. We do this as a continuation of our struggle and in order to fulfil the commitments made with the rest of humanity at the World Conference against Racism that we had the honour to host last year.
In this regard, we must ensure that we accelerate and entrench the forward march of women's emancipation in all spheres of our lives. As in the past, government must take a lead in promoting and protecting the rights of women.
We also need to reflect, as a nation, whether we are making the necessary progress in advancing the constitutional rights of the disabled people.
Further, part of our programme to bring about social equity is the successful implementation of the programme for Black Economic Empowerment.
Clearly, we need rigorous and visible progress in this area, so as to ensure not only the distribution of wealth and economic power in line with the demographics of our country; but also to ensure that our economy and society as a whole can benefit from the wisdom and potential of all South Africans, and that the benefits of such empowerment are shared across society, and not just by a few.
Government has accepted the most critical recommendations of the Black Economic Empowerment Commission. On the two specific areas of legislation and institutional frameworks, it has been decided as follows:
* All sectoral legislation will be examined to ensure that the obligation of Black Economic Empowerment is incorporated, on the basis of common principles agreed upon.
* Once a comprehensive policy statement on this issue has been finalised, within the next four months, a Black Economic Empowerment Council will be established, bringing together government and other experts and practitioners in this critical area.
* Government will, as an actor in the economic arena, particularly with regard to the massive procurement of goods and services, re-examine its structures and systems to ensure that they fully meet the objective of Black Economic Empowerment.
I would like to emphasise that the task of Black Economic Empowerment faces all sectors of society, including the established business community. As is happening in the tourism industry, progress will depend on active government leadership and co-operation from various sectors of the business community itself. I wish to thank Cyril Ramaphosa for his efforts in producing the report.
A further challenge in ensuring inclusive economy, pertains to access to micro-finance. Many enterprising South Africans set out to establish small businesses but are unable to do so through the formal banking system, nor to acquire the training that they need. Khula and Ntsika were established to spearhead this, and they have been improving their work in the past few years.
In order to ensure that the wisdom of the nation is tapped effectively, and that ideas are processed into practical programmes as urgently as possible, government will continue with intense consultations on micro-lending for the poor for purposes of income generation, working with experts who, by definition should include communities who have over the years run successful self-help financial schemes.
Combined with this initiative will be a comprehensive review of all institutions mandated to assist Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).
Last year, government announced a series of interventions by the State to help speed up the rate of investment and job creation. This we did having come to the conclusion that the country had achieved macroeconomic stability.
We should at the very outset make bold to say that that conclusion stands. Growth of our economy in 2001 is expected to register more than 2% of Gross Domestic Product, a significant achievement given the global slowdown. Interest rates, though still high, are lower than they have been for many years; and the same can be said about inflation.
The budget deficit is much lower; and combined with revenue collection which is above the set targets, this will afford us the possibility to expand expenditure in real terms, especially on such important areas as social services and economic infrastructure.
In other words, barring the exchange rate, all critical economic indicators have improved.
The changing structure of our economy for the better is reflected, among other things, in the increase in manufactured exports, and the fact that high rates of growth can be attained without undue pressure on the balance of payments.
We are as a country within our right to be concerned about the volatility in the exchange rate, and the kind of inexplicable movements that we experienced towards the end of last year. A variety of reasons have been given in this respect; and we all await the outcome of the inquiry headed by Justice Myburgh, whom we wish to thank, along with other Commissioners and their staff, for accepting the request to assist the nation in getting to the root of this problem.
As government, we are in no doubt that the sudden depreciation of the currency a few months ago is not a reflection of systemic or structural weaknesses in the economy as a whole.
We will need to continue working with international financial institutions and developing countries to fashion a global financial architecture that cushions so-called "emerging markets" from occasional market irrationality.
On the whole, we should emphasise that the path of an open economy that we have charted for ourselves is not up for review. As we find our way into the future, we shall not seek solace in the past.
The programme that we announced last year, to pay particular attention to a number of sectors of the economy will, during the course of this year, continue to unfold in the areas identified such as mining, agriculture, telecommunications, tourism and manufacturing. Many concrete steps have been taken to speed up work in these sectors, and the relevant Ministers will detail these in their briefings to parliament and the public. We shall here select a few areas for emphasis.
To start off with, a number of recent projects that have been brought to our attention, convince us that the future holds much promise in terms of direct investment.
Mvelaphanda Energy, working with a consortium of two American companies has invested more than half a billion Rand in the exploration of gas on the west coast. The consortium is exploring an area covering approximately 8 million acres within the Orange River Basin and has encountered excellent gas reserves, that will supply a new form of energy to our country. Mvelaphanda Energy will soon be announcing a R5 billion investment in this project.
Furthermore, a joint venture between a black empowerment company, Evertrade, and a Nasdaq-listed company will establish waste bin manufacturing facilities around the country for export, with earnings estimated at about R1,4 billion in the next seven years.
Harmony Gold has raised over R1 billion of foreign investments for the purchase of gold mines in the Free State.
To these we can add motor manufacturing companies, which this year invested in excess of R2 billion, an Irish clothing and textile enterprise and many others.
Interaction with our business community has reinforced our confidence regarding their commitment to the growth of our economy and the prosperity of our society. In this regard, we wish again to pay tribute to a South African patriot and leader, the late Marinus Daling, who departed from our midst a week ago.
From the interactions we have had with government and business leaders in the European Union, Japan, China, the US and other regions, including at the recent World Economic Forum in New York, it is quite clear that these trends will continue.
Critical in ensuring greater investment is the intensification of the work to build economic infrastructure and lower the cost of inputs. In this regard, progress has been made in finalising ports policy and starting the process that will see to improvements in their efficiency.
The Nqurha Industrial Development Zone has been designated and work on the port has started.
Despite the difficulties experienced during the course of the year, progress has been made in the restructuring of the telecommunications sector, transport, energy and other areas of economic and social infrastructure, with the primary aim of ensuring efficient and cost-effective service. In this context, the restructuring of State assets remains one of the primary areas of focus of the Government's programme.
One of the urgent tasks we have set ourselves is to finalise the setting up of a safety agency for our railways. In this context, we wish to express our sympathies with the families of the bereaved and the injured in the recent train accident in Kwa-Dukuza, KwaZulu-Natal.
We are highly appreciative of the agreement that has been reached in the transport sector, and Spoornet in particular, to determine the kind of restructuring that enjoys the confidence of all the major stakeholders, including the trade unions. Steadily, as these programmes reach their critical mass, their impact on the lives of all South Africans, including in the area of sustainable job-creation, will start to be felt.
The partnerships that we have referred to earlier contain within them possibilities for massive expansion of Community-based Public Works Programmes.
We also face the challenge of ensuring that the funds allocated to the National Skills Fund, Umsobomvu, infrastructure and the employment subsidy are spent with the efficiency demanded by the actual needs of our society.
Experience over the past few months has raised the question of the impact of the rapid depreciation of our currency on the lives of ordinary South Africans. It is a tribute to the changing structure of the economy that imported inflation has in recent years been kept to a minimum.
We should also congratulate the agricultural sector for the work that they have done to finalise the Strategic Plan for South African Agriculture, which addresses all the complex issues of research, equitable land distribution, assistance to small-scale farmers and so on. Government and the agricultural sector are working together urgently to move towards implementation of the Plan.
In a meeting of the Joint Working Groups of government with "big business, black business, agriculture and labour" last December, it was agreed to convene as early as possible a Growth and Development Summit to address the urgent challenges facing us in the economy and build an enduring partnership in which all of us can lend a hand in building a prosperous South Africa.
A critical element of this engagement - at least a basic outline of which will have to be elaborated before such a Summit - is a Social Accord or Compact among all role-players. We need to ensure that each sector lends a hand for higher growth, whose benefits can be shared equitably among all South Africans. This will mean, among other things, achieving congruence in expectations and certainty in such matters as inflation, wage and salary demands, rates of investments, positioning of the country in the global arena, our role in NEPAD, job-creation and poverty alleviation.
The approach to this critical initiative will be based among other things on the experiences already garnered in the Millennium Labour Council and Nedlac. Achieving this Compact is desirable if our economy is to develop to its full potential. Nay more, it is necessary if our society has to advance at the rate required by the social challenges we face.
Honourable Members, this spirit of service to society, Batho Pele, is what guides us as we pursue the restructuring of the Public Service. Though slow, progress is being made in negotiations with public sector unions as we try to forge a common understanding of the challenges of change, which should benefit employer and employee, the public servant and the public we are meant serve.
And steadily, through practical experience, for example in urban renewal and rural development programmes, in improving capacity in the Presidency, in the clusters of Ministers and Directors-General, and in the President's Coordinating Council and other institutions, integrated governance is becoming a reality.
During the course of this year, our country will celebrate the 5th anniversary of the adoption of our basic law. This is an occasion in which we pay tribute to those who led the negotiations process and the mass of our people who, ultimately, are the true midwives of our democracy.
The interactions that we have had with various communities especially during imbizo activities demonstrate that the people's wisdom in both policy development and implementation can only serve to enrich the quality of the services we render and make people-centred and people-driven development a living reality.
One of the injunctions of the Constitution is that we must set up a Commission on Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights and we have already tabled legislation in parliament in this regard.
In accordance with the Government's comprehensive Public Service Anti-corruption Strategy, we have introduced measures to ensure that the code of conduct is upheld and that all public service managers are subject to conflict of interest disclosures. To complement this, legislation to fight corruption will be brought before parliament during this session.
Among the matters that we will bring to successful conclusion this year is the definition of the role of traditional leaders in our system of government. The consultations that have taken place across the board have laid the basis for framework legislation.
We will also this year finalise the restructuring of our National Orders to reflect the art, symbolism and idiom of South Africa as a whole.
Work to build the Freedom Park Monument will start this year so that South Africans and the rest of humanity can celebrate this important shrine symbolising the rich heritage of our country in the evolution of the Earth, life and humanity and the struggle of part of that humanity for liberty.
It is therefore appropriate that this Monument is launched as we approach the end of the First Decade of Freedom in two years time. I would like to thank the Freedom Park Board for having appointed the Honourable Wally Serote to work as a full-time chairperson on the Freedom Park Monument so as to speed-up the process.
Madame Speaker, Chairperson, what inspires us as we work with other leaders and peoples across the continent and further afield is to shape a new world, defined by the needs of all humanity.
We enter the year 2002 with Africa, through its representative structures having formally embraced the commitment that this should, in actual practice, be the African Century.
Various projects envisaged in NEPAD will start to unfold in parts of the continent, as we turn the ideals in this document into practical action.
During the course of last year, our commitment to Africa's progress also found expression in the deployment of our sons and daughters in uniform in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. We did so because we remain confident that our sister-people in these countries will find solutions to their problems.
We are humbled to play host to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, which commences this month in our country.
In order to ensure that we stay true to our commitment to peace on the continent and other defence functions, we shall continue with the programme to equip our National Defence Force in line with policies of the country adopted by its elected representatives.
In pursuit of stability in our region, we will work tirelessly to support the people of Zimbabwe in their quest to hold free and fair elections in their country.
It is in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe and, indeed, the whole region that the Government that emerges from the March elections is legitimate and enjoys the support of the majority.
In order to play our part in ensuring that this happens, and in response to the wishes of Zimbabweans themselves, we will, within a week, send a multi-sectoral South African Observer Mission to Zimbabwe, led by Dr Sam Motsuenyane. I am informed that Parliament is also ready to send a Parliamentary Observer Team on the same issue.
Clearly, the mission and the conditions that our teams seek to create are one and only one: let the people of Zimbabwe speak through the ballot box!
Further, we wish to express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Lesotho who are due to hold their national elections in May this year after a long process of negotiations among themselves.
This year, we will continue with efforts to attain peace and development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and the Comoros.
We shall also persist with whatever we can contribute to ensure that the destruction of the Palestinian Authority is brought to an end, and that peace and security for the Palestinian and Israeli children become a reality.
Again, we shall during the course of the year, continue to strengthen economic and other forms of co-operation with countries of the European Union, Japan and the rest of Asia, China, the USA and the Americas, in pursuit of Africa's development, our own national interests and the interests of humanity as a whole. In this regard, we shall continue to challenge a pessimism that expects Africa to fail in any of its endeavours, and the undeclared doctrine of collective punishment against all Africans that seems to come into effect when one or some among our leaders stumble.
We wish once more to reiterate our solidarity with the people of the United States for the terrible events of 11 September 2001. If anything, our fervent hope is that this tragedy will continue to re-awaken in all of us, our bonds as a global human family. Along with other countries, under the aegis of the United Nations, South Africa will make whatever modest contribution it can in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Madame Speaker, Chairperson, the ingredients for faster progress on all fronts of our work are there. The primary one among these is our collective appreciation that no one, and no one, can do for us what we should do for ourselves.
In this programme, we lay out the main challenges that face us in the coming year and beyond. What guides our approach is that each one of us should lend a hand in doing the simple things that will make a difference to the lives of especially the poor.
Together as a people, we have made great strides. The successes we have achieved make the clear statement that acting together, we can and shall continue to push back the frontiers of poverty and expand access to a better life.
Thank you very much.