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Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the Presidency Budget Vote

31 May 2017, National Assembly, Cape Town

Madam Speaker,
President Jacob Zuma,
Honourable Members,
Distinguished guests,

This month marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest sons of our soil, one of the architects of our freedom, Isithwalandwe Walter Sisulu.

Walter Sisulu was, by nature and by conviction, a unifier, a consensus builder.

There is much that we can learn from him in terms of the great ability he always displayed in addressing the challenging issues that he had to confront in his days as a leader who was trusted and loved by our people.

I remember very fondly the simplicity, his warmth, and the natural way in which he got people to work together to reach consensus.

He worked throughout his life to draw together different people, sometimes with sharply differing views, into the service of one common cause - the liberation of the people of this country.

Walter Sisulu's words after the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955 come to mind.

He said:

"It was not for nothing that thousands of South Africans from all walks of life, of all races, of different political outlooks, religious beliefs and of different social status, travelled to take part in the greatest assembly ever known in our country, the Congress of the People.

It should not be out of place to suggest that as members of Parliament we are all here in response to a historic clarion call from our people as a whole to meet and plan the future of our country as they would like to see it.

We are required to work together in a common cause for the realisation of the vision that was well articulated by the drafters of the Freedom Charter.

The aspirations set out by our forebears in the Freedom Charter are now deeply embedded and entrenched in our Constitution.

We are required to be bold, drawing our conviction and courage from our forebears, as we continue to plan the future of our country because the shadow of our terrible past has not yet receded and the challenges that confront our people
are still substantial making the tasks that we need to undertake urgent.

We must therefore be bold and act with haste because, despite the significant achievements of the last 23 years of democracy, there are children in this country who still go hungry, there are parents who have been looking for work their entire adult lives, there are people who die from diseases that are preventable and treatable.

We must act with determination because the legacy of land dispossession, bantu education, migrant labour and low wages continues, to this day, to define the life prospects of millions of black children.

It is only through united action and working together as Walter Sisulu enjoined us to do, through collaboration, partnership and dialogue, that we will put an end to 365 years of hunger, misery and want.

We know from our history, from our struggle for democracy, from the Congress of the People and from the making of our Constitution, that we have the capacity for bold, determined and united action.

It can be done.

But only if we work together.

Working together in various endeavours of social and economic interaction has become the new normal around the world.

Leaders and policymakers who ignore this tried and tested approach to addressing and resolving problems do so at the peril of preventing societies from moving to higher levels of progress and development.

I have seen over the past year how working together can achieve great outcomes on a number of issues where positive outcomes were thought to be impossible.

Positive outcomes can be achieved if we draw on the energies of all stakeholders to address the challenges that face our people be they how to grow an inclusive economy, build skills and capabilities, enhance the capacity of the state and promote leadership and partnerships throughout society.

It can be done, but only if we forge new ways of working together that involve all South Africans in a common struggle to fundamentally transform our economy and our society.

Honourable Members,

South Africans are evolving ways of working together in a number of areas and endeavours.

We are finding new opportunities to forge new partnerships, to come up with new initiatives and to create space for collective effort.

A few examples of how South Africans are working together to forge effective social compacts come to mind.

Earlier this year, the social partners at Nedlac reached a historic agreement on labour stability and the introduction of a national minimum wage.

Many of us thought the differences between the social partners - particularly a militant labour component and a business class whose main focus is profit - would stand in the way of reaching agreement.

Following two years of intensive engagement between government, labour, business and the community sector an agreement was reached.

You could say that this was a response to the clarion call to work together as envisaged by Walter Sisulu.

Although each of the social partners at times advanced vastly different positions, they all remained committed to an outcome that would best serve the interests of South Africa and its people.

They all remained committed to an outcome that would increase the wages of the working poor, that would contribute to reducing inequality and that would support our efforts to create more jobs.

Although they were representing the interests of their respective constituencies and although they fought vigorously to protect those interests, they were all keenly aware that over and above everything else, they had to represent the
colllective interests of the people of South Africa.

The consensus that was reached by all the social partners on the national minimum wage enabled me to answer a question posed by Sello Molefi from KwaZulu-Natal on why the national minimum wage had been set at R20 an hour and not at a much higher figure.

Mr Molefi was one of a number of residents who I met while going door-to-door in Nquthu who wanted to understand more about the national minimum wage.

It was during the course of those conversations - in which I had to justify every decision taken by the social partners in Nedlac - that it became plainly clear that we cannot hope to forge a meaningful social compact without the direct involvement of the people most directly affected.

It was during these conversations that I was able to inform Mr Molefi that while it would have been ideal and desirable to peg the minimum wage at a much higher level, it would have resulted in many people losing their jobs.

After the explanation, Mr Molefi said he understood the reasons for the agreements that were reached and appreciated the tremendous impact these agreements would have on the incomes of over 6 million working South Africans.

He also understood that this landmark agreement forms a foundation for the struggle to gradually rid South Africa of income inequality.

From the 1st of May next year, when the national minimum wage is introduced, people like Mr Molefi will be among those workers who experience the real benefits of this agreement.

They will experience the real benefits of dialogue, inclusion, consensus building and collaboration.

Madam Speaker,

There are other areas where we can see emerging the seeds of a new social compact.

One of these is the youth employment initiative, which is aimed at the challenge of youth unemployment

This scheme will draw on the resources, capabilities and commitment of business, government and labour to provide paid internships for up to a million young South Africans over three years across the economy.

For the proposed youth employment service to be successful companies are called upon to say YES by providing the internships and mentorships necessary for the transition of young people into the world of work.

It requires that all the social partners recognise that the contribution they are making now, the resources they are investing now, even the sacrifices they are making now, will benefit the economy, the country and the people for many years to come.

We are appreciative of the collaboration that is emerging on skills development.

We are pleased that a number of companies recognise the importance of making meaningful interventions on skills development.

It is this recognition that we have encouraged and that has inspired a number of leading companies to form partnerships with various TVET colleges across the country.

Through these partnerships, companies are providing resources and skills to institutions that are critical to the skills revolution that our country must necessarily undergo.

As a result of these partnerships, colleges are producing young people with skills that are needed, relevant and appropriate to industry.

It was during a Human Resource Development Council visit to one of these colleges - the Flavius Mareka TVET College in Sasolburg - that I met Refiloe Makholo, a remarkable young woman with great dreams.

Refiloe comes from Excelsior, a small farming town in the Free State, and was raised by her grandparents in poverty-stricken conditions.

Through her determination and through the collaboration between the college, business and government, Refiloe was able to gain critical technical skills and essential work experience.

Refiloe is now on a three-year training programme to qualify as an artisan specialising in electrical engineering.

Soon she will join the ever-expanding ranks of those young people with the specialist skills required to drive the industrialisation of our economy.

It was in this House last year that I described an encounter I had at another TVET college - the Ekurhuleni West TVET College in Gauteng - where I met Palesa Hlalele, a highly motivated 22-year-old who has now completed her studies in engineering and automotive design.

She told us of her ambition to be a diesel mechanic and in future to be able to design, assemble, operate and maintain big earth-moving equipment.

We saw how her story of determination reinforces the importance of the significant investment we are making in TVET colleges.

We challenge companies across the country that need these skills to adopt a TVET college.

Through such partnerships, young people will be able to access internships and apprenticeships more easily.

Even during these trying and difficult economic times, we will need to re-prioritise our budget so that colleges are provided with the necessary infrastructure and technical expertise.

Closer collaboration between industry and TVET colleges will help ensure that the curricula in these colleges is more relevant and responsive to the needs of industry.

Globally, colleges thrive when they are linked to industry.

This is a kind of collaboration that will move South Africa forward and liberate our youth from unemployment.

Madam Speaker,

Over the course of the last year, more than 700,000 South Africans were engaged in a number of public employment programmes, where they were providing essential public services while receiving a stipend income, gaining work experience and acquiring skills.

These programmes are made possible by the collaboration between communities, civil society and the state.

These public employment programmes are responsible for touching and improving the lives of millions of our people - like Yandiswa Stemela, whom I met at the Community Works Programme in Orange Farm.

A mother of three, Yandiswa joined the community works programme in 2010, cleaning alleyways, clearing dumping sites and cutting grass.

An assignment as a cleaner in one of their site offices led Yandiswa to develop an interest in computers, despite the fact she had never touched one before.

Through the programme, Yandiswa developed her computer skills, and was given data capturing and administrative duties.

Today, she is a full-time Community Works Programme site administrator, providing her with the means to support her family, the skills to advance her career, and the motivation to mentor four other young people.

Today, she is one of the many young South African women who, thanks to the power of partnership and collaboration and through sheer strength of will, are improving their lives and the lives of their families.

Another young woman whose life has been transformed is Dr Ncumisa Jilata from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape who, at the age of 29 years old, has just become Africa's youngest neurosurgeon.

A fortnight ago, she graduated from the University of Pretoria where she specialised after completing her Bachelor of Medicine at the Walter Sisulu University.

In doing so, she became the sixth black female neurosurgeon in South Africa.

Honourable Members,

Another area where we have seen the value of collaboration, leadership, patience, and understanding is through the work we do through SANAC.

Someone else who has paved the way for other young women through understanding is Prudence Mabele, who I met through the South African National AIDS Council.

Prudence was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 when she was a university student.

Showing great resilience and a steely determination, she decided that she would not allow HIV to kill her.

She was unable to access antiretroviral treatment for many years, and eventually started treatment at a public health care facility in 2005.

For much of the past three decades, Prudence has fought a struggle, not just for herself, but for the millions of South Africans who live with HIV.

She co-founded the influential National Association of People Living with HIV and the powerful Positive Women's Network, and was an activist of the Treatment Action Campaign.

She is an organiser, an agitator, an activist and a valued collaborator.

In many ways, the progress we have made in our struggle against AIDS is one of the foremost instances of a social compact at work.

By bringing together such a wide range of social groupings and interests to forge a common programme to overcome a disease that so fundamentally threatens our society, we are demonstrating what can be achieved if we work together.

In developing the new National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and STIs, which was launched in March this year, we had to draw on the insights, experience, learnings and concerns of dozens of different partners, organisations and individuals.

We had to consider the needs of many different and diverse constituencies.

We needed to ensure that all had a place and that all had a voice.

We have seen the importance of getting people to determine and own their destiny.

The achievements we celebrate in our national response to the AIDS epidemic bears testimony to the virtue of walking together, with care and understanding.

Honourable Members,

In another area of work, we started a programme to replicate high-performance, integrated delivery of services across the country.

For any government to succeed, it needs to be deeply entrenched in the communities it exists to serve.

Since 2014 we have been working with a number of provinces to replicate Operation Sukuma Sakhe as a best practice model of integrated service delivery.

Operation Sukuma Sakhe is a model of a government existing and living among its people.

Provinces have continuously shared best-practice experiences and they provide regular progress updates to Presidential Co-ordinating Council meetings.

Where we are performing exceptionally well, we want to ensure that we share experiences, insights and practices so that we create a rising tide of excellence across everything we do.

Honourable Members,

As Africa Month draws to a close today, we reflect that the freedom and democracy we enjoy today is partly a consequence of the huge sacrifices that the peoples of our continent made in the struggle against apartheid.

Today we stand proudly before this assembly of our people as direct recipients of the generosity and sacrifices of the peoples of our continent.

As South Africa we continue to work with our sister African countries, the African Union and the United Nations to contribute meaningfully to conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction and development.

It is in this context that we continue, on behalf of SADC, to facilitate the achievement of peace and stability in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

It is generally agreed, both in Lesotho and other SADC countries, that the solution to the country's challenges lies in the constitutional and security sector reforms as directed by the SADC Troika.

We hope that the forthcoming elections scheduled for 3 June 2017 will create the necessary climate for the full implementation of SADC decisions.

We express the hope that these elections will be free and fair and an expression of the democratic will of the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho.

We reiterate our view that the law enforcement agencies must respect the rule of law and abide by the letter and spirit of the constitution of the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Soon after the election of a new government, a multi-stakeholder dialogue forum of the people of Lesotho will be convened to address constitutional and security matters.

This forum will be convened with a view to building consensus and trust among all stakeholders and ensure a renewed commitment to the full implementation of SADC decisions.

We will do so appreciating from our own experience the value of dialogue and cooperation in resolving intractable conflict.

It is the same experience that informs our work in working to advance peace and stability in South Sudan.

Honourable Members,

As I conclude, allow me to extend a word of gratitude to the remarkable young women who have allowed me to tell a part of their stories here today.

To Refiloe Makholo, Palesa Hlalele, Yandiswa Stemela, Ncumisa Jilata and Prudence Mabele, thank you for being our partners in building a new South Africa.

Thank you for inspiring us, motivating us and challenging us with your lives and your determination.

Thank you for demonstrating what is possible with perseverance, courage, collaboration and partnership.

Thank you most of all for gracing us with your presence here today.

We welcome you to Parliament.

We applaud you for being role models for your peers and demonstrating that South Africa is alive with possibility.

Right now, our country needs solutions that will help us to renew and grow, but these solutions will only present themselves if we listen with our hearts to the cries and aspirations of our people.

We must dream, hope and build again.

As the celebrated Nigerian author Ben Okri puts it:

"The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love."

Ben Okri's words must live in the lives of the young people who are in the public gallery with us today and the millions around the country.

As we enter Youth Month, we call on the young people of our nation to become socially and politically active and to help us create, overcome, endure, transform and love.

I wish to convey my sincere thanks to President Jacob Zuma for his confidence that we will diligently execute the responsibilities with which he has entrusted us.

I also wish to thank my Cabinet colleagues for their support, guidance and cooperation.

Thank you to the Director-General and staff in the Presidency for your commitment and hard work.

Finally, I wish all Muslims in our country a blessed Holy Month of Ramadan.

Your spiritual commitment is an important part of our nation's moral and ethical fabric.

We wish you well.

Let us be bold. Let us work together.

Let us build a new social compact.

I thank you.

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