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Address by L.N Sisulu, MP, Minister for Human Settlements, During the Debate on the President`s State Of the Nation Address 19 February 2018 Parliament

Madam Speaker Madam Chairperson of the NCOP Mr President Honourable Members

Let me join everyone in congratulating you, Comrade President, on being elected the President of our Republic and reiterate the good wishes and confidence of our party that the Chief Whip conveyed. I would also like to join The Chief Whip in thanking you for acknowledging the contribution of former President Zuma in the struggle and in government. It was the right thing to do and it helped cement the message that the change of government was not out of malice. He is a leader of our organisation and a former President.

The State of the Nation Address that you delivered on Friday 16 February 2018 removed any doubt that could have existed that your ascension to the Presidency was not timely. It has already helped the country to regain its focus and imbibed our people with much-needed renewed energy. In your speech you took us back to the period of the "I am an African" speech by former President Mbeki, in the sense that in his seminal speech he overwhelmingly took everyone with him and in the euphoria there was unanimity that defined all of us as one. We are, all of us, African. Similarly, after your speech there was a unanimous feeling of joy and approval and the entire chamber rose as one to applaud the renewed hope that you gave.

Hope, Mr President is the most fertile state of mind to drive a people forward. You changed the collective country`s thoughts from concentrating on negativity to a positive mood.

Your closing paragraph was singularly touching, when you invoked the appropriate message that you borrowed from our own, recently departed African Jazz giant, Hugh Masekela, when you said: "Thuma Mina". In essence you were asking of us to follow suit and each one to volunteer to be an activist of this renewed hope. It was a call to each one of us to lend a hand to fight poverty; to fight Aids; to fight cancer; to defeat alcohol and drug abuse; to end abuse of women and children and indeed to lend a hand to end all discrimination.

It was a call to active, participant citizenry, where each citizen feels valued, their contribution called upon so that all of us can be part of this creation of a better life for all.

On behalf of the ANC we accept the call that each one of us is here to serve and are ready to serve. And we say in return, send us, because "siyavuma", and so too would every decent citizen agree.

Let each citizen ask themselves what they can do for the country, not what the country can do for them. If through your actions you inspire us to feel included and allowed to dream more, to learn more, to do more and become more, then we are indeed on the right track. Our potential as a people is endless. Lead us to go and get it.

Immediately after the speech, and after cheering with the rest of us, the opposition suddenly found a different voice outside of this Chamber and complained that the speech was full of promise, blowing in the wind, with no plan. Two things need to be made clear in response. Firstly, we do have a Plan, accepted and adopted by all in this House and it is called the National Development Plan. The President was the deputy head of the Commission that developed that plan. He has been the Leader of Government Business and on top of all the issues that he outlined here for us.

Secondly, the President mapped out the steps he was going to take with each commitment he made. Those summits are the first steps of those plans. He has a plan, we have a plan and you are part of that plan. You will be invited to those summits.

Thirdly and most importantly, you are part of that plan because the President has committed meeting with you as a priority. What more could you ask for?

Mr President, we have taken note of your instruction that there shall be a review of the size and structure of government departments. In view of our resources this will be a necessary cost cutter. Governance by its very nature calls on us to constantly revisit the paths we have chosen, to assess their efficacy and respond to the environment that we operate in. We will streamline the work of government across the departments at national level and at the various spheres as well.

Mr President, you stated the need to perhaps revisit whether the departments and indeed cabinet is appropriately configured for effective and efficient governance and to improve the governance within State Owned Enterprises so that they are able to play a meaningful role in a developmental state.

We will all agree that is critical that the governance of our institutions, organisations, companies and structures is based on proper principles, good ethics, on high morality and ethos, guided by the lofty ideals of our constitution, an unreserved commitment to serve our people and country as well as improving the unacceptable poor conditions of the many in our society.

As the constitution enjoins us that we should among other things, "improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person", itself a necessary condition for Radical Socio-Economic Transformation; we have therefore established, in the public sector, institutions, organisations and structures whose main objectives are the fulfillment of this and other constitutional imperatives.

There is no doubt that we have and continue to face serious challenges in the public sector with regard to how we do our work so that we can speedily defeat the triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment.

The issues raised by the President are important not only for those in governing party roles at national, provincial and local government levels. The need to focus on building a capable state is an issue that all political parties should be concerned about and in fact, rally around. We may contest for political power based on our differing notions of the nature of the state, but, we should all agree that we need a capable state.

In 2011 it became very clear that for an effective, efficient and capable state that all of us dream of, for the purposes of complying with the constitutional requirements of public administration and for the purposes of dealing with a myriad of problems pointed out by the Auditor-General, Public Service Commission and other Chapter 9 institutions, we had to do something about the state of governance.

The Public Administration Management Act is the act that had been in the making the longest time. It was conceptualised in 2002 that there was a need to create uniform standards across the three spheres of government. The then Bill was placed before Parliament in 2007 and withdrawn in 2008 for the purpose of more consultation.

The PAM Act is a corrective and proactive regulatory instrument. It is corrective in a sense that it is a response to the many structural and human weaknesses that continue to bedevil the public service. These weaknesses have been ably captured in the National Development Commission`s diagnostic report. These have continuously been reported to us. These weaknesses have been identified by yourselves as representatives of our people. They need no further elaboration save to mention that the country has had for the past 20 years to live with an unconstitutional situation, where services continue to be delivered in unequal and biased measures, where resources, especially people resources are unequal and biased, where resources of the state are not economically used for the benefit of all, where the huge inequalities and services delivered by the state makes us the most unequal state in the world. We can do better. We must do better.

The PAM Act is based on the following pillars, which the Constitution prescribes for public administration:
1. A high standard of professional ethics must be promoted and maintained;
2. Efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted;
3. Public administration must be development-oriented;
4. Services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias;
5. People`s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making;

In addition to the above, we have added the following three pillars:
1. Professionalising the Public Service. Public Servants will undergo compulsory training at the National School of Government, which we can use to better manage career progression and the public servants can use to upgrade their qualifications.
2. Creating an environment that prohibits the possibility of corruption. Corruption being the twin sin between the corruptee and the corrupter. No public servant is allowed to do business with the state. That which we threatened is now in law. Public servants have to disclose their and their immediate family`s financial and business interests to ensure there is no conflict between what the public servants do and what their family members have a right to do in their private space. Our emphasis on corruption is solid and strong and will send a message to our people that we will not tolerate it.
3. The progression and performance assessments of all public servants will be based on the Service Charter signed with labour in 2013.

To ensure the possibility of equitable distribution of resources, especially skills, we allow for the mobility of skills across all three spheres of government. We would like as wide a pool as possible of the skills that this country can offer, to be deployed to those areas, especially the most disadvantaged, that are in desperate need of skills.

We now have a Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, which was created in 2014, when the two Ministries in the Presidency were merged. There is a Mandate Paper. We need to strengthen these by conducting more onsite monitoring. I welcome the President`s undertaking to visit every government department. This would be very useful insight for the President, especially if it is done without prior arrangement.

When South Africa`s first democratically-elected government came into power in 1994 it inherited the fragmented, unequal and incoherent planning systems which developed under apartheid. Extensive development of the system took place over the last two decades.

The National Development Plan is instructive in the steps we must take to improve the delivery performance. It is notable that the example used is that of water, which is the crucial challenge that faces us now:

"The public needs a clearer sense of who is accountable for what. There is a need to have systems to hold all leaders in society accountable for their conduct.

Weak, poorly performing systems make it hard to attribute responsibility; with the frequent result that no one is accountable. The plan cites the example of what happens when the water in a town is found to be undrinkable. The media blame the Minister of Water Affairs. The community blames the mayor. The mayor blames the head of the water utility. The head of the water utility blames the technical engineer. The engineer says that the maintenance budget has been cut for the past three years and now the water is undrinkable. The head of finance in the municipality says that the budget was cut because personnel costs have crowded out maintenance expenditure. The mayor argues that the South African Local Government Association negotiates the salary structure at a national level. The association says that municipalities can opt out of these agreements if they are unaffordable. And so on.

South Africa`s intergovernmental system is complex, but this challenge is not an excuse for blurring lines of responsibility. The establishment of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation is a positive step to tighten the accountability chain. The Commission also calls for shareholder compacts with state-owned enterprises to be made public."

The ANC is committed to building a developmental state that is able to drive an inclusive economy that reduces inequality and poverty and ensures that those most marginalised benefit from a robust social protection system.

The NDP goes beyond the outlining visionary statements on the need for us as South Africans to build a democratic developmental state that is also a capable state. It gives us guidance on how to do this. Given the much publicised governance lapses, over the last few years, we may find this guidance slightly embarrassing as, if we had implemented them, we would have averted much of these problems. I will restate this guidance as part of what we MUST now do to build a capable state that is equipped to deliver on its developmental mandate and minimise the scope for corruption and state capture.

We have a value-add document that guides the public service to add value that can be measured. The motto that all public servants are bound by is Batho Pele. Together with their representatives, the Service Charter was signed on 28 June 2013, which binds all public servants. The preamble to the Service Charter states the following:

We, the parties in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) representing the State as Employer and public servants:
Affirm our commitment to upholding the values and principles of public administration enshrined in Section 195 of the Constitution and other laws, policies and frameworks.
Uphold the Constitutional responsibility of the State clearly articulated in the Bill of Rights to deliver services to the citizenry.
Note the continued efforts of the State and public servants in building a developmental state that is inclined towards addressing the needs of the majority of the population particularly those that had been historically disadvantaged.
Acknowledge the service delivery challenges in the public service.
Equally concerned about the increasing manifestation of corruption in the public service and the negative impact it has on the socioeconomic and political landscape of the country.
Believing in the rich history of our democratic dispensation which entrenches values and principles of human rights, social, economic and political rights.
Motivated by the proven value of collaboration in building a new South Africa, and encouraged by the willingness of all the parties in working towards a common goal of finding mutually-beneficial solutions to our common challenges.
Commit ourselves to this Charter.

As I stated earlier and as said by President Ramaphosa to the leader of the official opposition, shortly after he was elected as President, we need to act together now to build the capable state. We can engage in the public domain on our differing conceptions of the nature of the state when we contest for political power in 2019 and other elections, but now, we must all, at all levels of governance, whether it is in this house or in the Council Chambers of the City of Cape Town, ensure that we work together to build a capable state.

Let`s make our views on the nature of the state heard when debate policies. But when it comes to building a capable state that is as democratic as our constitution, which is the supreme authority in our context demands, let us work together for the common good.

These are the nuts and bolts of service delivery that must occur, Honourable Malema, even in socialist government or neo-liberal ones Honourable. Maimane. Irrespective of who governs and where they govern, we must have public servants led by politicians with the appropriate oversight by legislatures to ensure that where our people interface with government, it is done with dignity, for the public good and devoid of corruption and rent-seeking behaviour. As elected officials in the state we must ensure that we create the environment that attracts and retain public servants that have the skills, experience and attitudes that give rise to the vision of the ANC, which mirrors the vision of the NDP, of a democratic developmental state that is also a capable state.

Over the last few years, we have seen some of our best and committed public servants resigning, taking early retirement and many are either suspended or working under the threat of suspension. This is not the kind of environment that creates the conditions for the public service to be an employer of choice as recommended by the NDP.

I thank you.

     
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