3 April 2013
National Communication Partnership opening address by Minister for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Collins Chabane
CEO of GCIS
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are now just a matter of days away from our momentous celebration of 20 Years of Freedom. The convening of this National Communication Partnership therefore comes at an important time.
As we reflect on our journey over the last 20 years; we must do so recognising the fact that as a young nation we have come a long way and have a good story to tell.
South Africa is indeed a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994.
This is not simply a feel-good declaration. It is evident, wherever we look. It is tangible and very real for millions of South Africans as they go about their daily lives.
We have worked tirelessly to build a better life for all our people, especially those who were deliberately underdeveloped and side-lined by apartheid.
We recall the inspiring words of our icon and former president, Nelson Mandela who said: “The diversity of colours and languages once used to divide us are now a source of strength. The basic law of our land, our Constitution, declares that we are all one. We have been liberated from a system that held us all in its chains, free at last to be who and what we really are, secure in the respect others have for our cultures and religions.”
Programme Director, who would forget the momentous occasion on the 11 February 1990 when the founding father of our democracy Nelson Mandela walked out of prison a free man after 27 years. Equally so, who would forget the enthusiasm, excitement and patience of millions of South Africans who stood in long queues to cast their first democratic vote on the 27 of April 1994.
Those significant occasions were to be followed by yet another momentous event - the inauguration of the first democratically elected President of a united and free South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Twenty years on, as I stand here before you, these images are still clear in my mind and make me appreciate the democracy we have. Today, it is about celebration and we indeed have a reason to be proud.
However, we must not be complacent or take our hard won freedom for granted. Our journey to freedom was not easy an one. It came at a tremendous cost and must be jealously guarded
We must never lose sight of the sacrifices of those who came before us so that we can be free today. It is up to us to carry the torch of freedom that so many of our fellow countrymen and women fought and even died for. Let us be the generation who celebrate their legacy.
Ladies and gentlemen
The change we have experienced over the course of our democracy is palpable and it must be reflected in everyday discourse.
It is also backed by hard facts. The South Africa Twenty Year Review 1994 -2014 released last month by President Jacob Zuma confirms the progress we have made.
The Review tracks our advances over the past two decades and how we have fared in realising the objectives we had set for ourselves in 1994. It also recommends how best to address our remaining challenges.
The Twenty Year Review becomes an important basis for your engagement today in this National Communication Partnership; it sets the foundation and the tone to move us forward in our discussions.
This meeting allows us to cement our partnership on how we can work together to expand on the good story we have to tell as a nation.
As communication partners in this historic event of 20 Years of Freedom, we need to reflect on all that South Africa has become and ensure that we are at the cutting edge of all communication efforts.
We must also exercise also our roles responsibly, and with a view to projecting an accurate picture of our progress as a nation to date. We all have a responsibility to effectively mobilise our society behind these countrywide celebrations and build on our achievements.
Since 1994 we have had to work hard to construct the society that is set out in our Constitution. We have clearly defined the type of country we want: a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society which respects human dignity and rights.
We have much to celebrate and be proud of in this regard. At one time we were a nation at odds with each other. Our peaceful transition had stunned the world when some predicted that the country would be divided by a civil war.
The Bill of Rights reaffirms that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.
Over the past 20 years we have forged a national identity that is built on mutual respect, tolerance and acceptance. It has contributed to our nation building and social cohesion.
This is our chance to celebrate our victory over apartheid and to look back on our hard won democracy. We have made significant progress in transforming the apartheid state into a democratic one.
We must be proud of this remarkable achievement.
The story of how we have transformed our economy over the last 20 years is nothing short of remarkable.
The economy we inherited at the end of apartheid was in tatters. It was also structured to exclude the majority of our people from participating in the country’s wealth.
South Africa's economic growth improved dramatically with the transition to democracy. The economy enjoyed a real recovery in growth and investment post-1994, with far more robust and stable growth than in the previous 30 years.
We have managed the fiscus and economy in a balanced and responsible manner. It has given rise to a high level of macro-economic stability, the provision of much needed social services and infrastructure development.
The new democratic government set about reversing the decline in the infrastructure sector. Between 1994 and up to the early 2000s, government focused on increasing access to social and household infrastructure.
We also took bold steps to diversify the economy and build our industrial base with a greater emphasis on labour absorbing employment.
Under democracy employment has also grown far faster than in the 1980s. The number of people in employment grew by approximately 5.6 million between 1994 and 2013, or by 60 per cent.
However, this was not enough to stem our unemployment problem which continues to remain a major challenge for us. It worsened as the number of people entering the labour market increased as a result of population growth and from urbanisation after the dismantling of the former homelands. The impact of the global economic recession had also hampered our fight to turn tide against unemployment.
The Twenty Year Review unequivocally shows that life for millions of our people is indeed better than it was before 1994.
We have made significant progress in rolling out basic service delivery, especially for communities that were deliberately excluded by apartheid.
Millions of South Africans now have water, electricity, sanitation and a host of other services which they did not have before. That is why we say that we have a good story to tell, and that South Africa is now a much better place to live in than it was before 1994.
Our basic water supply to over 9 million more people and access to basic sanitation to 6.4 million more South Africans has transformed their lives and that of their communities. It has also allowed reach our Millennium Development Goals in these two areas well before the targeted deadline of 2015.
One of the most successful programmes in the country has been the electrification programme which has changed the daily lives of millions of South Africans for the better. These significant inroads have ensured that today millions of previously marginalised are on the grid.
In 1994 only a little more than a third of households had electricity. The Review shows that in less than two decades government has provided electricity to more than 5.8 million households.
Our housing developments since 1994 have delivered homes close to a quarter of the population. We have created vibrant communities that have recreational facilities including crèches, clinics and schools. The majority (56 per cent) of all housing subsidies have been allocated to woman headed households, engendering housing in South Africa like in no other country.
Despite these successes there are still some households without access to water and sanitation, particularly in remote rural areas and informal urban settlements.
To overcome this challenge, we need to ensure functional municipal infrastructure through proper maintenance. The density of informal settlements and difficulties in installing bulk infrastructure in remote rural areas remains a stumbling block to full access.
Our focus now is to reach communities that are still waiting.
As a nation we also have a good story to tell in education. Our democratic dispensation has made education a priority because we understand the impact it can have on our growth and development.
It has not been an easy task as we endeavoured to undo the racially distorted education system of apartheid. In 1994 there were 19 different departments of education each with different standards and administrating its own examinations.
Over the next two decades government implemented education policies to redress past inequalities, transform the system and increase the skills and life chances of all South Africans.
Our commitment has been demonstrated in the steady increase of our investment in education over a number of years. Our education budget has grown to more than 5 per cent of GDP and by 2011. It had resulted in public spending per learner increasing to about R11 000 per year.
There is still much work to do around literacy and numeracy levels of learners. We have to also work to improve teacher competency; stem the high drop-out rates; and increase African and female students in science, engineering, technology, business and commerce programmes.
The Twenty Year Review shows that our healthcare sector is undoubtedly better than it was before 1994. We inherited a highly fragmented health system and structured to serve only a small portion of the population.
We turned it around into a good story that we can all be proud off. Our health system is now geared to meet the needs of all sections of the population. Over the past 20 years we prioritised universal access to basic healthcare. South Africans are starting to live longer, healthier lives.
Primary healthcare, delivered through the district health system, became the cornerstone of our nation’s healthcare policy. All user fees were abolished for pregnant women, children under six years of age and people with disabilities. Subsequently, user fees for primary healthcare services were abolished for all.
We have built and revitalised hundreds of health facilities. It has been part of our plans to ensure that everyone can access healthcare within a 5 km radius of their homes. Primary healthcare services increased from 67 million visits per annum in 1998 to 129 million per annum by March 2013.
A total of 44 000 community service health professionals have been placed in remote, rural and underserved areas since the introduction of community service in 1998.
An increase in the number of medical students; the recruitment of doctors from other countries through government-to-government agreements; and training of South African medical students in Cuba was implemented to address the shortage of doctors.
Today we can proudly say that South Africa has turned the tide in our fight against HIV and Aids. We have the largest ARV programme in the world.
The number of people on ARV treatment had increased significantly from 718 907 in March 2009 to 2.4 million in June 2013.
Our ARV programme ensured that the total number of people dying from AIDS, and hospital admission rates due to HIV and AIDS-related conditions decreased significantly.
In addition, the HIV Counselling and Testing campaign reached over 20 million South Africans between April 2010 and June 2012. It had a notable impact on the uptake of HIV testing, care and treatment.
Although great advances have been made to ensure longer healthier lives, we understand that more need to be done to uplift the public health sector. There needs to be better administrative and clinical processes, essential equipment, cleaner health facilities and shorter waiting times.
Land Affairs and Rural Development
With regard to land, it remains a fundamental issue for our country that has been consistently addressed by each successive democratic administration.
Last year we marked 100 years since the Natives Land Act of 1913 was enacted which dispossessed Africans of 87 per cent of the land despite them making up more than 87 per cent of the population.
As the Review indicated, we have been working to turn this situation around. Through our Land Redistribution Programme, which began in 1994, we have redistributed 9.4 million hectares of land that benefited almost a quarter of a million people.
One of the problems related to under-utilisation of acquired land has been the resale of land by beneficiaries. The Green Paper on Land Reform proposes measures to address this by limiting the resale rights of land reform beneficiaries.
We are nevertheless committed to helping disadvantaged communities secure or retain access to their land in accordance with the rule of law.
We understand that the there is a need to speed up the transfer of land. A land audit has been completed which will assist to identify further land for reform purposes.
Land reform has not yet realised its potential to stimulate economic growth and employment, especially in the agricultural sector. Only 24 per cent of black households are involved in agricultural activities.
Through the introduction of the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme the living standards and welfare of people living in rural areas have improved.
Safety and security
Overall levels of serious crime have been on a decline and we will continue our drive for a country where all citizens are and feel safe.
Serious crime declined by 31.8 per cent from 2004/5 to 2011/12 while the murder rate has decreased by more than 50 per cent.
A range of institutions, laws and measures have been put in place in particular to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
There are 176 Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units nationwide attached to all police clusters in the SAPS. As of November 2013, 906 victim-friendly rooms were created at police stations throughout the country to render better services to victims of crime.
We have also appointed 2 000 forensic social workers to deal with crimes against children and to provide expert evidence in court. In 2012/13, 248 022 cases were finalised.
Government is steadfast in its fight against corruption. We have adopted a zero tolerance approach in our fight against all corrupt activities either in the public or private sector.
Corruption is a societal problem that must be fought by everyone.
When we look back over the past twenty years at the many achievements we have recorded, all South Africans can indeed be proud of the progress we have made as a young nation.
We have come a long way to create a modern state and a vibrant democracy.
Let us encourage everyone to take the opportunity to celebrate 20 Years of Freedom and reflect on the progress we have made as a country.
We still have a lot to do to improve the quality of life of the poor and the working class. Our country still faces the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
We have a good plan going forward to take on these challenges and be successful.
The National Development Plan (NDP) outlines the type of society we want by the year 2030. The plan enjoys the support of key stakeholders and we must all work together to realise Vision 2030 as set out in the NDP.
Through the various communication disciplines present today, you have the opportunity to engage on the important role of taking our story forward.
As you interact through the planned sessions, we need to ask ourselves how we can include everyone in telling the good story of South Africa.
We must use this opportunity to form partnerships with all sectors of society so that we can find a common voice in celebrating the 20 Years of Freedom.
This National Communication Partnership must result in a joint effort to communicate the many successes that South Africa has achieved over the last two decades of freedom.
It must bring together the information from our respective sectors on the 20 Years of Freedom campaign so that this information can be made available to all South Africans.
Let this National Communication Partnership become the clarion call to action in what is now our final countdown.
It is incumbent on all of us to rally South Africans to join in our countrywide celebrations and build on our achievements.
We also have to encourage every sector of society to undertake specific activities to celebrate 20 Years of Freedom.
And equally important we need to use this important opportunity to enhance national unity.
In closing, I wish you fruitful deliberations as you seek better ways of telling the compelling story that is South Africa.
Issued by Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)