Address by Nelson Mandela to National Council of Provinces, Cape Town

7 August 1998

Mr Chairperson;
Honourable Deputy Chairpersons;
Premier and MECs;
Honourable delegates and representatives of local government;
Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the signs of the maturing of our democracy is that fewer and fewer occasions can be described as "first". And so it is with this august Council, now in the second year of its service to democracy in South Africa. Part of that service, we believe, is this practice of a Mid-Year review of the Government's programme from the vantage point of the provinces.

However, there is one respect in which today's proceedings are a first for me. The presence of representatives of the South African Local Government Association in this Council is something new. Bringing local government to the heart of the national legislative process, and sensitising local government to the national imperatives of transformation, can only promote the basic purpose of co-operative governance, of working together for a better life for all South Africans.

It is therefore appropriate that this Council should be the forum for an exchange of views at this point in the annual parliamentary cycle. The NCOP is uniquely placed to reflect the diversity of our society and to synthesise the experience of those spheres of government which are charged with the great bulk of the task of implementing our national programme of fundamental change.

Are the programmes outlined in our State of the Nation Address at the beginning of the year on course? Are the problems identified then, and indeed in our debate in the NCOP last year, being addressed? Are we able to take early warning of problems which may if left to themselves, in due course catch the nation unawares when they assume the proportions of crisis?

The reports which Premiers of all the provinces provided in preparation for today's address confirm that indeed progress is being made across our land; that we do have problems; and that in the spirit of co-operative governance we are taking measures which if applied with rigour and consistency will prevent those difficulties undoing our best efforts.

Central to the national consensus to which we aspire is the recognition that the standard by which government's policies and programmes are to be measured is the extent to which they help improve the lives of our people, especially the most vulnerable and poor sections of our society. And flowing from this is the imperative of sustained growth for reconstruction and development.

As before, I made a point during the past year, and will continue to do so, of visiting our provinces whenever my schedule permits.

This afforded me a glimpse of how our vision of an integrated national strategy for growth and development is beginning to take concrete shape, most visibly in the large-scale infrastructural initiatives that are changing the face of our towns; our provinces; our country and our region.

The investors conferences to promote the Spatial development Initiatives in Lubombo, at Coega, and on the West Coast, revealed the intense interest of international investors in this strategic approach to unlocking the productive potential in areas neglected by apartheid.

Each of these projects also reflected the close and effective co-operation that has developed between all spheres of government and between government and the private sector.

The start of construction of the N4 Toll Road in the Maputo Development Corridor gave one a foretaste of what is to come as these and other Spatial Development Initiatives, including the Phalaborwa SDI and the Platinum Toll Road, move from conception and promotion to implementation and construction.

Such projects bolster the efforts of provinces to counter the impact of unemployment by focusing on new activities with the potential to create new jobs that add value.

Related to this is the impact of the massive Municipal Infrastructure Programme, now extended beyond its initial R1,3 billion phase by the allocation in this year's budget of over R500m, including poverty relief funds for improving services in the poorest areas.

When the new electricity supply for residents of Soshanguve was switched on, we could see for ourselves the joy that has greeted the connection of over 2 million homes to the electricity grid since 1994.

When the valves were opened to supply water to the Vulindlela district in KwaZulu/Natal, we celebrated with the nearly 2,5 million people to whom the Community Water Supply Scheme has brought access to clean water since 1994.

Whether it was in the opening of clinics - at Sangoni in the Eastern Cape, Embo in KwaZulu/Natal and Nobody in the Northern Province - or in the upgrading or building of hospitals - in Benoni and Umtata - the widening of access to health care to millions became evident in the most practical way.

In the unfolding of these programmes our vision of the transformation of our society ad the lives of our people becomes real. Co-operative governance has flourished as the different spheres of government co-operate with each other and forge partnerships with communities and other social structures.

Honourable delegates;

If we can report continuing progress with conviction, we must also report difficulties. Rather than hide them we have gone out of our way to identify and expose them lest they permanently disable us from realising our mandate.

Amongst these is the challenge of job-creation. Although each of the projects to which we have referred, and many more, are creating jobs, they are still insufficient to achieve the expansion of employment which is needed.

Even if recent statistics from the Central Statistical service indicate that the tide of job losses may have turned, the problem remains massive. The Presidential Jobs Summit is therefore of critical importance in finding the way towards a national consensus around a strategy for sustained long-term creation of jobs.

Given the complexity of the issue ad the powerful interests at stake, it was to be expected that it would be no easy matter to reach sufficient consensus for the Summit to go ahead. Even if it meant missing hoped-for deadlines it was more important to forge the kind of agreement and compromises amongst the most powerful forces in our society which are a requirement of any enduring strategy.

I am glad to be able to report that government and the social partners are working constructively towards concrete proposals for a unified effort to combat unemployment. The enthusiasm with which the social partners and the public have responded to the call for proposals and commitments to promote employment bodes well for the success of the Jobs Summit.

It is in the nature of our transition that deep-seated problems must in time reveal themselves in problems of resource allocation. Last year we saw provincial and local spending subjected to pressures leading to overspending or unsustainable allocations of funds towards personnel costs: from 54% of expenditure in the 1995/96 financial year to 59% in 1998/99.

The consequences are well-known - declining levels of capital expenditure and on basic inputs into service delivery, such as textbooks and medical supplies. The problems are exacerbated where provinces prioritise other things over their primary functions such as health, welfare, education and roads.

In a frank report by one Premier we read of the suspension of projects to the value of R13,8 million for the building or upgrading of classrooms, and in another that 17 out of 28 clinics completed could not be opened.

The roots of these problems are deep-seated and derive largely from massive backlogs of expenditure on socio-economic needs, above all in the rural and poorest parts of our country. They are also a result of insufficient administrative capacity and expertise.

But because we are committed to achieve our goal of improving the lives of especially the poor, we are determined to meet the challenge of using our limited resources in the most effective way to bring about a sustained improvement in our people's lives.

How then are we addressing some of these problems?

* As we urged at the start of the year, the question of right-sizing of the public service and the mechanism for achieving this are currently under negotiation at the Central Bargaining Chamber;

* The allocation in this year's budget of R100 million gives provinces resources to put proper financial management systems in place;

* The new Treasury Control Bill will promote good management by making provincial heads of department responsible for the management of budgets and for introducing effective management systems;

* At the same time the Department of Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development is currently assessing the provincial system of government, focusing, amongst other things on financial management and administrative systems, with a view to promoting efficiency and service delivery.

We believe that the NCOP can do much to support and promote these measures.

Most of these same problems are encountered in the local sphere, in many cases in more acute form. In this context the wide range of capacity building and training currently in progress is encouraging. One of the most critical needs in this sphere is to reprioritise expenditure towards poor communities and ensuring the delivery of basic services to them. It is precisely in order to promote this that the budget for this year provided R500 million to be allocated directly to local government from Treasury.

We should also acknowledge that there are some simple things that we can do and do well to improve our quality of life. The late delivery of school text books and problems in the delivery of social welfare grants cannot be justified any how, four years into our democracy.

It is thus appreciated that most provinces can detail the preparations to deliver text books within seven days of the opening of the school year in January 1999. There is no justifiable reason why all provinces should not meet this commitment!

Most provinces can also register progress, through head-counts, re-registration and cross-checking of records, in identifying "ghost" workers and claimants of grants who are not entitled to them. As a result of such actions since April 1997, a quarter of a million records of people have been identified who are deceased, not entitled to grants claimed or simply duplicated in the system. Yet we want to urge, in the strongest terms possible, that we should conduct these programmes with sufficient sensitivity to the infirm.

All these successes, modest as they may be, point to what can be done when problems are clearly defined and when the different spheres of government join in concerted effort to put things right.

It is in this spirit that we should also approach the matter of credit control in local government. Our basic principle is that all should pay for services used. We need to consult as widely as possible about how this should be implemented.

We must ensure too that services are visibly improving. We need also, as accountable and responsible public representatives, and taking into account the concrete situation in which our local authorities operate, to finalise as urgently as possible in each area a policy for the indigent.

To the challenges which are being addressed we could add the problem of corruption. I have used my powers to authorise numerous investigations into alleged corruption within the provincial system by the Heath Investigative Unit.

The previous Health Commission uncovered fraud, corruption and maladminstration totalling around R10 billion, and in the process saved the fiscus some R8,8 billion. The Investigative Unit is currently involved in 301 investigations comprising over 90,000 individual matters worth R7 billion, which it could recover. And many more investigations are in the pipe-line.

Although certain sections within the media have sought to create an impression to the contrary, the investigations have not been imposed on unwilling or resistant provinces. Indeed, most of the investigations were prompted by the premiers themselves, and all have been authorised on their advice and at their request.

I am confident that they will continue energetically to uncover criminal activities which plunder public resources for the personal benefit of those who should be dedicated to the service of the public, whether they originate from the old apartheid order or from within the ranks of those who fought for freedom.

I myself will leave no opportunity unused to root out of government those who betray the calling of public service by treating it as a chance to enrich themselves at the expense of our efforts to create a better life for all.

It would be a gross mistake to infer that because these problems manifest themselves in the provincial sphere, they are therefore "provincial problems". They belong to our system of government and they come to the fore as we transform it slowly but surely into something quite new, a truly public service.

Honourable Delegates;

A mere 18 months is insufficient for a judgement as to whether the NCOP is effectively advancing the objectives set out in the constitution.

Certainly, to judge by what the Speakers of the Provincial legislatures tell us, Provinces are still grappling with the implications of the creation of the NCOP as a legislature which includes nine other legislatures dispersed across the long distances of a large country.

They note the increase in workload following the institution of the new system, something that has helped shift the balance of their work over the past year.

Certainly there have during the past year been instances when the intricacies of complex co-ordination have conspired to create incidents which could have been misinterpreted as signs of tensions between the two houses of Parliament or between the NCOP and the Executive. Such are the inevitable teething problems to be expected in the early life of this unique system.

Among the tasks it faces, the consensus-building work of the NCOP remains one of the most vital.

In this way it will reinforce, among other, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose work is now drawing to an end. We never thought that it would be easy for us as a nation to confront the terrible things we did to each other. But few could have foreseen how far we would come with the help of the TRC towards knowing this past, so that, in the interest of all South Africans, it should not be repeated.

The NCOP will also reinforce the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, religious and Linguistic Communities whose establishment in terms of the Constitution was initiated in nation-wide debates on Tuesday, and which will be consolidated further in the process leading up to the conference around Heritage Day.

To these nation-building efforts one should also add the path-breaking contribution of some of our major private corporations in joining hands with communities in meeting some of their most urgent needs through the building or upgrading of clinics and schools.

Reconciliation and the building of national unity is a complex process, not any one of these things alone. All of them in combination, including a practical partnership to overcome poverty, are an important prerequisite to lasting reconciliation.

It includes also united action to deal with the unacceptable levels of crime and violence by building together on the advances that have been made in turning the tide. Recent events, in Richmond, in the Western Cape, and in some of our farming areas, have highlighted problems that go against national trends and which cause deep concern, indeed disgust.

I am satisfied that the police are making progress in solving most of the criminal incidents relating to attacks on the farming community. Although the murders persist, I am aware that the police are continuously modifying their strategies in order to stop the attacks.

I want once more to assure the farming community that in the fight against attacks on their lives and property, the government will always be on their side. That is why I appointed a special unit to investigate if there was nay political motive behind the attacks. It will soon be presenting its next report to me. In the meantime I have instructed that the reports it submitted to me earlier this year and last year should be made public with immediate effect. This, I believe, will once and for all put paid to the propaganda and falsifications which punctuated certain political campaigns about the motives for these attacks.

It is clear that the attacks on the Richmond community are not part of a community upsurge, but the work of professional killers. Government's task there, and in the Western Cape, is to implement intelligence-driven campaigns that will lead to the apprehension and prosecution of the killers.

We should add, that the pattern of violence in Richmond discloses an attack on democracy itself. There can be no compromise with those who seek to reverse the legitimate expression of the people's will.

The work of the police and other security forces in combating all these crimes, is made easier where the communities concerned give them their co-operation, as the farming community has been doing, and the people of Khayelitsha and Gugulethu who have set an example in fighting organised crime through co-operation with the police.

In Richmond, where confidence in the police has plummeted, the infusion of new police needs to be combined with decisive action to restore confidence in the service as a whole. I know that all members of the police with the genuine interests of the community at heart will co-operate with this initiative.

Mr Chairperson;

When speaking earlier of my encounters with the people in our provinces there was a sadder side that I did not mention then, and which, if you will permit, we should discuss. This is not out of any perversity, but because it is part of our reality with which we must - and can - deal as a nation.

The communities of Osizweni in KwaZulu-Natal, of Mitchell's Plain and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, of Libode in the Eastern Cape represent those across our land who almost daily must deal with the avoidable loss of life on our roads. We should congratulate the provinces for their contribution to the Arrive Alive campaign - amongst them the Free State for its 30 per cent reduction in collisions - and urge that this should not be an effort for holiday periods alone but a campaign for all seasons.

There is another killer that haunts our land. The Department of Health reports that the Provinces have introduced a wide range of initiatives to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as part of the national effort. And yet the reality is that we are as a nation not doing nearly enough if we are to avoid the situation towards which present trends are taking us - of some two million AIDS orphans in a matter of years and a loss of 1 per cent of our potential GDP.

In order to harness the resources of our society more effectively in this critical battle, the government is working towards building an active partnership, across all sectors and communities, around practical programmes to avert this disaster.

Honourable delegates, If today I have stressed the importance of the NCOP's consensus-building work, it is also because the approach of elections might tempt political parties to exploit our diversity for short-term ends. That would promote intolerance and violence. It would undo hard-won achievements in uniting our nation. It would leave us weaker in our striving to build a better life for all.

We therefore count on the NCOP's contribution in this period to promoting the unity of our nation.

It is an honour to be afforded the opportunity to raise these practical issues in this forum. Our central message is: together we can succeed if we work hard and in partnership with the people.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website