- 1994-09-14 (Creation)
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Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me express my profound gratitude for this opportunity to join Honourable Members of the Senate on this occasion of the President's Budget Debate. We are confident that, from your wise counsel and even criticisms, we shall draw strength to continually perfect our work.
A debate of any nature in the Senate is not an event of passing importance. The Senate is a crucial legislative chamber constituted in accordance with our unique South African realities. It is therefore fitting that the Provinces availed to the service of the nation this rich and talented class of Senators - young and old.
I wish to preface my remarks with some reflections on the place and role of the Senate. Needless to say, this is an issue that will require constant refinement in the course of our democratic constitutional evolution.
The powers, functions and composition of this House are clearly provided for in the constitution. But the exact role of the Senate is emerging through the establishment of convention in the course of your work, a process which will naturally inform the content of the final constitution. As the first generation of Senators in a democratic South Africa, you will have an important contribution to make in determining the future role of this body.
Let me hasten to say that, personally, I do not for a single moment doubt the need for a Senate, with the two broad objectives as currently defined.
Firstly, the Senate is meant to represent the interests of the Provinces in the central parliament.
Secondly, it embodies the unity of South Africa and its people. The very existence of the Senate expresses the inter-dependence of the Provinces. Related to this, is the role of the Senate in the constitution-making process, its right and indeed obligation to initiate national legislation and to play a crucial role in the composition of judicial bodies in general and the Constitutional Court in particular.
The Senate therefore symbolises the fact that South Africa is more than just a mere collection of Provinces. Members of this House have a responsibility to Provinces other than their own and, indeed, to the nation as a whole.
It is therefore heartening to note that you have adopted crucial decisions regarding the need for all Senators to familiarise themselves with the situation obtaining in all Provinces. Through these visits we shall be better able to ensure that all the Provinces benefit in a balanced and equitable manner from the resources the country commands. Such is the unifying leadership role that the Senate can and should play.
Yet it is also crucial and necessary that Senators should continually account to the forums from which they received their mandate. In this process, we should avoid two extreme notions: on the one hand, that Senators should be mere conduits of decisions of their Provincial legislatures; and on the other, that they should refer each and every issue to their Provincial party caucuses.
Both these approaches run the risk of rendering debate in the Senate and its committees sterile. They would also render the interaction between the Senate and the National Assembly meaningless. This matter requires more discussion within the Senate as well as in the Provincial Legislatures.
The Minister and Deputy Minister of Constitutional Development and Provincial Affairs have informed me that they intend submitting a position paper to the Senate and the Provinces on this matter. This will serve as a basis for discussion. The ultimate decision, however, rests with the Senate and Provincial legislatures themselves.
It is entirely natural that the Senate should be concerned about the delay in granting powers due to the Provinces. This is because all of us want to see the Reconstruction and Development Programme implemented effectively and without any delays.
The Government of National Unity is of the view that all powers constitutionally belonging to the Provinces should be assigned in the shortest possible space of time. All my Ministers, without exception, are working towards the realisation of this objective.
The Inter-Governmental Forum, composed of the Premiers and relevant central Government Ministers, is seized with this question. At its last meeting held on 12 August, it proposed that decisions to assign the administration of laws should be taken jointly by the central and provincial governments. This proposal was subsequently endorsed by the cabinet.
It has also been decided that regular joint meetings should be held between line function ministries and Provincial MEC's in order to take joint decisions on matters of common interest. My Office is constantly monitoring progress in this regard; and I will ensure that once recommendations are made, they are processed with deliberate speed and that relevant proclamations are issued to give them legal effect.
We shall do all this, taking into account the reality that the setting up of the Provinces poses one of the biggest administrative challenges this country has ever experienced. The matter needs to be handled with great care, especially during this delicate period in our transition.
On the occasion of the President's Budget Debate in the National Assembly, we indicated that much progress had been made in the effort to get the RDP off the ground. The Presidential Projects, in particular, have been launched in many areas of the country.
The Minister without Portfolio has announced details on these matters, and it is therefore not necessary for me to recount the successes and weaknesses. Suffice it to indicate that, as we had envisaged, massive allocations to these projects have now been approved by the cabinet, on the basis of rigorous principles regarding sustainability, community participation, accountability and so on.
We should again emphasise that mobilisation of communities to take active part in the conception of the projects and in their implementation is fundamental for their success. This has been one of the weaknesses of community-based structures and our political organisations. It is also crucial that legitimate transitional Local Government structures are established in all parts of the country without any delay.
We are determined that the objectives of the RDP become the life-blood of the functioning of all government departments and, indeed, society as a whole.
In so far as Government is concerned, we have ensured, in our planning, that the President's Projects gradually become part of the normal budgets of the various ministries. By the end of the year, Ministries will have submitted detailed recommendations on strategies to ensure their re-orientation in line with the dictates of the RDP. Our guidelines for the 1995/96 budget take this into account. The RDP White Paper will address these and other challenges.
At the level of the private sector, there are many challenges which require attention by individual business houses as well as the soon-to-be-established National Economic, Labour and Development Council.
Industrial restructuring, to ensure that our industries compete favourably on the international market, is one of these urgent tasks. This however needs to be underpinned by greater commitment on the part of our business community to invest in productive activity within South Africa. More importantly, it should form part of the elaboration of an industrial strategy that takes into account integrated job- creation programmes. Our economy yearns for increased productivity and a better work ethic among all sectors society.
We also have to sincerely consider the question of how especially the more privileged sectors of the population can tighten their belts to ensure that we give the economy the necessary boost for rapid growth and development. The cabinet should take the lead in this respect. The perception that Cabinet members, in particular, are living well above acceptable standards for public representatives should be eradicated by our own bold actions. We will then be able, justifiably and credibly, to call on others to tighten their belts.
We are confident that the nation's efforts will bear fruit, because, as a people, we do have the will to meet challenges that to others might seem insurmountable. This is the spirit needed for us to tackle other social problems that face our society.
I am referring in particular to the problem of crime. Reports indicate that this scourge is once more on the rise. The Minister of Law and Order has briefed me on measures that are being taken to deal with this problem. And indeed, there is a lot to be proud of, including progress in the setting up of liaison forums between the police and communities.
But until drug trafficking, the smuggling of arms, the killing of police and ordinary citizens, vehicle thefts and the gangsters who lord it over some communities are dealt with, we cannot be satisfied. I have taken it upon myself to constantly monitor this situation and ensure that no stone is left unturned in the struggle to eradicate these problems.
Normalising South African society also means attending to structures which have the responsibility of protecting the integrity and security of our country and all its people. In particular, we have in the recent past been working on both the principles and structural mechanisms needed to transform and improve the intelligence capacity of the nation.
The Bills on intelligence matters were finally approved by Cabinet this morning, for submission to parliament. They will be accompanied by a White Paper, setting out the philosophy and approach to intelligence in our democratic society. The Bills reaffirm that the President will take direct political charge of the country's intelligence services and they ensure parliamentary oversight of these services. In dealing with relevant administrative functions, the President is being assisted by the Minister of Justice. Further, Deputy-President FW de Klerk will continue as the chairperson of the Cabinet Committee for Security and Intelligence Affairs.
These decisions will go a long way towards speeding up both the integration process as well as the restructuring so desperately needed for our intelligence services to become servants of the nation both in word and deed.
It is also appropriate that we should announce in this House that the Bill regarding the setting up of the national Council and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders has been approved by the cabinet. This Bill will now be submitted to both Houses for wide-ranging public debate. It is our firm conviction that traditional leaders themselves should be consulted on the content of this legislation. Parliament will need to pass a special resolution on the forms that this consultation will take.
We are keenly aware that Government cannot be taken as fully established and fully functional without the input of our traditional leaders.
The Government has made tremendous progress in taking its rightful place in different international bodies and building healthy bilateral relations with our neighbours and other countries of the world. More recently, we joined the SADC, thus reaffirming our role within the community of neighbouring nations as an equal and reliable partner. The official visit by the Prime Minister of Great Britain to South Africa during the course of this month and my visit to the United Nations and the United States in October underpin the good relations that we are building also with the industrialised countries.
Like all other democratic governments, we are concerned about the current crisis in the Kingdom of Lesotho. In conjunction with our neighbours, particularly, Zimbabwe and Botswana, we are pursuing the course of a peaceful resolution of this crisis with a patient determination. But we have to be firm, so that our patience should not be misconstrued for lack of resolution. Southern Africa cannot sit back and allow the subversion of democracy in any of our countries.
In the overall, Honourable members, the Government of National Unity is satisfied with the progress that our country is making towards fundamental transformation. Yet, the vagaries of life are such that each step forward comes with new and bigger challenges. Without underplaying the difficulties that face us, we can say without any shadow of doubt that our nation has the capacity and the will to succeed.
Your role, Honourable Senators, will be critical to securing that success.
I thank you for your attention.