Item 248 - Address by President Nelson Mandela to the National Assembly on the occasion of the President's Budget Debate

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Address by President Nelson Mandela to the National Assembly on the occasion of the President's Budget Debate


  • 1995-05-02 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Website

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President's Budget Debate

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  • English

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Madame Speaker;
Deputy-President FW de Klerk;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Five days ago, South Africans joined together in celebrating South Africa Freedom Day.

Events in various parts of the country and further afield showed the outpouring of joy at the unique achievements in our First Freedom Year. The goodwill, optimism and enthusiasm of the people confirm the allegiance that the overwhelming majority of South Africans owe to the motherland and its constitutional structures.

I once more take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude to the nation for making this smooth transition possible; and to the international community for their support and encouragement. I also wish to congratulate Minister Ben Ngubane and his team for the splendid work done to ensure a fitting commemoration of this most important national day.

South Africans are at one that the benchmarks of the First Freedom Year, such as peace and stability, the culture of human rights, national unity and reconciliation, the first steps towards improving the quality of life of the people, and the new status and role of South Africa in world affairs - all these are historic achievements that we must protect like the apple of our eye. The nation is in agreement that we need to use these successes as a platform to do even better in the coming year.

Madame Speaker;

Today, the 2nd of May marks yet another significant anniversary. As this day drew to a close exactly a year ago, the in-coming election results had established a clear trend concerning the outcome. In a sense, that was the moment when our leadership across the spectrum was severely tested: the nation had spoken, and the question was, whether the leaders would follow.

In the event, virtually all leaders acknowledged the outcome and pledged to work with together and with the ANC for the good of the country. The past 12 months have borne witness to a remarkable fulfilment of this pledge. On behalf of the Government of National Unity, I wish to thank all the parties within and without this chamber, for their co-operation in carrying out the tasks we face as a nation.

And so, five days into the Second Freedom Year, we are encouraged by the abiding national sense of purpose that has become the hallmark of our society.

For us, as leaders, the symbolism of it all is supremely reassuring. But the critical issue is what we are doing jointly and severally to harness this goodwill to change South Africa for the better. This requires frankness in our appraisal of developments, as well as boldness in identifying and rectifying our weaknesses.

Madame Speaker;

History has so decreed that our comprehensive task of transforming South African society, should take place through constitutional and legislative means, and not by decree. We are fortunate in this regard, because our unique settlement has afforded our country such outstanding co-operation among various political forces.

In the short space of a year, we have been able to introduce democratic norms and a style of government that is rare even among well- established democracies. Institutions such as the Constitutional Court, the Human Rights Commission, the Judicial Service Commission, the Independent Broadcasting Authority and many others - and the consultative and open manner in which we operate - are laying the basis for the flourishing of our democracy.

In the legislatures, laws and policy frameworks on such matters as land, education, labour, the budget, the public service, security and intelligence services, truth and reconciliation, prisons and sport have either been passed or introduced, with the concurrence of the political parties in cabinet. The current session will see more of these. All this is helping to lay a solid framework for the building of a better life.

What this means is that we need to work even more systematically to ensure that this framework is completed as soon as possible. All the time, we must critically ask the question, whether the pace of our legislative work reflects the requirements of the historic mission we have. It is crucial that the executive and the legislature put their heads together, and work out ways in which we can improve on this critical aspect of our work.

Without undercutting the laudable consultative process, or the desire to do everything to perfection, we should ensure that the task of setting the framework for transformation, is undertaken with greater expedition. As we go about our day-to-day business, we must all be convinced, and so should society out there, that we are doing everything possible to act indeed as the power-house of fundamental change.

Madame Speaker;

The coming few weeks are some of the most critical in the life of our parliament. The legislators will be calling the executive to account in the Budget Debates. It will be one important forum to address this important matter of the pace of the legislative product issuing from these supreme bodies. It will also be an opportunity to examine, with all serious application, the advances and weaknesses in each field of endeavour.

At the beginning of the year, the cabinet bosberaad came to the conclusion that the remarkable national reconciliation and the high degree of political stability had laid a firm foundation to start accelerating socio- economic change. As we approach the middle of the year, and another bosberaad, we should examine these and other questions in more detail. Suffice it here, to identify some of them.

The marvellous upturn in the economy, underpinned as it is by growth in manufacturing and a real increase in gross domestic fixed investments, shows that South Africa is set on the road to full recovery. Both the growing confidence of investors and the role RDP projects have had in this positive development, give us the firm conviction that we shall meet all our targets.

But it depends on how we nurture and cultivate this new situation.

For instance, to what extent is there a firm commitment by local business to invest in productive rather than speculative operations? To what extent has the manufacturing sector geared itself for the massive programmes that are to unfold in a matter of months, such as the housing schemes?

To what extent are our own business houses assisting foreign investors rather than treating them in a hostile manner as antagonistic competitors? To what extent is business committing itself to the extensive human resource development and Research and Development programmes which the new situation demands?

On the part of government, there is much more we need to do to facilitate investment. The measures we have taken, or intend to take, on the dual currency system and exchange controls are a positive step forward. However, we need to streamline the administrative machinery for processing investors and ensure that they are not sent from pillar to post in the bureaucratic maze.

These and other challenges we need to attend to urgently, if we are to ensure that the central task of job-creation is carried out. Indeed, the recovery of the economy has started to impact on employment levels. So have the beginnings of RDP projects such as the school nutrition scheme which has created up to 10 000 jobs, other Lead Projects and the Public Works Programme.

But, given the desperate situation, this is just a drop in the ocean. We are confident that the National Economic, Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), will play a crucial role in monitoring and speeding up all these positive developments.

It goes without saying that our commitment to fiscal discipline will require constant monitoring and an unbending will. This has to be combined with resolution in shifting priorities towards greater social spending. It is in this spirit that cabinet is finalising proposals for the 1996/97 budget.

Madame Speaker;

What is clear, from the point of view of government, is that, the capacity to meet our obligations to the nation, especially the poor, relates to more than the scarcity or otherwise of resources.

In many cases, funds have been availed; but they are not being utilised with sufficient speed. There are objective reasons for this. Thorough planning is required; and this has necessarily been the main emphasis of the past year. We have to ensure that proper business plans and clear mechanisms of accountability are put in place. Yet we cannot allow a situation in which funds allocated are carried over, again and again, because of these imperatives.

I therefore wish to make a solemn commitment today, that the executive will do everything in its power to ensure that this is not the case in the coming year.

On the one hand, this will require a systematic programme to enhance the capacity of government to process matters more efficiently and purposefully. It will require better monitoring on the part of national departments. Above all, it demands of our administration as a whole a change of mind-set: a movement away from pre-occupation with paper work to field work. In a sense, this is one of the primary considerations as we shift public expenditure to the benefit of society. Our administration must increasingly be people-focused.

On the other hand, communities themselves should be geared for greater initiative. Wherever we are, we should not wait passively until national or provincial governments identify for us the projects to build clinics, schools, roads and other amenities. Masakhane: let us come together in our localities to identify our priority needs; work out how we ourselves can contribute; prepare project proposals; and approach government and the private sector to assist.

Indeed, in areas where projects have been successfully launched, such as Ibhayi, Odi-Moretele, Marconi Beam in Cape Town, KwaNobamba in Weenen, it was primarily communities themselves who came together to initiate these projects, assisted by government.

I wish in this regard, to assure communities that, where they have done so, not only will relevant structures of government respond positively; but also, if there are delays, the RDP section of my office will ensure that blockages are cleared.

I also wish to reiterate that those communities who work together to ensure that services are paid for, and with the security forces to stamp out crime, will be seriously considered for priority public investments. Atlantis and Uitenhage are good examples of how all sectors of the community can co-operate to ensure that these investments are utilised to bring about local economic growth.

One of the questions that has arisen sharply from our experience over the past year is the issue of relief to communities or groups in dire need.

The principled approach of government is that we cannot hope to uplift people on the basis of hand-outs. Provision of skills through the public works programme and comprehensive human resource development, are some of the most critical ways of addressing this problem.

However, hand-in-hand with welfare organisations, relevant departments will need to review the programme of such relief. We have to ensure, at least, that people in desperate need of assistance do not find themselves worse off today, on account of our commitment to long-term plans. In this regard, without infringing on elaborate programmes provinces have set themselves, the question of the utilisation of the discretionary funds allocated them needs to be closely examined. These funds can be availed relatively quickly to communities.

Again and again, all these matters bring us back to the urgent need for a systematic capacity-building programme and an orientation in public service that emphasises more, the culture of field work and contact with the people. This is one of the major tasks that we need to start undertaking now, in respect of the hundreds of local government structures that will emerge from the elections in November.

In urging all South Africans of 18 years and over to register now, we wish again to point out that, it is at this level, where practical work to make the RDP a living reality, will take place.

We have identified short-comings not because there are no successes. This is because we have been inspired by our achievements to strive to do better.

To eschew symbolism as much as possible, and to get down to serious work, should be our approach as we enter the Second Freedom Year.

It is in this context that I have been assessing reports from Ministries and Provinces; and I should congratulate them for the candid manner in which they have accounted for their activities.

Through the Cabinet Secretariat and other structures in the President's Office, we will always strive to ensure that an honest appraisal of our achievements and weaknesses is brought to the attention of cabinet, the legislatures and the public at large. This, among other things, allows for timely interventions so that government as a whole pulls in the same direction, and that it functions as an efficient machine.

The progress we make, not only in nation-building and reconciliation, but also in establishing good government and steadily meeting the needs of the people, will ensure that we maintain the appreciation and confidence of humanity in South Africa's unique accomplishment. Our voice, on such critical matters as world social development spear-headed by the United Nations, nuclear disarmament and resolution of conflicts will be clearly heard.

And on these and other matters, our approach will always be guided by South Africa's interests, the legitimate claim of developing countries for equitable inter-state relations and the right of humanity to a better world. Such are the basic moral and humanitarian pillars of our foreign policy.

On this, the 50th anniversary of the victory over Nazism and fascism, and the formation of the United Nations Organisation, we join the world in reaffirming our rejection of all forms of racism, as well as ethnic and religious intolerance. Within our own region and continent, we shall continue to work with others to remove the scourge of conflict and ensure that Africa indeed sets out on her collective renaissance.

Madame Speaker;

Our country has taken irreversible steps towards a thorough-going, people-centred and prosperous democracy. If anything, the goodwill and outpouring of emotion on our Freedom Day confirm that we set on this journey with the enthusiastic support and active involvement of the nation as a whole.

I hope that through this Budget Debate, we will lay the basis for even greater achievements; that is, if we concentrate on the real concerns of the nation.

We cannot, and dare not fail.

I thank you!

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 15/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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