Madame Speaker, Your Excellency the President, Your Excellency the Deputy President, and Honourable Members.

This year’s debate has forced my Party and me into soul-searching. We have heard the President’s state of the nation address and there is a lot in it with which we agree. Yet we have different opinions in respect of some of the things he said and some of those which he omitted to say. This is not the first time that we, as a distinct political party participating in President Mbeki’s Cabinet, find ourselves in such a situation. This year, there are forceful considerations prompting us to emphasise both the points of similarity and those of difference. By doing so we will strengthen our country’s governance and the cause of democracy.

Before I do so, I must remind myself and some of my colleagues why I and my Party have accepted to serve in President Mbeki’s Cabinet. We have not done it for our own personal sake but because we seek to reconcile people who have been divided by a brutal low-intensity civil war of about twenty years which killed no less than 20 000 people. By showing how President Mbeki and I can work hand in hand at the highest levels of government, people on the ground may find it in their hearts to reconcile with those who were once their enemies. Conflicts at grassroots level are of an intensity beyond the understanding of people with an ordinary, secure and stable life. People need to reconcile with those who killed their family members, and grow to regard them not only as no longer enemies, but as brothers and sisters with whom to join hands in the common work of reconstruction and development.

For this reason, His Excellency President Mbeki and I had to project an image of unity and solidarity and give an example of how people can work together. For this reason, for the past five years in my public addresses I have stressed the call for unity above and beyond any differences. For this reason, I have remained committed to the cause of reconciliation and unity at all costs. Only those who have witnessed the horrors of war may fully appreciate how true reconciliation, which goes deep in the hearts and minds of our people, is more important than any political or policy differentiation which one may wish to highlight to promote a well-functioning democracy. I remain committed to being a promoter of unity amongst all the members of this House and their respective views and opinions. Our unity is more important than right and wrong on marginal issues of policy or governance, because we have not yet reached the point where the foundations of our democracy are solid enough to withstand old fractures. We also need more unity to heal new fractures in our democracy which are showing in the debates of this House. We must unify this House in a common national cause, and respect people across both sides of the aisle.

Our Cabinet participation has also been motivated by our desire to enable our constituency to receive the recognition it deserves in the history of the liberation struggle. This is not a Buthelezi issue, but is about the millions of people who followed me and their contribution to our struggle for liberation, which has been obliterated from the record of our history by the violent propaganda of vilification against me. After seven years in the government of the country, no steps have yet been taken to redress the legacy of lies used against me and my constituency to undermine our contribution to the liberation struggle.

We have had set-backs on this pilgrimage and long journey to our destination of reconciliation and peace in our country. I was terribly hurt, for example, when the Indian community in Chatsworth invited me last year to attend the birthday of His Excellency former President Mandela in Chatsworth. The top leadership of the ANC in the province was present, apart from the fact that our icon, former President Mandela, was there. When it was my turn to speak, supporters of the ANC tried to drown what I was saying by singing songs. Dr Mkhize got up and tried to stop that, but he did not succeed, to the extent that when it was time for His Excellency former President Mandela to speak, he had to detract from his speech to tell them where he and I come from and the long journey that we travelled together in the liberation struggle. These are set-backs which indicated that we have not yet reached our destination.

I was very impressed by a quote, and I wish that some of the presentations that we as Cabinet attend from time to time given by the police, could be attended by members of this House, because the figures that were quoted by the President, for example, are from the places where crime is highest. More than half of the crime has been reduced. I know that this is not visible to most people, but I wish it was so. When one gets that comprehensive presentation from the police one does not get to see it, because it is not visible to all and sundry. However, there has been an improvement as far as our reduction of crime is concerned.

Having said so, I must say that I have a problem with our criminal justice system itself. For example, on 23 June 2000, my deputy in the Buthelezi area was shot at with AK 47s in his bed. Fortunately he did not die. Suspects were arrested but up to this day the matter has not come before a court. Certainly one of the things that indicate that in our quest for reconciliation and peace we still have a long way to our destination, is the high profile case of the Mayor of Nongoma, in which names of high profile leaders in the province were mentioned and in which exist not only circumstantial evidence, but also evidence given by people who actually saw with their own eyes, the people who shot at the mayor. Yet that case came to nothing.

I have a very high regard for our director of prosecutions, and I do not think he would have idly decided to take the matter before court if he had not been convinced that there was in fact a case.

I have seen first-hand the untold suffering of those who followed me, many of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice. In Vosloorus our candidate, Mr Justice Hadebe, was assassinated during the local government elections. Suspects were arrested, but up to now that case has never come before a court. I know that had we not acted the way we did and stood by the principles we had, our struggle for liberation would not have succeeded and perhaps South Africa would have been turned into a wasteland in a bloodbath. Through our unity, their contribution must be recognised.

Yet this year there are certain foundational issues in respect of which my conscience and my constituency force me to highlight differences. As I do so, I am reminded of past seasons in which I also highlighted fundamental differences with my colleagues in our liberation struggle which caused an entire armed struggle and campaign of vilification to be directed towards me and my constituency. At the time, I kept insisting that our liberation struggle had to receive the benefit of different approaches in a multi-pronged, multi-level strategy. I did not condemn the ANC for its call for an armed struggle. In fact, when the Honourable the President, in the company of the late Mr Dlomo, came to see me at Heathrow Airport, he raised this issue that the movement with which I was working within South Africa, the ANC, was troubled by the fact that I did not support the armed struggle. The Honourable the President may remember that I actually said, on that occasion, that I did go very far as someone in the country because I had never condemned the struggle. I always said that I espoused non-violent strategies of the old ANC as propounded by the founding fathers of the ANC in 1912. But I went on to say that as the government had banned the ANC, the PAC and silenced the leaders of our people, I could well understand why the ANC had taken up arms.

However, I claimed my constituency’s right to pursue the same goal of liberation through a different path. I affirmed a fundamental principle of pluralism which is now more important and perhaps more in jeopardy than it was then. If our democracy is to succeed, we need to allow differentiated approaches and a plurality of voices to be not only heard but also listened to and respected.

I have listened to the President’s state of the nation address, and I am at one with him in the goals he outlines. We share a vision, hopes and aspirations, in the same way that twenty two years ago Oliver Tambo and I shared a vision, hopes and aspirations in respect of our liberation. However, my reading of our present situation and of the state of the nation is less rosy and positive than the President has portrayed to us. It might be the case that he may be seeing a glass half full, which I perceive to be half empty, but as I come from communities where people are dying from HIV/AIDS and the consequences of unemployment and poverty, I cannot be satisfied with what we have achieved great as it is, and must wonder whether, in addition to the many right things we have done as government, we have not erred in other respects. After all, humanum est errare, to err is human. I feel I must focus on our errors and, if necessary, take it upon myself to say that we have erred. I am not pointing fingers and if indeed we have erred, let the blame be so apportioned that I too Mangosuthu Buthelezi, shall carry it. But in God’s name, let us recognise our mistakes and correct them as soon as we can before our people pay too dire a price for them.

In exercising a necessary dose of self-criticism, we must open our hearts to conflicting views. I am concerned by the divisions in this House. I see that after your workshop, there is a slight improvement in the behaviour of your members. I will say openly that at times I also have problems with the way the Leader of the Opposition expresses himself and the nature of his attacks on Government. At times he is not sufficiently sensitive about the collective psychology of the majority of South Africans who have been talked down to for centuries. It may well be a cultural thing which he is not even conscious of. It may also be a question of an age gap between me and him. [laughter] Our fledgling democracy is not yet ready for the type of wit and tongue-lashing which characterises political debates in established democracies, and at times I have felt aggrieved by his abrasiveness, even though it was not directed towards me. But then we must realise that his abrasiveness is the product of a high intellect and the spirited passion of a true patriot - which he is - who means well. [applause] For this reason, I am very concerned that at times what the Leader of the Opposition has to say is not heard because of the way he goes about saying it. I will make an example by comparing this with something that happened when I was a student at Fort Hare. 

Recently in a speech the honourable the Leader of the Opposition made, he referred to people in the ANC who have developed pot-bellies. Well, I may well have said the same thing but in a different way. It reminded me of the time when we used to read The Torch as students at Fort Hare, when Bennie Keys was still there. I remember Rev Skomolo, who was the champion of the ANC in Port Elizabeth, delivering a very fiery address, and The Torch reporting the address. Our ANC leader in the Cape Province was Professor Matthews, the father of the Deputy Minister here, and because he was sitting there and had not left the Native Representative Council, The Torch reported that Rev Skomolo had delivered a very fiery address, but had forgotten that on the same platform from which he was speaking, there were those who had developed pot-bellies from crumbs that had fallen from Pharaoh's table. [laughter] That is the kind of expression that I am referring to, i.e. the fact that one can say the same thing in different words. We must learn to listen to the Leader of the opposition, and anyone else, including our enfant terrible, Patricia de Lille. We need to build a democracy based on a plurality of viewpoints.

Against this background, I need to consider my own position. I have been in government for forty years and in politics all my life. I did not enter politics because of my ambition but was forced to do so by circumstances. I responded to pressures placed on me by the aspirations of my people. The same aspirations are likely to force me to remain in politics for a long time, and it may be the case that my destiny is not yet accomplished. Yet I have no ambition of my own, nor is there anything else that someone in my position can really aspire to. I see my role as that of an honest man amongst all of you, who is beholden to no one, expects nothing and fears even less. I am free, and feel that I must speak to all of you from my heart and share with you that I see our nation being in a very precarious state. Unless we identify the things which are going wrong, our analysis of the state of the nation will continue to focus on the half full glass. We must hear the voice of those who are suffering for what is not going the way we wished, and start from there.

All of us are now affected by HIV/AIDS. We all know somebody who is dying of AIDS or somebody close to us who knows someone in that condition. Our nation is dying of HIV/AIDS. We can no longer hesitate or falter. We can no longer wait or debate. This is the time to act in the full measure of our capacity, leaving no stone unturned. For this reason, my Party gave our National Chairman, the Premier of KwaZulu Natal, the firm instruction to order the immediate distribution of Nevirapine to all HIV-positive pregnant women in KwaZulu Natal, so as to prevent their babies from being born with a death sentence. [applause] KwaZulu Natal is the province with the greatest percentage of HIV infection, and last year alone 80,000 people died of AIDS-related diseases and 40,000 babies were born HIV positive, condemning them to die a horrible death long before puberty. All those children could easily have been saved. For this reason, my Party had to do what it did. The Premier of KwaZulu Natal has now instructed that henceforth health facilities in KwaZulu Natal shall ensure that children are not born with a death sentence. He went to the full measure of what can in fact be done, and instructed that even in those areas where testing and counselling cannot take place at this juncture, Nevirapine be made available to all mothers whether they are HIV positive or not.

As soon as the logistical capacity allows us to test and provide counselling even in such remote areas, the distribution of Nevirapine will finally become limited only to mothers who are proven to be HIV positive. But in the interim we cannot wait for months, if not years, to have an infrastructure which can determine the HIV status of women and provide them with the required counselling. As 40% of women giving birth in his province are now HIV positive, Premier Mtshali has correctly treated this matter as the medical emergency it is, and required that where testing and counselling is not possible, Nevirapine be given to all prospective mothers, unless a mother chooses to opt out of the programme by producing an HIV negative test result or by requesting to be tested in spite of the lack of counselling capacity. We need this type of approach which rolls out the programme ahead of capacity if we are genuinely committed to saving each and every life. We need to do the same with anti-retroviral drugs for mothers and for all those who are HIV positive.

I am also desperately concerned about unemployment. The President in his State of the Nation address quoted some of the investments that we are getting into the country. I was frankly depressed because I do not think that much will be done in this respect unless we realise that somehow, somewhere - I do not know how - we have erred. In many respects, the economic conditions of vast segments of our people is now worse than it was 10 years ago. Enormous progress has been made in bringing water and electricity to our people and economic activities are beginning to proliferate amongst those who were once excluded from the productive cycle and mainstream economy. We have done well in that respect, and I am sure we will be able to do more and better in the future. But we must recognise that our record in employment generation is unsatisfactory and that somewhere, somehow, we must have erred.

We have the best Minister of Finance this country has ever had, perhaps better than most in the world. [applause] Our fiscal policy is better, it cannot be compared with many in the emerging economies, yet I cannot understand why it is that in spite of all that, investors are not coming into our country. Our economy is reported to be growing only at a rate of 1.1% per year, which makes us one of the slowest growing economies in the world. According to recent statistics, only 21.2% of our population is employed and we have an unemployment rate of 29.5%, which is one of the highest in the world, and could be higher if one broadened the spectrum of those who could be considered to be employable.

When I spoke in similar debates in the past year, I stressed the need to develop a long-term vision identifying where we wish our country to be in 25 years, so that we could back-track our actions to determine how to get there. I stressed the need to make massive national investments in emerging technologies, identifying new technological frontiers to meet technology ahead of its evolution. I impressed the need to leap-frog our country to that rendezvous with history by training our people not only for what is required of them today, but also for that which will be expected of them in ten years. I have also impressed the need to open our country to foreign skills so that we can import not only the foreign financial capital we so desperately need, but first and foremost the human capital of required skills which can enable our country to progress towards its intended destination. I was pleased that His Excellency the President stressed the need for a policy on training but against that statement I was very distressed that my Immigration Bill has encountered the stratagem that it has encountered up to the highest level, which has delayed its passing up to now.

I have accompanied this vision with the need to identify the crucial fields in which employment can be generated, not in ten years, but yesterday. The two greatest employment generation possibilities in our country are agriculture and tourism. As a Government, we need to support labour intensive agricultural industries which produce high added value products and are not land intensive. Our natural climate is perfectly suitable for such industry for which there is a strong international demand.

Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world and is one which has the capacity to employ people at all levels and promote large and small businesses alike. We must accept that in spite of the many very plausible efforts that we have made, our country is still not regarded by international observers as tourist friendly. In spite of our efforts, we have faltered in projecting our country internationally. I want to underline that we have faltered in projecting our country internationally in more ways than one. We should not escape the reality of the matter just because we may not like it or rightly regard it to be unfair. Perceptions are perceptions, no matter how untrue or unfair they may be. As Honourable Members know, I have been on the international scene for half a century and have highly placed friends throughout the world who convey to me their impressions with candour. These are not people who are enemies of South Africa. The harsh reality is that international perceptions of South Africa are now very poor. In all likelihood, this is a contributing factor to the downfall of our national currency which in less than four weeks cut by one-third the worth in international terms of all our wealth, income and assets.

We must look into the issue of the international perception with honesty and courage and recognise that somehow, something went wrong and we may have erred. The recently published Global Competitiveness Report produced by the World Economic Forum and Harvard University places our country near the bottom of seventy five which they considered. This might be wrong in fact, but it reflects the perception which exists. We are listed as one of the worst countries in the world in terms of organised crime, incompetence of public officials, labour relations, investment rates, access to foreign capital markets, flexibility of the labour market, productivity, and other salient aspects of our economy. We need to change the perception of our country through bold initiatives which show that we are moving in a new direction, such as getting our economy going by bringing about genuine, extensive and economically-driven privatisation, not in a matter of years, but in a matter of months.

Let me pause here and say that in the Cabinet we are jointly and severally responsible. What I a saying about this matter is not an oblique or vague criticism of my colleagues, the Ministers, because I am jointly responsible with all that they have tried to do for our country and I would like to put it on record that I know they have done their best. But I know that there is a debate in this country as far as privatisation is concerned which is between the ANC and its partners. Honourable Members have heard me harping on this point since 1994 and they have seen me dancing and singing: Asiyifuni, GEAR, asiyifuni [We do not want GEAR, we do not want GEAR] on this podium [laughter] and yet little has been done in recognition of its wisdom. Similarly, we need to re-engineer our system of labour relations to create flexibility in the labour market, increase productivity and create real incentives for people to seriously undertake the training opportunities which are now available, as the President stated. Without this being done, the massive investments we have made to promote training are in jeopardy of failure, which would be a national tragedy.

We also need to take a hard look at our foreign policy across the board which especially at this time in global history, is highly conducive to shaping international perceptions. We compliment President Mbeki for his tireless efforts in Africa which have assisted to solve many problems across the continent. However, we have serious problems back home which the world has not failed to notice. While it is flattering that everyone in Africa is looking for our assistance to solve their problems, the world and our people alike, know that we have enormous problems of our own which they expect us to solve. It is very good that we have become one of the catalysts of the African Union, but we must accompany our desire to promote the unity of Africa with that of promoting democracy in Africa. Unity cannot come before real democracy and real unity can only be sustained once real democracy and the blessing of a genuinely free and open society characterised by genuine pluralism exist in all African countries. We cannot hesitate or falter when it comes to drawing a distinction between those countries which are democratic and those which are not.

We should utilise the same approach in respect of foreign policy positions we take in respect of countries or situations beyond the borders of our continent. We must show our commitment to democracy by recognising that our true and genuine partners are those who are as committed as we are to democracy and the values of liberty and freedom which we profess to hold dear. Whatever regime oppresses its own people, depriving them of the basic liberties on which we have established our Republic, is likely to operate on the same basis in respect of its neighbours and foreign countries alike, either through oppression or through direct war or forms of indirect war such as terrorism. This is a time in history where friends and foes are counted, and those who try to sit on the fence are rapidly pushed into the camp of foes. I am committed to the development of South Africa and have no doubt in my mind that our country belongs in the camp of countries which are genuinely committed to democracy and to the blessing of development, progress and prosperity which come only in a genuinely open and free society.

I would like to tell the Honourable the President that when I came out, as it happens to most of us, gangs surrounded me. When they asked me what I thought of the President's speech, I told them that I did not think I could have done better in an hour, as he did. [laughter] and I should like to tell the honourable the President that I mean that. But I am saying that this is the time to be united, even if we speak with different voices and emphasis. Our country needs our diversity of opinion and a leadership capable of recognising its value and fully accommodating it.