NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PROVINCES


PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE RESPONSE BY
DR LPHM MTSHALI, MPP
PREMIER OF KWAZULU NATAL

Cape Town: November, 12 2002

Today, the President has given this House a comprehensive picture of the status of our nation, correctly highlighting the key elements on which its general welfare rests. These key elements are mainly centered around our infrastructure development, our programme of poverty alleviation, our plans for economic growth and sustainable development and the continental and international framework within which our country is pursuing its growth, specifically in regard to NEPAD. 

A question has been posed of how provinces can help to support the President and assist by being part of this picture. However, before I formulate a tentative answer to this question, I would like to focus on some aspects of this picture, to point out that perhaps we ought to try to improve the picture before we call on provinces to contribute to it. 

Our country is locked into a great challenge arising out of having to solve the rural-urban disparity. Rural development is essential to our country's success. Yet the Integrated Rural Development Strategy has made no allowance for any significant role to be played in the formula of development by traditional authorities and traditional leadership, which are widely recognised to be essential elements in any plan of rural development. While we speak of promoting poverty alleviation and rural development, the conditions are put in place for what could become a massive disintegration of the social fibre of rural communities because of the undermining of traditional leadership.

I wish to quote what the President told us on October 12, 2000, when he spoke to us in this House:

"Agreement has been reached [with traditional leaders] that our constitutional and legal order has, in fact, diminished the powers that traditional authorities exercised prior to the transition to democracy .. and that we have to attend to this issue. Our government is firmly committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure that the concerns of the traditional leaders are addressed"

This agreement was concretized on November 30, 2000 when a delegation of Ministers representing Cabinet and appointed by the President reached an agreement with the Coalition of Traditional Leaders in terms of which traditional leaders waived their objection to the holding of elections in their areas. This agreement contained a clear undertaking on the side of Government, all of which has thus far been dishonoured. The most salient of them stated:

"Relevant sections of Chapter 7 and 12 of the Constitution will be amended to provide for the powers and functions of traditional authorities in local government".

Two years later, not one single step has been taken in this direction and Government has published a draft White Paper on Traditional Leadership which indicates that there is no space whatsoever for traditional authorities to play any role whatsoever in the complex formula of rural development or local government, going so far as to state that traditional authorities ought to be dismantled. At the same time, legislation has been put through Parliament to take away from traditional leadership the power to allocate, administer and determine the use of land in traditional communities.

Irrespective of the ideological value which one may wish to ascribe to this complex operation of obliteration of traditional leadership, the fact remains that it will in all probability cause the disintegration of an existing model of societal organisation, opening the doors to great poverty, social instability and disruptive conflicts. It is very difficult for a province like mine to try to conduct poverty alleviation programmes while the central government pulls the carpet out from under our feet in such a fashion. 

As a province, we believe that infrastructure development must get ahead and we support any programme of sustainable development. However, infrastructure development must not be haphazard but must be the product of a long-term vision of growth and development. We need to determine what South Africa will look like in 2050. As a province, we would like to promote greater development in technological infrastructure and bring about a profound change in our use of land resources, so that we can shift towards crops with higher added value, which are more labour intensive and less capital intensive. We would also like to see greater development of infrastructure to support the growth of the tourism industry, amongst which should be the more expedited development of the King Shaka Airport.

However, it is difficult for us to pursue our long-term vision of growth when our country as a whole does not seem to have developed such a vision. We need an enabling framework and more autonomy at the provincial level. We need the country as a whole to make a greater commitment to invest in technology, agricultural and crop conversion, and tourism. Or alternatively, we need to have more powers, resources and autonomy for us to pursue this long-term path of growth which can capture the hidden economic potentials of our Province.

We can no longer wait. The situation in our country is rapidly deteriorating, as proven by rising unemployment, inflation and crippling economic recession. We do not see a clear long-term strategy for economic growth being in place to address these issues and we fear that we are resorting to well-meant and well-applied fiscal and financial discipline to deal with all macroeconomic issues, when in fact we should go beyond that. We should not only ask ourselves what we should do to run the State properly and avoid impairing economic growth. We should have a strategy to stimulate economic growth to the maximum extent possible. At the provincial level, we could do it, if we had more powers and autonomy in respect of economic matters. Somebody, somewhere, must take the initiative, because our people are suffering. They need jobs more than anything else and that is the main thing we have not been able to deliver.

We must serve the interests of our people, above that of any ideological imperative. I am very concerned about how we are relating the interests of our people to NEPAD. The failure to embrace, fully support and advocate the need for good governance and peer review as essential elements of NEPAD can make NEPAD dead on arrival. There cannot be any long-term development without strong and ever-growing democracy. The promotion of democracy in Africa must be the core of NEPAD, which means that we must have the courage to call tyrants by name and denounce corruption, poor governance and malfeasance in office anywhere in Africa. We can no longer deal with African countries by applying standards to assess their democracy, freedom and liberty which are lower than those we employ in respect of our own country. It is a condescending attitude which should find no place in the comity of African countries.

In the end, if NEPAD is dead on arrival because of Africa's self-inflicted injuries, our people will suffer. Our country is already financing the disaster into which Zimbabwe has fallen because of its lack of democracy and its breakaway from the rule of law and the community of civilised nations. We are giving electricity to Zimbabwe at a much lower price than we are selling it to our own people. We are carrying huge unpaid debts of Zimbabwe and we are confronted now with the need of providing massive financial support to the people of Zimbabwe, including the free distribution of maize to avoid famine. Undoubtedly we need to do that, and I am in total support of it. But we must not close our eyes to the causes. It is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster which stems out of those roots of tyranny, corruption and oppression which NEPAD must be committed to eradicate if we are indeed to give any credence to our notion of any type of African Renaissance. 

We must also consider carefully where our country should stand in the community of nations. We are a civilised country which wants to progress and prosper. We are genuinely committed to democracy and believe that only through democracy will long-term development be sustainable and achievable. Internationally, our role should be that of promoting sustainable development through the promotion of democracy. These two things go together. One remains puzzled when suggestions are made that we should befriend regimes which oppress their people and oppress their neighbours. In the end, our entire country receives the stigma of the pariah countries with which we are associated or which we defend. My Province is committed to attracting foreign investments. We need to shift emphasis from foreign investments to foreign investors, and realise that foreign investors are citizens of civilized, prosperous and progressive countries who wish to find in South Africa an ally and a friend, committed to following the same path which brought their countries to their prosperity. If we are serious about attracting foreign investments, we need to make some major corrections to our foreign policy. Even a Premier such as I am ends up having to be confronted with our position on Iraq when we sit with foreign investors and try to reassure them that KwaZulu Natal is a safe place for them to make long-term investments. 

We must also be genuinely committed to promoting democracy within South Africa. Democracy is never achieved and we should not fall prey to the illusion of believing that we are above the temptation of impairing the growth of democracy, merely because we are the generation which delivered democracy and liberation to South Africa. I am a Premier who serves on the strength of a mandate received from the electorate which certain people are trying to change by means of legislation, rather than elections. I do not know whether next year I will be participating in this debate in the same capacity. I only know that if the dark clouds of a one-party State, achieved not through the ballot box, but imposed through tampering with the Constitution, descend upon South Africa, we might be witnessing with impotence the commencement of a long and dark season of democratic involution. The stagnation of democracy will spell the stagnation of development. This is an axiom for which there is overwhelming evidence throughout our continent and in the world. We stand on the edge of a slippery downhill path towards a mixture of increased economic recession, unemployment, democratic stagnation and a possible one-party State. We must turn it around here and now, not for our sake, but for the sake of the people we serve.