National Assembly: Cape Town, 14th June 2011
On the 15th of February I stood before this House
during the President's State of the Nation debate and spoke some
unpalatable truths, which begged the question whether our country's
leadership can be trusted with the responsibility of nurturing
democracy. Since then, the local government election results and the
coalition in KwaZulu Natal have resonated my concerns and underlined
the veracity of what I said.
The question of trust has arisen again. It is
necessary that I raise this point as the President delivers his
third Budget Vote, because we are engaging a debate over money and
leadership. The efficient financial operation of the Presidency sets
the tone for all government departments, and the allocation of the
Presidency's budget sets the course.
It is unavoidable that, in the budget of the
President, we become seized with questioning what value the country
receives for the money it invests in this appropriation. The
President per se does not have an operating department, but a
supervisory one, which carries the ultimate responsibility of
providing the policy leadership, motivation and inspiration for the
work of all other ministers and departments. Therefore, we must
assess how well the Presidency has exercised its leadership role in
the past two years.
We should have noticed enormous progress, almost
achieved in leaps and bounds, as compared to the previous
administration. But this does not seem to be the case. Since the
time of the previous administration, the Presidency has been
strengthened with two full Cabinet Ministers with the functions of
planning our future and overseeing compliance with current policies
The Minister in the Presidency with the function
of National Planning and the Minister in the Presidency with the
function of Performance Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration
should have enabled the Presidency as a whole to be much more
effective, capable and experienced. But that does not seem to be the
case. There are no signs of such progress.
The only thing that is clear is that the budget
for the Presidency has increased enormously. It is also clear that
other departments of State are exercising an ever increasing role of
leadership within the affairs of the Republic, especially the
Treasury and National Intelligence. It was already the case when I
was the Minister of Home Affairs under President Mandela and
President Mbeki that no Cabinet Memorandum would get beyond
committee level to reach the full Cabinet if opposed by the Treasury
or National Intelligence. It appears this trend has intensified at
the expense of the leadership role to be exercised by the
Considering the size of the Presidency and the
significance of its efficiency or lack thereof, the IFP believes the
same measure of oversight should apply to the Presidency as applies
to other departments. We therefore propose a parliamentary portfolio
committee to oversee the Presidency, which would ensure not only
accountability and transparency, but assurance to South Africans
that their leadership does not operate with unfettered autonomy.
I believe this is important, for there is an
increasing perception in the public debate that the law has a
limited reach, in direction relation to political connectedness. The
level of corruption and wastage in the public service impacts public
trust. We cannot sweep under the carpet the Special Investigating
Unit's estimate that some R30 billion of state procurement
expenditure is lost each year to overpayment and theft.
We cannot afford for South Africans to doubt their
leaders' integrity, any more than we can afford a lack of integrity
in our leadership. Our people, living in the conditions they do,
must believe that their President has their best interests at heart.
This is brought into stark relief as we consider
this Budget Vote. Looking at what the Presidency achieved with last
year's allocation and what it intends to achieve this year, one
cannot help but fear that what we have accomplished is insignificant
compared to the vast needs of our country.
In saying this, I do not seek to belittle the
achievements of the Presidency, nor the Presidency's intentions. I
applaud our country's Executive where applause is due.
The Diagnostic Overview, for instance, positioned
as it is in the Presidency, holds the potential to arrest the
bureaucratic practice of making excuses and passing the buck. This
is particularly welcome considering the "signs of decline" contained
in the Overview. The Overview is also promising in that it directs
the focus to two issues; education and unemployment, rather than
covering the plethora of issues at hand. This expresses a more
But it also highlights the challenge before the
President of providing leadership, both within the country and
within his Party. It is argued that the greatest obstacle to
tackling the two highlighted priorities of education and
unemployment is resistance from within the ruling Party.
In both instances, a firmer hand is required with
trade unions and it is unlikely that the ANC's alliance partners and
the President's allies will take kindly to this development. The
tripartite alliance has been shaken repeatedly under President
Zuma's administration and it will take a courageous leadership to
risk shaking it again.
But, as I said on the 15th of February, our
President cannot take several courses of action which are in
conflict with one another in the hope of pleasing everyone.
Integrity comes at a very dear political and personal cost. It
requires taking a course of action which inevitably pleases some and
displeases others. But failing to take bold leadership decisions
will paralyse South Africa into inaction.
We cannot afford to take a decade to do what must
be done in a matter of months. We can also not set unrealistic
targets and raise our people's expectations beyond what can be met.
This is playing irresponsibly with our national psyche. Again, it is
a question of accountability.
Since 1994, a lack of accountability has been a
stumbling block to development and progress. It is therefore
unacceptable that the Executive is often unavailable to respond to
Members' Statements in this House because the Minister responsible
for monitoring and evaluation is absent. Similarly, written
questions demand a response that is often not forthcoming.
There is still a sense, coming from the top, that
government is not answerable to the citizenry. The ongoing financial
fiasco of the National Youth Development Agency is a case in point.
Has the burning question of why R100 million was spent on a youth
festival ever been answered, either adequately or at all? The many
unresolved complaints received through the Presidential Hotline
suggest that answers are not a priority.
This brings the debate back to the leadership
challenge facing the President. There are undoubtedly contradictions
between what the ruling Party wants and what the development of the
State requires. How the Presidency makes good on the promises
contained in this budget will, to some extent, answer the question
whether our country's leadership can be trusted with our fragile
It is an answer we deserve to get.