Monday, 15 March 2021
In the last few months, we have had to bid a sad farewell to two of our country’s most respected traditional monarchs.
This week, the Zulu people will lay to rest His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu who reigned for half a century. In January, the Bapedi people buried Kgoshikgolo Thulare Thulare III, who passed away less than a year after his inauguration.
With their passing, we have lost champions of the preservation of our heritage, and revered custodians of the histories of their respective peoples.
At the same time, they were vital players in rural development, and were committed to driving programmes to uplift the material conditions of their people.
With the advent of democracy in 1994, it was a priority of the new government to restore the integrity and legitimacy of traditional leadership in line with indigenous law and customs and subject to the Constitution of the Republic.
The institution of traditional leadership continues to play an important role in the lives of millions of people around our country, especially in rural areas. Traditional leaders support and drive development in their communities.
Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the debate on the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders, which was concerned with the most pressing issues currently facing the country.
What was particularly refreshing about the robust engagement was that traditional leadership has a keen appreciation of the difficult economic conditions facing our country, and want to be part of addressing the many challenges of underdevelopment and poverty in their areas.
I have consistently said that our economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic must be inclusive, and that nobody must be left behind.
The success of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan rests on forging strong partnerships between not just government, business and labour, but also with traditional leadership and other societal formations.
A constant refrain from participants in the debate last week was that they do not want to be dependent on handouts or for their communities to perpetually look to government for financial assistance.
They want to be provided with the necessary support, training and enabling environment to allow rural communities to be self-sufficient.
They want to bridge the urban-rural divide in access to government services and private sector resources.
What they would like to see is for rural areas to become centres of economic activity, industry and employment opportunity. This mirrors the aspirations of the District Development Model, which was launched in 2019.
Traditional leaders are well positioned to ensure that district plans are informed by and respond to the real needs of communities and that they reflect the lived reality in rural areas.
Just as the District Development Model supports localised programmes that focus on the needs, strengths and opportunities in specific areas, traditional leaders have pioneered their own approach to local economic development.
They have developed the InvestRural Masterplan, which was launched in North West last month. It is greatly encouraging that traditional leaders have rallied behind the plan and want to work with local authorities to ensure it is a success.
During the debate in the National House of Traditional Leaders it was proposed that a major success factor for the InvestRural programme is that traditional structures are trained, strengthened and capacitated.
A number of participants outlined economic plans that are already in advanced stages of development. These range from agricultural projects to bioprospecting to renewable energy.
What was evident is that the institution of traditional leadership understands that professionalisation is necessary for rural businesses in the form of SMMEs and cooperatives to become part of the mainstream economy.
The traditional leaders who spoke presented their vision of ‘developmental monarchs’, who see themselves as not just custodians of heritage but also as drivers of economic prosperity and progress. They have identified several projects and economic opportunities that will create jobs and improve livelihoods in rural areas.
Traditional leaders have also expressed their willingness to play an active part in the land reform process. Since 2018, traditional leaders have made around 1,500,000 hectares of communal land available for development, and it is hoped this will increase in future.
To develop a coordinated and sustainable strategy, we have agreed to hold a Presidential Land Summit in the next year. This will discuss pressing issues around land reform and its impact on communal land, much of which is located in rural areas.
The tone of the debate in the National House was a fitting reflection of a climate in which economic recovery is foremost among our considerations. At the same time it was a promising signal that traditional leaders appreciate their role in being part of the national recovery effort through being proactive and innovative.
The most fitting legacy of great leaders is that the seeds of development they sow during their tenure grow into mighty trees that protect and shelter their communities for posterity.
As we work together as a country to rebuild our economy, we will continue to count on the support of the institution of traditional leadership, which is an inextricable part of our past, our present and our future.
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Monday, 08 March 2021
Today is International Women’s Day. For more than a century, this day has been celebrated across the world as part of the struggle to realise women’s rights in the social, political, legal, reproductive, health and other spheres.
The Women’s Charter, which was drawn up in 1994, notes that at the heart of women’s marginalisation in South Africa are the attitudes and practices that “confine women to the domestic arena, and reserve for men the arena where political power and authority reside”.
There can be no meaningful progress for women if our society continues to relegate women to ‘traditional’ professions, occupations or roles, while it is mainly men who sit on decision-making structures.
Fittingly, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is women’s leadership and achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.
Since the coronavirus pandemic reached South Africa a year ago, the women of South Africa have played a pivotal role in the country’s response.
We salute the resilience and bravery of women frontline workers, who worked to fight the pandemic as nurses, doctors, emergency personnel, police and soldiers.
These include the tragic stories of women like Nurse Petronella Benjamin from Eerste River in the Western Cape, who lost her life to COVID-19 just days before she was due to retire after 25 years as a nurse.
Our efforts to contain the pandemic have been greatly boosted by the thousands of fieldworkers like Azalet Dube from Doctors without Borders, who went into communities to raise awareness about the disease, who worked in health facilities as contract tracers, and who provided psycho-social support to families and individuals in distress.
The dedication of the nation’s educators has ensured that our young people were able to receive an education despite the disruption caused by the pandemic. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many women who have worked as teachers, principals, lecturers and as administrators at institutions of higher learning.
We thank the women leading civil society organisations who worked and continue to work with the Ministerial Advisory Committee in driving a holistic approach to managing the pandemic.
We salute women like Nandi Msezane, who helped raise funds for food support in affected communities, and helped to provide access to mental health support for the LGBTQI+ community during the lockdown.
Vulnerable women and children affected by violence during the lockdown were helped thanks to the efforts of numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) led by and staffed by women.
This includes women like Fazila Gany, a longstanding member of the National Shelter Movement who also sadly passed away from COVID-19. The Movement has been critical in ensuring women and children at risk received support and access to services during the pandemic.
Women doctors, researchers and scientists have played and continue to play an important role in our epidemiological response. One of the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials conducted last year, the Ensemble trial, was led by two female scientists, Prof Glenda Gray of the South African Medical Research Council and Prof Linda-Gail Bekker of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre.
Research performed by academics on economic vulnerability and poverty trends in South Africa helped drive an informed relief response. Last year we lost one of the country’s foremost experts on rural poverty, Dr Vuyo Mahlati. At the time she was studying the impact of the pandemic on food security in vulnerable communities, especially small scale farmers.
In the private sector, women business leaders have been visible in mobilising financial resources to support government’s efforts.
The Solidarity Fund, which has played such a key role in this regard, is chaired by one of South Africa’s most prominent businesswomen, Gloria Serobe. Women CEOs, board members and fund managers continue to play a leading role in pushing for their companies to support government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
No such tribute on this day would be complete without recognising the role of the women of this administration, whose efforts often go unacknowledged. It is women who lead the many government departments at the forefront of the national relief response.
I wish all the women of South Africa well on this day.
Our experience of this pandemic has once more demonstrated women’s capacity to organise, collaborate, lead and achieve. Through their actions, they have demonstrated there is no such thing as ‘a woman’s place’.
The women of our country still face many challenges.
They are still under-represented in the boardrooms and corridors of power. They are still more likely to be poor and unemployed than their male counterparts. They are still vulnerable to gender-based violence and femicide.
But on this day, let us acknowledge how far we have come as a society thanks to the role of women leaders, particularly in helping the nation through this pandemic.
As we have struggled against this disease, women have been present and prominent in almost every arena of life.
This has set a standard for the kind of society we continue to build.
It has inspired and encouraged us to build an equal future.
With best regards,
On Armed Forces Day, we remember the men and women who have lost their lives in the service of our nation. We are also reminded on this day of the responsibility that the defence force has to protect our democracy.
The Constitution asserts that the primary object of the defence force is to defend the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution.
While the defence force is the only lawful military force in the country, the responsibility to defend our democracy and uphold our Constitution rests with each one of us.
Our democratic Constitution is the product of years of sacrifice and struggle. Many South Africans endured great pain and hardship, and many lost their lives, so that we could live in a democracy where all may enjoy equal rights.
The values, principles and rights contained in the Constitution are neither trivial, nor abstract. They directly affect the daily lives of millions of people, preventing the arbitrary use of power, providing protection to the vulnerable, and advancing the access of all people to shelter, water, health care, education and social support.
The Constitution is also vital to maintaining a system of checks and balances to prevent the abuse and concentration of power to the detriment of the people. The three arms of the state – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – each have a role to play in ensuring accountability and adherence to the rule of law.
Without these checks and balances, without each arm of the state fulfilling its responsibility, without adherence to the Constitution, our democracy is vulnerable and worthless.
We should therefore be concerned when those who occupy prominent positions in society make statements that demonstrate a disdain for the basic principles of our Constitution and the institutions established to defend our democracy.
Of particular concern are recent utterances directed at the judiciary, in which some judges are accused, without any evidence, of pursuing interests other than the cause of justice. Judges have been accused of political agendas and some have even been accused of accepting bribes.
Such claims are deeply disturbing, for at least two reasons.
Firstly, if such claims were true, it would mean that there are some within the judiciary who are failing to uphold the values and principles with which they have been entrusted.
Fortunately, our Constitution makes provision for such a possibility. The National Assembly is empowered to remove judges who are found by the Judicial Service Commission to be guilty of gross misconduct. The Judicial Service Commission is a carefully constituted body, which includes representatives from the judiciary but also the legal profession, academia and Parliament. There are clear processes established in law to deal with allegations of misconduct against members of the judiciary.
Anyone who has evidence of any wrongdoing by any judge should make use of the avenues provided in our Constitution and in our law to ensure that appropriate action is taken.
The claims that have been made against the judiciary are disturbing for another reason.
Without the presentation of evidence to support these claims, and unless referred to the relevant authorities, all that such allegations do is to undermine the judiciary and the important function that it performs in our democracy.
Of course, South Africa is a free country, with a Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression and opinion. However, when some in positions of responsibility choose to use those freedoms to undermine our Constitutional order, they should be reminded of the possible consequences of their utterances.
One of these possible consequences is the erosion of trust in the judiciary and our constitutional order.
As former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo said in an address in 2010:
“[W]ithout public confidence in the ability of the courts to dispense justice, there can be no faith in the rule of law. Without faith in the rule of law, valuable relationships of trust within society begin to break down.
“Citizens can no longer be assured that their rights will be respected. Businesses can no longer be assured that their contracts will be honored. Victims of crime can no longer be assured that justice will be served in court. Public confidence is therefore vital.
“That is why courts must not only be independent and effective; they must be seen to be independent and effective.”
We should therefore not take attacks on the judiciary lightly. Such attacks shake the very foundations of our constitutional democracy. Unless supported by evidence, such claims undermine confidence in our courts, and weaken our Constitutional order.
In all our actions, we need to take heed of Section 165(3) of the Constitution, which says: “No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the courts.”
We interfere with the functioning of our courts and weaken the rule of law when we attack the judiciary. Our failure to implement our courts’ injunctions weakens our constitutional democracy.
The soldiers who we honoured yesterday during Armed Forces Day have taken an oath to dedicate their lives to protect our democracy. Like them, we all have a responsibility to defend the Constitution upon which our democracy is founded.
We have a responsibility to the generations of our forebears, many of whom gave their lives so that we may have a democratic Constitution.
We have a responsibility to the millions of South Africans who look to the Constitution for protection and relief.
And we have a responsibility to future generations who will look to this Constitution as the foundation of a stable, peaceful and just nation.
With best regards,
Monday, 01 March 2021
Dear Fellow South African,
When I was elected to the position of President of South Africa, I said that building an efficient, capable and ethical state free from corruption was among my foremost priorities.
Only a capable, efficient, ethical and development-oriented state can deliver on the commitment to improve the lives of the people of this country.
This means that the public service must be staffed by men and women who are professional, skilled, selfless and honest.
They must be committed to upholding the values of the Constitution, and must, as I said in my inaugural speech, “faithfully serve no other cause than that of the public”.
Over the past two weeks, public consultations have been underway on an important policy document that will give greater impetus to our efforts to bolster, strengthen and capacitate the civil service.
The draft National Implementation Framework towards the Professionalisation of the Public Service aims to build a state that better serves our people, that is insulated from undue political interference and where appointments are made on merit.
The framework was approved by Cabinet in November last year and structured consultation with various sectors of society are now underway.
Twenty-seven years into democracy, it can be said of the public service that while several pockets of excellence exist, we have serious challenges in many government departments with regards to skills, competence and professionalism.
All too often, people have been hired into and promoted to key positions for which they are neither suitable nor qualified. This affects government performance, but also contributes to nepotism, political interference in the work of departments, lack of accountability, mismanagement and corruption.
There is also the related problem of political and executive interference in the administration of the public service. One need only to look at the instability in government departments when senior managers are swopped or replaced each time a new Minister is appointed.
Directors-General and provincial heads of departments are particularly affected. In some departments, DGs, HoDs and executive managers have had stability of tenure, enabling the departments to function with little disruption. In most of these departments where there is leadership stability, audit outcomes tend to be positive and public funds can be accounted for. Where there is a high turnover of heads of department, there is often administrative turmoil.
One of the key recommendations made in the draft framework is that the public service must be depoliticised and that government departments must be insulated from politics.
Professionalisation is necessary for stability in the public service, especially in the senior ranks. Public servants must be able to continue doing their jobs “regardless of any changes of Ministers, Members of the Executive Council or Councillors within the governing party in charge of the administration, or changes to political parties after elections”.
We are proposing a number of far-reaching reforms, such as extending the tenure of Heads of Department based on merit and performance, doing occupation-based competency assessments and involving the Public Service Commission in the interviews of Directors-General and Deputy Directors-General.
Introducing integrity tests for all shortlisted individuals will help so that we can recruit civil servants who can serve honestly. We also need to extend the compulsory entrance exams that we introduced in April 2020 beyond senior management. Successful developmental states have similar measures which help advance professionalism within the public service.
As we note in the draft framework, “the bureaucracy must continue to loyally and diligently implement the political mandate set by voters and the party, but to refrain from being political actors themselves.”
We are suggesting a more rigorous approach towards recruitment and selection of public servants, induction and performance management. This includes continuous learning and a clear professional development path for every public servant.
The draft Framework puts emphasis on the need to hold public servants accountable for irregularities, to do away with a culture of impunity in the mismanagement and misappropriation of state resources.
Professionalising the public service involves training for accounting officers across all spheres of government on the applicable legislative provisions.
The National School of Government has a vital role to play in this regard.
Professionalism is not only about having the right qualifications and technical skills, but also about having appropriate standards of respect, courtesy and integrity in dealing with members of the public.
The public service is diverse, with a huge range of skills, qualifications and capabilities. Many public servants have specialised skills that are necessary for the effective provision of services. It is therefore not necessarily the case that we need a smaller public service: what we actually need is a fit-for-purpose public service with suitable skills, a professional ethic and a commitment to serving the people.
The men and women of the public service need to be capacitated to play their role in driving development and consolidating democracy. This is our best guarantee of a capable state that serves the interests of citizens.
I call on you to be part of the public consultation process around this draft framework, which is available on the National School of Government’s website, and to make your voice heard.
The public service does not belong to any one party, nor should it be the domain of any particular interest group. It should not be a law unto itself.
The public service belongs to the people of South Africa. It must serve them and them alone.
With best regards,
President Cyril RAMAPHOSA
Monday, 08 February 2021
Dear Fellow South African,
As a country that has become far too used to hearing stories about corruption, little could have prepared us for seeing, in detail, the lengths to which some among our people have gone to steal at a time when our nation is facing the worst health emergency in modern times.
The report released last week by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) into procurement during the coronavirus state of disaster makes for disturbing reading. At the same time, it provides encouragement that unlawful deeds are being uncovered and action is being taken against those who are responsible.
What is most disturbing is that this was not simply a matter of negligence or poor oversight. There was willful intent to defraud.
As scores of people became ill and many were dying, some people saw an opportunity to cash in. They purposefully set out to steal millions in public money, misuse state property and divert resources meant for the South African people into personal pockets.
Individuals and entities with no experience in the manufacture, supply of distribution of critical medical supplies hastily set up companies. In some case they were registered on national databases and received purchase orders. In others they weren’t even registered but profited nonetheless. This includes entities operating as a car-wash and a shisa nyama.
Suppliers used different front companies to obtain multiple contracts from the same department. Personal protective equipment and other supplies were procured at inflated prices, in some cases at mark-ups exceeding 400%. Some products did not meet the necessary specifications.
When investigations started, some companies did not have paper trails to substantiate their procurement. Some officials refused to comply or claimed they were ‘only following instructions’ from their superiors. Documents were destroyed.
The diversion of resources meant for public benefit came at a direct cost to people’s health and lives.
That is why all involved in wrongdoing will be dealt with harshly and appropriately. They will not get to enjoy their ill-gotten gains, as steps have been taken to recover stolen money, including the freezing of bank accounts.
A number of civil litigation cases have been instituted for the return of ill-gotten money. Specific cases have been referred to for prosecution.
Contracts found to be unlawful have been cancelled. Government entities have been directed not to make payments to the service providers pending the outcome of investigations and or civil proceedings.
There have been referrals for disciplinary action against implicated officials and a number of these have commenced.
This is a practical demonstration of our determination to deal decisively and swiftly with corruption.
Similar action is being taken against individuals and companies implicated in maladministration and fraud around the COVID-19 Temporary Employment Relief Scheme. This includes employers who pocketed the benefits owed to their staff, or kept quiet about TERS funds paid to them by mistake.
A number of hard lessons have been learned in this entire process.
It has taught us that every regulatory, legislative and procedural loophole must be closed to ensure there is no point of entry for those who seek to exploit them.
It is clear that those who have made profits from the COVID-19 disaster, and those who have colluded with government officials, took advantage of the urgency of the moment to disregard National Treasury and provincial treasury instructions. This was especially the case in the earliest days of the pandemic when PPEs and other equipment were in short supply.
It has shown the need for a coordinated approach to fighting corruption that brings in several organs of state.
The work of the Fusion Centre, which brings together various government agencies focused on enforcing the law, was particularly valuable in this instance. It has facilitated complex investigations and uncovered the criminal tracks that those who are implicated in wrongdoing sought to cover.
We must remember that not every company that supplied equipment, products and services to the state during the national state of disaster engaged in unlawful conduct. In fact, most contracts were lawful and most of the amounts spent were properly paid and accounted for.
The SIU investigation looked into over 2,500 PPE contracts. While some investigations are ongoing, in many cases the allegations were found to be without substance and the companies were cleared of wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, the reprehensible conduct of those who do have cases to answer has created the impression that the entire COVID-19 period has been marked by corruption and thievery of state resources.
I would like to assure South Africans that the net is closing on those involved in corrupt acts. This includes not just private companies, but also those in the public service who thought they could collude with outside individuals to sell off resources meant for our people.
The outstanding work of the SIU and other law enforcement bodies has sent the clear message that those guilty of criminal acts will be found and will be prosecuted.
In time to come it will be remembered that the action we took in this instance set the standard in our quest to build an ethical state staffed by incorruptible public servants and elected public representatives.
Our nation’s experience in the procurement of essential supplies and services during the national state of disaster is a disgraceful chapter that must be firmly closed.
This experience has shown that, as a state and as a society, we have both the will and the means to act decisively against theft, fraud and corruption.
With best regards,
President Cyril Ramaphosa